Facilitating your Online Course
If you’re new to online teaching, managing your time can often be a challenge. We recently interviewed a few faculty who have been teaching online and asked what they do to maintain a healthy online teaching/life balance.
- Design your entire course well in advance of teaching it. A key workload management strategy is to complete the development of your entire course (this includes organizing all of your assignments, activities and assessments) before your course is available to your students. Also, doublecheck that your instructions are clearly written. Not only will this afford you time to reflect on your course before it begins, but it will mitigate questions from students about upcoming assignments, etc.
- Consider your schedule when planning due dates for student work. Especially when scheduling those student assignments that will be more time consuming to respond to, take into consideration what else will be going on in your life that week, including the work being submitted in other classes you are teaching, deadlines for projects, committee work, travel, etc.
- Take the time to revise your course. If you’ve taught your course at least once, you probably have some ideas as to how you can improve it based on your students’ feedback, assessments and overall interaction with each other and you. Do any materials need updating? Are there additional resources that will assist your students with learning the content? Can you increase participation by reorganizing your activities?
- Set boundaries for yourself. Map out specific times during the week that you’ll be able to devote to your online course. This may include, but is not limited to, providing feedback to your students on assignments, responding to emails, facilitating online discussions and checking the Moodle course shell. Some prefer to do this early in the morning or late in the evening. Others prefer to respond to students a few times a day. Choose the times that work best for you and try to work only during those times.
- Provide clear expectations to your students. Some faculty are not available over the weekend due to personal plans or research time, but it’s recommended that you let your students know when you won’t be available. Set clear expectations as to when students can expect to hear back from you. Some faculty tell their students that they will respond within 24 hours. Others typically give themselves a window of 48 hours. Advising your learners about when to expect a response from you, will help prevent you from feeling like you have to be “plugged in” 24/7.
- Ask students to lead discussions. Modeling substantive posts and then asking students to be discussion leaders can help reduce the need for you to respond to each individual post. You may want to help answer some general questions, but let your students develop their ideas and then perhaps offer a wrap up of the discussion at the end of the week. Another useful tip is to ask students what they think the discussion questions should be each week.
- Give the whole class some aggregate feedback, rather than trying to respond to each student individually. Sometimes, especially for lowstakes assignments, this works well. For example, you can post a short “End of week feedback” video in which you summarize some of the highlights of the discussion forum or VT discussionmake not of trends and particular insights that students had and mention anything that you want to add to the conversation.
- Co-teach with a colleague. There are many ways in which you can make this work, but some ideas include: dividing up your class between instructors, designating specific roles for each other, and alternating who will be responding to students and providing feedback during any given day or week.
- Foster cooperative group work. This strategy can be applied to assignments or discussion forums. By reducing the number of submissions, you reduce the amount of individual feedback you might ordinarily be providing. If you’re assigning a lot of lengthy readings, you can also assign groups to cover certain sections and then share out what they’ve learned with each other. This will not only help you to reduce your workload, but will foster a sense of community by encouraging interaction amongst your learners.
Conceição, Simone C.O., Lehman, Rosemary M., Managing Online Instructor Workload: Strategies for Finding Balance and Success. JosseyBass, 2011.
“Tips for Online Instructors: Managing Files, Feedback, and Workload.” Faculty Focus. 4 Feb. 2013. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.
“Managing Instructor Presence and Workload, Boosting Student Engagement.” Faculty Focus. 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.
“Reducing Instructor Workload in Discussion Forums.” Faculty Focus. 14 June 2012. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.