A Day In the Life of This Alt-Ac


Alternative academic life is weird.

How do you describe your alt-ac job when someone asks you about what you do?

What occupation do you put down on forms?

Have you gotten over your partner never quite getting it right when she/he describes your job?

The work of an alt-ac is not only amorphous. It is largely invisible.

Most of what we do is about helping other people at our schools succeed.

We might teach.  We might do research.  We might write.  But none of these typical academic tasks constitute our “main job.”

To make our alt-ac work a bit more visible, I thought I’d ask if you might be willing to describe one of your days. Pick a day, look back at your calendar and e-mails, and tell us what you did all day long.

I’ll pick Friday, February 8th.  That day consisted of:

  • 7 meetings
  • 54 e-mails received
  • 27 e-mails sent
  • 11 Google Docs worked on
  • 3 new Google Docs started
  • 3 Word Docs edited
  • 1 PowerPoint read
  • 1 blog post written (this one, at 9:30 pm)

Among the people that I met with on 2/8/19 were:

  • Two professors to talk about a potential online program
  • An educational consultant
  • A colleague to talk about marketing for an online program
  • Representatives from two separate educational technology companies
  • A colleague to speak about our edX open online learning program
  • Our associate general counsel to talk through some contract issues

Every one of those meetings on 2/8 happened to be virtual meetings, held on Zoom.  The people I spoke with were across campus, across the US, and across the world.

On 2/8 I worked through a contract, a presentation, an online program design, and a budget spreadsheet.

I also read a few of articles and reports on the Online Program Management (OPM) industry as background for a research project, read a 20-page report on the changing edtech landscape, kept up with the Slack channel that my colleagues use to communicate, and read a bunch of higher ed related articles, blog posts, and tweets.  (Although I only sent one tweet, the usual number of tweets that I emit).

There are probably other countless small work-related things that I did on 2/8/19 that I either can’t remember or are too dull to repeat. 

How many web pages related to work do we open on a typical day? 

How much work-related content do we produce and consume?

Every one of these tasks on 2/8/19 was accomplished on my MacBook Air.  Every meeting was held through my screen, webcam, and built-in microphone.  Every word was written on my laptop keyboard. Absent the internet and my laptop, all my alt-ac work would cease.

If 2/8/19 was at all typical, the work of an alternative academic is the work of the screen, the keyboard, and the internet.

Looking back on 2/8/19, it feels like a lot.  But it did not feel like too much.  The work got moved forward.  The conversations were good. The people were smart.  It felt mostly like any other alt-ac day.

Can you pick a day and tell us about what you did?

How do you spend your alternative academic days?



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