Nova Scotia

Instructors quit community college due to lack of paid prep time

Some former instructors at the Nova Scotia Community College says the school is taking advantage of some of its teaching staff by not compensating them for the work they do outside the classroom.

School says hourly rate for classroom instruction compensates for preparation, assessment time

The director of human resources at NSCC says the school wanted to treat instructors at all the school's campuses the same way. (Robert Short/CBC)

Some former instructors at the Nova Scotia Community College say the school is taking advantage of some of its teaching staff by not compensating them for the work they do preparing for their courses.

Krista Keough taught courses in NSCC's music business program for six years, but is one of several instructors who decided not to continue this year after learning they wouldn't be paid extra for any out-of-class hours worked.

Keough said she often spent hours marking, meeting with students and planning lectures. 

"Teachers will be overwhelmed with the commitment to teach this year," she told CBC Halifax's Information Morning

"I think they'll find it difficult to make decisions whether or not they work for free, essentially, or they work on their own time to do those extra things, versus, perhaps these people are self-employed or have their own businesses and/or can work elsewhere and be paid.

"The quality of education will suffer for these students."

Compensation rolled into hourly rate

Keough said as a casual employee, she was paid for the eight to 10 hours a week she spent teaching, as well as for one hour of preparation for every two hours she spent in the classroom. She earned about $40 an hour, though she said she often put in hours that weren't covered. 

Krista Keough speaks at Nova Scotia Music Week. She says she decided not to continue teaching at NSCC because she wouldn't continue to be paid for prep time. (Submitted by Krista Keough)

Janet Byrne, director of human resources at Nova Scotia Community College, said the school's policy was never to pay instructors like Keough for out-of-class time, but that wasn't always followed.

She said the collective agreement for full- and part-time staff is also applied to casual staff. The hourly rate for "contact time" in the classroom was set to encompass preparation and assessment time, Byrne added.

Policy wasn't always enforced

"The learning experience goes far beyond the time that a faculty spends in the classroom with the students. And as a result, we've really attempted to build that into our pay rates to reflect the prep time, the marking time, the time with students," Byrne said. 

Byrne said this fall, in an effort to make sure instructors at all 13 campuses are being treated the same way, the policy will be enforced for all part-time and casual employees. 

"While the pay policy has been in place for a long time, we did, however, uncover that it wasn't being applied consistently across the board," she said. 

Shouldn't 'be relying on volunteers'

James Boyle, who decided not to return to teach music marketing, said he, too, was making $40 per hour — after receiving a $5 raise last year. But with 30 students expected in his class next semester, and just two teaching hours per week, that wasn't enough to compensate for the time he puts into courses.

He said he would be making less than minimum wage if he factored in the time it takes him to leave his nine-to-five job in Halifax to travel to Dartmouth for his courses, plus the preparation, evaluating and teaching time.

James Boyle, a former music marketing teacher at the Nova Scotia Community College, said he decided not to return to teach at the school this year. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

"How could I build a lesson plan without prepping before the class?" Boyle asked.

"When you show up you have students with learning disabilities, students that learn better visually, that learn better orally. How can I teach a full class knowing that students have different learning styles without prepping how I'm going to teach?"

Training ground for industry

Boyle said NSCC is designed to connect students with people in the industry and he hopes the college reviews its policies so that it's still able to attract people working in the music industry to teach.   

Nova Scotia Community College music business students at Nova Scotia Music Week in 2016. Former instructor Krista Keough, not pictured, says she often volunteered time on top of what she spent preparing for and teaching courses. (Lauren M Elizabeth)

"Will the … students be graduating with the same education they had in the past that made the program so successful?" he said.

"It's impossible to do it well in the current system if there's no conversation — unless people want to volunteer their time, which I don't think the schools should be relying on volunteers when they're charging students tuition to attend."

With files from Information Morning