“Why eLearning Matters to This ‘Freeway Flyer'” by Eileen O’Halloran

When not teaching geography, Ms. O'Halloran likes to be on the beach. This photo was taken by her from her lounge chair in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

When not teaching geography, Ms. O’Halloran likes to be on the beach. This photo was taken by her from her lounge chair in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Working in your pajamas? Sign me up! Teaching online has many perks and benefits. After teaching geography online, in the classroom, and in hybrid mode since 2006, I have decided that elearning is a great option for my repertoire of teaching gigs as a “freeway flyer.”

If you’re not familiar with the term “freeway flyer” in academia, let me tell you that it refers to an instructor who teaches one or two classes at more than one college… and therefore must “fly” down the freeway to get from one college to the next in time to teach. It’s exhausting—especially when you have very little time between classes and you have to drive very long distances. Getting to the classroom feels like punishment some days.

This semester, I’m teaching in person at De Anza College  (down in Cupertino) and at College of Alameda (up in Oakland). Normally, I just teach online for COA, but they were short an instructor, so I’m now a cross-bay freeway flyer! Good thing I’m a geography instructor and like to travel! To add more balls in the air to juggle, I also teach online at three other colleges where the online teaching software and learning management systems are all different. One college uses Etudes; one college uses Moodle; and the third uses an iteration of Moodle called Catalyst. I usually also teach face-to-face courses at San José State University, and if they ask me to teach online I will have to get used to Blackboard.

So, needless to say, elearning makes my teaching life a little easier. Here are the top five aspects that I love about teaching online:

  1. Not having to commute (gas, wear and tear, and sheer body exhaustion all factor in here).
  2. Not having to deal with disruptive students.
  3. Not having to dress up and be “on” energy-wise.
  4. No paper photocopying.
  5. Not needing a key ring so large that you feel like a janitor.

I spent much of my previous career in high-tech working as a Program Manager. Therefore, the technology stuff comes really easy to me. I actually enjoy posting content and interacting with students via some electronic medium. I realize that is not true for everyone, though, and I feel for instructors who don’t find the use of technology easy or enjoyable. Overall, I love teaching online and I hope to always be able to provide distance education. True, the camaraderie that my students and I gain from face-to-face communication is much richer and personal than what I have experienced through elearning. But like in anything, there are pros and cons to both modes of teaching. In the end, I am happy to be doing what I love and to be helping others become more educated and passionate about our world!

Eileen O’Halloran teaches geography at De Anza College, San José State University, College of Alameda and Lake Tahoe Community College. She is extremely passionate about international travel!

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