How Much is too Much? 4 Considerations when Contemplating Teaching Loads


The question that everyone has.  The question that only one person can answer.

How much is too much?

I’ve had a number of people, each at different stages in their budding online teaching and learning careers, ask me similar questions:

“Online Prof, I just got my second online teaching gig!  But…I’m scared that I’ll get bogged down with it, my full time (non-teaching) job, and my other teaching gig.  How much is really too much?”

“Hey Online Prof!  I’m thinking about quitting my full-time job!  I want to make sure that I’m able to make enough money to live and pay for my ObamaCare.  How much is too much?

“Online Prof…what’s happenin’ brotha’??!!  I just got offered another online teaching position.  Are 6 classes too many to teach during one term?  How much is too much?”

You get the picture.

I mentioned just a minute ago that only one person can answer the same question that you and all of the others have.


You know your life situation.

You know your needs.

You know your family’s needs.

You know how much time you’re willing to devote to teaching classes.

You know (whether you admit it or not) how you time you’re willing to devote to teaching classes PROPERLY.

For me, different times of my life would have garnered different responses.

When I was first getting started, working 45 hours each week doing full-time work finishing up a doctorate, going on 2 OKCupid dates each week (sue me), and taking 20 minutes to grade a single discussion post…well…those three students kept me plenty busy.

Flash forward three-and-a-half years, quit the full-time gig, replaced dissertation work with sporadic certification coursework and research, going on 2 Tinder dates a week (sue me!), and taking a LITTLE less than 20 minutes to grade discussion board postings…well…6 classes sounds a bit more doable!

Only you know YOU, though.

When you’re contemplating this question on your own, consider these four factors:

Other professional obligations

This is the big one.  Sure, family obligations affect you in a more personal and intimate manner, but if you can’t get your professional and work-related affairs straightened out, I guarantee that the family obligations will become MUCH more stressful.

Additionally, you do not want to strain existing relationships or compromise any of your professional employment responsibilities.  If you’re going to do it, do it PROPERLY.

Current income potential

While I encourage everyone to pursue online teaching and learning on a more-than-casual basis, until you are able to produce an income (benefits, including health insurance costs!) that equals or exceeds what your office job provides (or you are comfortable living on less), your current job/teaching balance must remain your top priority.  As such, you must satisfy all of the associated responsibilities that come with this balance first before shifting focus to your online teaching duties.

Knowing when to say when

Working 85 hours each week on Wall Street and barely being able to sneak up to the Meatpacking District on Friday evening?  One class is probably all you should shoot for at this point.

…and when to push a little harder

Already “working” from home with weekly “check-ins” that consist of sharing new cat pictures and praising your co-workers’ pajama pants followed by 5 hours of web surfing?  If you have the opportunity to teach at least three and you turn it down…you’re not trying.

Only you know YOU.  Just be prepared to answer the question, how much is too much, when it is presented to you.

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