Information is free, but where do you draw the line with consultation, coaching, facilitating, mentoring, speaking, teaching, writing, and providing support? Should consultants, coaches, (sports) doctors, facilitators, instructors,, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, speakers, teachers…
Here’s a discussion the Scoopit post Compensation for Expertise generated on Facebook:
Vance: I get your point and where is the line is exactly the question. I think you should charge when people approach you for your expertise to help them with a commercial purpose, or to enter a relationship (as in teaching) requiring a commitment on your part. However, sharing economies run off intrinsic motivations that can be suppressed in moves to commercial economies. I explain that here: http://advanceducation.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-cognitive-surplus-drives-us-to.html
Don: For most of us, monetary compensation for teaching is a fairly tightly regulated matter. We are employed by a school. The school pays us X amount of money for Y amount of work. Often we require specific permission to earn money outside of this contractual arrangement. The gray area is what is sometime lumped under the term “service.” Service to students (outside of class), service to the profession (i.e. other professionals), and even service to the community at large…and with the internet that’s the entire world. Most schools, strictly speaking don’t care about service, in terms of monetary compensation. How many of us are paid EXTRA by our schools for each conference presentation we “give?” While it’s true that “cognitive surplus” in some forms, such as scholarly publications can be linked to pay increases (and tenure) for the most part, these are just thought of a “part of being a professional” and many of us would be paid the same per month one way or the other.
Nellie Deutsch: I totally agree with Don’s reasoning. I would like to add that I feel that I am giving students freely because they don’t pay me directly. In fact, public K-12 education is free for students in most countries. I have developed a free learning attitude for students of all ages around the world because I never took money from students. I did accept a few tutoring sessions because friends asked me, but I felt very uncomfortable taking money and often gave a few sessions for free. I never made a career out of tutoring in a face-to-face mode. Getting paid for teaching at a school, whether online or face-to-face is fine, but getting paid for work outside of school seemed unethical until now. Helping one another is great, I will always do it since it’s not my profession. I am not a clinical psychologist or a social worker. I’m a teacher. I paid a great deal of money for my formal education. Just as a clinical psychologist will not take on patients for free, why should a teacher teach for free? Everyone advertises to get work, how is that connected?
Nellie Deutsch: How is being approached different from approaching others? Is it only ethical to receive money for your expertise when people approach you and not vice versa? Will a clinical psychologist not advertise his or her services? Is there something unethical about advertising services? Should doctors and other professionals not advertise their services? Is it OK to advertise and market services as long as they are free?
Vance: Thanks for your clarifications Nellie :-) In a nutshell, I agree that you should get paid for what you do professionally. I personally am a paid teacher. I also accept honorariums for speaking when offered. This is not a question of ethics, and I agree that there is nothing unethical about offering services for pay and advertising them. My concern is that when money is used as an extrinsic motivator then a rubicon is crossed where you cannot go back to relying on intrinsic motivation for organizing movements. I am only cautioning on this point, not questioning anyone’s right or ethics to benefit from providing expertise they have developed through personal expenditure of time, effort, and training. I hope that your path continues to benefit us all.
Don: The key phrase there is “do professionally.” In one literal sense, if someone pays you money for doing something you are doing it professionally. Sadly, I have met people who are essentially “paid to be an (untrained) native speaker of English.” I prefer to think that I am a “paid professional” because I have the academic training and working experience to allow me to teach English at something near the cutting edges of “best practices.”
Nellie: Vance, it’s not as black and white as you seem to think. Here are a few examples. I’m organizing the annual free virtual Moodlemoot for 2012: http://moodlemoot.integrating-technology.org/ and the annual free CO13: http://connecting-online.ning.com/ and provide scholarships for anyone who cannot afford $10 for the Moodle for Teacher 4-week workshops and the EVO free workshops and so on…
Derek: Good question. This is a HOT topic here with performance pay, just announced for teachers. We have just discovered principals are getting $1.6M in bonus pay.
Joyce: I have been struggling with that question. I have no problem “giving things away” because the college is supporting me sufficiently, if not wonderfully. On the other hand, I know too many independent scholars who are nearly impoverished. They should not be expected to work for free.