"I Didn't Think it Would be this Hard...": Mandatory Time Planning for Online Students

Concurrent Session 1

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Brief Abstract

How do we ensure students are ready for the pace of our online courses? This session will review a new module created at our institution designed to engage students in a reflection of their existing time commitments (and shortages) to provide automated advisement on first term course load.


Joshua Steele is the Senior Director of University of Arizona Online, partnering with centralized student services to ensure that students who attend 100% online have the necessary resources and guidance to be successful.

Extended Abstract

The first semester of online learning may pose challenges as students may not fully anticipate the rigors and self-discipline required for successful online learning. Student shock at the time requirements for online education has been a challenge for our faculty members and advisors. In spite of printed and verbalized messages surrounding the amount of time to expect to spend in an online course, each new term produces students who admittedly “bit off more than they can chew” based on their current time commitments. This can lead to prolonged time to graduation, potential academic probation, and immense financial consequences.

     In conversations with students who faced these time crunch in their first term, our advisors identified two central issues: some students assume that they have more available time than they truly do, and some students assume that they can be successful with less than the recommended time.

     In response, we set out to create a module required of new incoming students that takes the time recommendations from words on a paper or spoken over the phone to an activity that forces students to assess their existing time availability, with students unable to progress until they have come up with the time to take at least one course (with hard stops in the module if, for example, students attempt to reduce their proposed sleep schedules to unhealthy levels). Becoming the first required orientation module for fully online learners, our institution has determined that the conversation about available time for online study and balancing requirements.

     Presented as an Emerging Ideas station, the presenter will allow interested participants to engage with the module, and discuss practices at their respective institutions.