Managing your time when teaching an online class can be a bit of a challenge. How do you manage time when there are no set course hours and when the classroom is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week? Online instructors need to develop effective time management behaviors to be efficient and not just busy.
In a Faculty Focus article, Dr. Deborah A. Raines shared ten strategies she uses to manage her time. Those strategies are:
Roll call – Take attendance on the first day. A simple discussion board with a response of “I’m here” alerts you to who has not found the classroom site.
Syllabus quiz – Give a syllabus quiz during the first week. This quiz provides an opportunity for students to experience the online testing environment and provides an incentive for students to read the syllabus and other important information.
Ask the class – Create an “ask the class” discussion area where students can ask general questions and encourages students to respond to each other.
To-do list – Create a to-do list as the first item in each module. This item provides an introduction to and guidelines on how to approach the material in the module.
Establish rules and expectations – Disseminate clear and consistent rules and expectations such as when to turn in assignments, the beginning and ending date of units, turn-around time for responses to questions or feedback on assignments.
Private office – Create a dropbox or private journal function for students to communicate with you on confidential matters.
Roadmap to success – Write a clear and concise document of student expectations, responsibilities and accountability for learning.
Take advantage of tools and technology – Use online tools within the learning management system such as student tracking, testing automation, self-grading or rubrics added to assignment dropboxes, to increase your efficiency. In general, handle each item only once—if you open an item, do something with it, don’t just peek and plan to come back later.
Establish a routine – Set your schedule. Get in the habit of going to your online courses at consistent times and know what you are going to do while at the course site.
Don’t re-invent – Use existing resources. There are a number of quality learning activities available on the web. Using existing resources can reduce the time needed to develop similar materials.
One key to a successful online course is instructors’ ability to manage their online classroom. Yet many online instructors don’t realize that the best practices in traditional environments should not be discarded simply because the participants are interacting online. The students still need to be managed as a cohesive group of learners.
In an Edutopia article, Heather Wolpert-Gawron provided suggestions for successfully managing online classes. The article was written with a K12 audience in mind. However, her suggestions can be used in a higher education environment as well. Heather’s suggestions for successfully managing your online class are:
Build an engaging online environment. Build an online environment where students want to come back week-after-week.
Build community. By building community right from the get-go and encouraging it throughout the course of the class, you’ll save yourself from some issues later on.
Curate answers in an organized way. Find ways to curate resources and responses to questions so that participants can find them easily. Consider a Q&A discussion forum or develop FAQs.
Be present. Make sure students know you are present in the course.
Establish norms for office hours and video conferencing. Have a dress code when meeting virtually (e.g., no pajamas if you are participating via webcam). How should students ask questions without interrupting the current speaker?
Don’t group randomly. Create group assignments where students can self-enroll and other assignments where students are randomly assigned to groups.
Teach about plagiarism. Use strategies to ensure the student’s work is original or cited.
Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Stay on top of issues as they arise.
Use various means to contact participants. Contact small groups of students and also the whole class routinely, but know when it’s time to do a behind-the-scenes intervention and email a participant directly.
Taking an online course can be an isolating experience for students, but it doesn’t have to be. Humanized learning increases the relevance of the course content and improves students' motivation to log-in to the course week-after-week.
Are you looking for ways to humanize your online course? Check out this Humanizing Tool Buffet developed by Teaching and Learning Innovations at CSU Channel Islands. In the buffet, you will find a collection of emerging tools just right for humanizing your online course. Peruse the buffet, click on the links, and sample what looks intriguing and helpful to you!
November 6-10, 2017 is National Distance Learning Week (NDLW). In association with NDLW, the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is offering free webinars on a variety of topics related to online teaching and learning. A few other organizations are offering free webinars during NDLW as well.
For more information on the activities and to register for the webinars visit NDLW 2017.
Many students enroll in online courses because they can take online classes at times that are convenient for them and from the comfort of their home. Some students mistakenly think that taking an online class is easier than taking its face-to-face counterpart and they underestimate the amount of time they must invest in taking the online class. When in fact, taking an online class requires students to be self-directed learners.
It is important for the instructor to set the tone for the online course to help students succeed. In a Faculty Focus article, Amy Hankins provided five suggestions to help students succeed in an online course. Those suggestions are,
Provide detailed instructions and anticipate questions – Don’t assume students will be able to read between the lines.
Post Announcements – Show students you are present in the course by providing reminders, clarifications, and overviews to help engage and motive students.
Provide examples and rubrics – This will help to minimize questions and confusion.
Utilize differentiated instructions – Provide students multiple opportunities and formats for learning, including videos, audio lectures, and project choices that help engage and encourage learning for all students and preferences.
Encourage peer support and engagement – Allow students to get to know one another by using an introductory assignment and encourage students to connect throughout the course.
The demands of teaching an online course doesn’t have to leave you feeling overwhelmed. In an eLearning Industry article, Dr. Liz Hardy suggested a few easy steps to help replace the feeling of constant pressure with a calmer, zen-like mindset that will make teaching online easier and more enjoyable. Dr. Hardy’s suggestions are:
Define “urgent”. As you look through your To Do list, determine which items need your immediate attention and which items can be taken care of further down on the list.
Explain your standard time frames. Set expectations for your students so they know what your communications and assignment turnaround policies are.
Come out of the tunnel. When you’ve spent a long time on a task, take a moment to step away from the task at hand. This can help to rejuvenate and recharge you.
Create a sense of achievement. Your morale gets a boost when you can check items off your To Do list. These time management strategies may be able to help.
Revisit your positive feedback. Revisit compliments and positive comments that you’ve received to help lift your spirits.
In a US News and World Report article, Ian Quillen identified six signs of a bad online instructor. The list included things like a syllabus that is unclear, no set timetable for responding to emails, and simply converting print resources used in the face-to-face class. Ian’s article was intended to help students access the quality of an online class and be able to withdraw if necessary. However, this list can also be used to help online/hybrid instructors recognize where their course may be in need of improvement.
Additionally, we have developed an online teaching resource to help faculty develop or improve their online and hybrid courses. Check out our new CAT+FD Online Teaching Resources and let us know what you think.
November 7-11, 2016 is National Distance Learning Week (NDLW). In association with NDLW, the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is offering free webinars on a variety of topics related to online teaching and learning. A few other organizations are offering free webinars during NDLW as well.
For more information on the activities and to register for the webinars visit NDLW 2016.
A conversation with Dr. Jane Compson of UW-Tacoma, on implementing a contemplative pedagogy in an online course.
Dr. Compson got her PhD in Comparative Religion from the University of Bristol, and more recently got her second Masters in Philosophy, concentrating on bioethics, from Colorado State. She currently teaches classes in Comparative Religion; Philosophy, Religion and the Environment; Environmental Ethics; Biomedical Ethics and Introduction to Ethics. She’s working on projects related to self-care and stress management for healthcare professionals as well as documenting local efforts for environmental justice, as well as mindfulness theory.
Are you thinking about how to deliver your online course for maximum success? In an Inside Higher Ed blog post, Andrea Zellner provided some strategies to make your online teaching better. Andrea's strategies are:
Technology should help and not hinder.
Expect things to go wrong, and do as much as you can to help your students help themselves. For example, provide links to help and how-to documents so that students do not have to go on a wild goose chase to find this information. You can minimize your time answering student questions by using the “three-before-me” rule, which pushes the responsibility of locating an answer to frequently asked questions to the student.
Learning in an online environment can be a lot more difficult than learning it in a face-to-face class. Students report that taking an online course can be an isolating experience. Avoid straight lecturing as lectures can be dull when delivered online. Here are a few ideas to keep your online course interesting.
Incorporate synchronous opportunities.
This follows directly from anticipating difficulties. You should find the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. Additionally, be sure to include well-timed synchronous virtual office hours. Include the virtual office hours during weeks when you know the content is likely to be confusing.
Humanize your course by adding a little personality. This can go a long way in making students feel comfortable approaching you for help and can make them feel more engaged with the course.
Encourage self-directed learning.
Research on self-directed learning has shown that people who take the initiative in learning, learn more things and learn better than people who sit at the feet of teachers passively waiting to be taught.
Use gamification in your course.
Gamification is making a boring process interesting by using fun elements from games. Gamification is a motivation tool. Here is some information on using gamification in your courses.