“You’re a house-sitter, Mom, because you sit in the house all day!” That’s my four-year-old’s understanding of working from home.
When I was a kid, my Dad worked from home for IBM. On conference calls, he would wear a hands-free headset while watering plants or doing dishes. My brother joked that Dad’s job was, “Yelling at plants.”
Today my own family is just as mystified by what I do up in my attic office, and maybe you are curious, too, Farrell Scholars.
The easiest way to explain my job is online teaching. Thanks to phones, email, and video conferencing, I can teach without being physically in the room with my students.
My “students” are teachers and administrators who are using computer-based products for adult education. The company I work for, Essential Education, is based in Corvallis, Oregon.
Here’s a picture of Global Headquarters! This is “The Vatican” of Essential Education, where my awesome Boss works and decisions get made!
Our customers are located all over the U.S. and we’re branching into international markets. We’re making headway in South Africa, but I haven’t been invited there…yet!
When an adult literacy organization purchases one of our products, then I set up their account and help them get started using the product.
After the webinars, I provide ongoing support along with the sales reps and our other admin staff. This means I respond to emails and phone calls from teachers and administrators.
Sometimes it’s as simple as logging in for the first time, other times they have questions about program design or how assessments are scored.
Most days, I only get a few requests but some days the phone is ringing off the hook. I try to clear my inbox every day, too. Customer communication is my first priority, but not my only job.
The rest of the time, I am BUILDING!
An instructional designer is a fancy name for a multimedia author. I don’t just write text. I create interactive, online lessons, quizzes, tests, and work with a team to design courses for adult learners.
Right now I am focused on Social Studies with another designer who is based in Hawaii.
We divide up material to be created (right now lots of quizzes and practice tests), and the other team members provide editing and feedback.
Our materials adapt to the student, so the tests and quizzes we’ve been writing create individual learning plans to prepare students in different subjects.
We also share articles and videos about education, technology, and topical issues, discussing perspectives and ways we can incorporate best practices into our work.
MYTH 1: I work with kids home
True, occasionally me or my co-workers have kids at home during work time. But if you’ve ever met my children, the two of them together are like the Tazmanian devil. They will tear up the house if I don’t give them my full attention.
On the other hand, I’m not tied to my phone and computer 24/7. Some people work like this, but not me. I protect my family time. After-hours calls automatically go to voice mail. When I’m off work, I’m unavailable.
Myth 2: I work part-time
My hours are 8:30am to 5:00pm weekdays, and some evenings.
I have to be responsive to the teachers, students, and design team. I have deadlines, meetings, provide trainings, and that definitely adds up to a full-time workload.
If I don’t “show up” or do my assigned work, it’s obvious pretty quickly.
While I’m not in the physical room with the team, they know whether or not I’m “there” on Skype, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, and Dropbox.
Truth: No Snow Days
Since I don’t have to commute, I don’t get snow days or most federal holidays. My office has a nice view of the houses and field across the street.
So what kind of projects do I work on?
Example 1: Grading Extended Responses
Essential Education is unique among adult education publishers in that our team grades all the Extended Responses that students submit online. I grade on Wednesday mornings, and we typically get 40-60 responses each day.
If I don’t get my responses graded, then it’s quickly obvious to the next in line if they log in and see 30 still to be graded!
Example 2: Tagging and Testing
This month we’re entering tons of metadata on lessons, tests, and quizzes in our new course management system.
It’s data entry–mindless and repetitive–but still engaging because I helped to build what we’re entering.
I do my best to keep myself entertained and focused. A couple weeks ago, I was adding lessons to a unit called “Social Studies Analysis.” To find “Analysis” I got to type “anal” over and over again, 25 times.
So that’s what I do all day: type “anal.” I love my job. No joke!