Managing Online Time

There is a potential risk when re-imagining a course to take advantage of a blended format of becoming the “24-hour” instructor. One of the most effective practices as an instructor is to be absolutely honest and clear with your students about communication and your availability. How do you want students to contact you? What contact do students prefer you use? It works both ways.

For example, I prefer email communication. I post my office hours as Mondays – Fridays 8am – 5pm.  I tell students if they email me during that time I will most likely get back to them within 3 or 4 hours if not sooner. If they email me outside those hours, they can expect a response the following day. If they email me on the weekends, I won’t respond until Monday. I always add the caveat that with email communication it is customary allow 48 hours for a response. Unless you set these guidelines, I find students expect immediate responses to their email queries, especially when it comes to questions about completing coursework.

A benefit of posting such clear contact guidelines is that student’s know up front how and when to contact you. They can budget their time accordingly.

Below is information from the article “Time Management Tips for Online Instructors” by Kathryn Ley, Ph.D. continuing the conversation on how to save “instructor time” when it comes to designing an online or blended course.

Ley notes: “One factor that tends to increase the amount of time an instructor spends teaching online is the need for interaction. Students crave online interaction with their instructors. More interaction may not mean more learning but it does mean a greater time commitment for both instructor and student. Paradoxically, the learner who seeks interaction can also create pedagogical problems for the instructor who may find responding time-consuming and labor-intensive . . .

I recommend . . .  embedding support features to encourage students to engage in self-regulating activities such as organizing learning materials and monitoring progress–two activities strongly associated with higher achievement . . .

One tool I use to reduce the amount of time commitment on the part of the instructor caused by extraneous cognitive load and students’ lack of self regulation is the assignment table, an online course feature that displays every assignment in chronological order by due date, with the assignment name, where it is submitted in the online course, and the number of points it is worth.
This puts the most critical information that the instructor and the students need to constantly monitor in one location.”

The course overview or schedule or even an assignment checklist are great ways for students to see the tasks they need to accomplish each week with corresponding deadlines. Don’t hide or bury this information! Make it prominent and visible as it helps to make the transition to online coursework more seamless.