Classes taught by part-time and full-time instructors differ significantly, and even though the curricula have standardized elements, students must often make case-by-case class decisions.
For some, websites like ratemyprofessors.com help solve the problem of choosing a ticket number. For others, academic counsellors help to make informed decisions on which class and instructor would work best for an individual.
Still more students choose to play it by ear and pick based on scheduling or seat availability. While one’s schedule may be strict or important, or while seats may be limited, these options may end in disappointment.
With all of these extraneous factors, what can even be measured? At Saddleback College, the differences between the part-time and full-time faculty themselves are generally standard. For some, part-time instructors are preferred, for others, full-time.
“In my computer science class, my instructor is around a lot,” said Kirk Bishopp, 37, computer science, in reference to his full-time computer science instructor. “She’s in the lab, and she’s very available to students.”
Full-time instructors have offices on campus, and the majority have regular office hours during which students can get help with their class work. Many full-time instructors also work in their departments, which keeps them on campus more than other full timers.
“With my part-time instructors, I really haven’t had much need to contact them outside of class,” Bishopp said. “Specifically for math I don’t find it to be an issue because of the [Learning Asistance Program].”
Chistopher Paquette, a part-time English instructor and Academic Senate alternate representative has been at Saddleback since 2004. He describes teaching here as a “great experience.”
“I feel I am passing on a gift to young people that is going to outlive me. It’s wonderful to have a job that allows you to invest in people,” Paquette said. “Being a part-time teacher at this school has brought me steady work that I can rely on, and that’s a blessing, especially in the times we’re living in.”
“Teachers here, I feel, have a lot of freedom to create the kind of classroom they want,” Paquette said.
For part-timers, however, that freedom comes at a cost.
Making ends meet is difficult for part timers, Paquette said. Freeway flyers, which are instructors who work part-time at multiple schools, are common between Saddleback, Irvine Valley College, and other nearby campuses.
“Part time instructors are a lot like the commuter students at Saddleback,” Paquette said. “They come to campus, they go to their classroom, and they go home.”
Part-time instructors are not required to hold office hours, and the majority choose not to. Some choose to have office hours at other campuses, where the majority of their classes are concentrated.
“Not being able to find [my part-time math instructor] was a problem until I found out that the LAP was really helpful,” said Nick Bohen, 20, undecided. “My part-time English teacher I don’t often need to go to, because she answers emails a lot.”
Bohen and Bishopp agreed that, while part-timers aren’t around as much, it is more about the enthusiasm of an instructor than it is about their availability.
“If they had office hours, I might be able to go and get extra help. But is it stopping me from succeeding? No,” Bishopp said. “It is an obstacle, but you find a way to get the A.”
“I think it depends on the teacher,” Bohen said. “Last semester I had a part-time English teacher and he was a pain. But I don’t think it matters so much part-time versus full-time, as it does a good teacher versus a bad teacher.”
“Good teachers want you to learn, and want to help you. It really depends on how open the teacher is to helping the students,” Bohen said.