We tell our students they should be spending so much time on preparing, discussing, and doing their assignments based on the Federal Definition of the work needed for a course credit but what do we tell the faculty? The first introduction a faculty member has to online learning is often embedded in an online course and is often their first introduction to the learning management system, the concept of online learning, and the world of formal instructional design. The time element can become overwhelming and I often have my faculty/students ask about the time it is going to take them to teach online. I keep telling them the time commitment is up front, but is it really?
Most face to face faculty have barely used the LMS. Oh, they may have used it to post a syllabus or some additional reading or maybe they have posted a discussion board to take the place of a missed class. Now they are being asked to structure their course, to create videos with tools they didn’t know existed, and to try to think ahead about what the students need to meet the outcomes – all while learning to navigate the LMS. It can be a painfully slow process and in reality is not all that representative of how much time it actually takes to teach online. The developing part of teaching online needs to be thought of as a separate process.
Once you have the course ready to go, the key to time management online is simple: set office hours when students can call you and devote about an hour 5 days a week (include one weekend day) to checking the course. In most cases you will only need to check and answer the discussion postings, answer your email, and check the help discussion. If you were teaching face to face, you would be teaching at least 5 hours.
For discussion postings, make sure to respond to each student in their initial post and look for questions in any other posts. Call the students by name. I keep a post-it at my computer for people who introduce themselves with a nickname – for example, Robert wants to be called Skip. For the discussion postings, I use a couple of rules: Praise in public, punish in private – meaning I say something nice on the discussion about their initial post. If it is too short, I just ask a leading question. If they misspell words or don’t really “get it” I wait until I grade the discussion to tell them privately where they need to work harder.
Depending on the class and the requirements of the institution, I post messages at least once a week and sometimes every 2 or 3 days. I keep my messages in a folder so I can reuse them. It helps keep me from reinventing the wheel each time!
Then, just like in a traditional classroom, you will have to set aside some time to grade assignments. Online courses tend to have assignments due each week to help keep the students engaged. I like to divide my grading up into three settings – for a class of 20, I grade 7 papers on the first night after class, 7 the next night, and 6 the final night. Most institutions want you to have grading completed 72 hours after the due date. When I grade, I post a comment on each page of the student’s work – either asking a question or correcting a problem – and I provide a little explanation about why I graded the way I did (the same as when I am grading a paper paper.) It takes me about an hour to grade 7 papers (depending on length) so I try to grade during my office hours on those three days. A real good helper is a rubric to help guide the grading, remind me of the purpose of the assignment, and provide the student with the expectations.
So let’s see, I spend about 5 hours keeping up with the course and about 4-5 hours grading – or 10 hours a week. If I were teaching in a face to face university, I would be assigned 3 courses to take up approximately 30 hours of my time – lecture, grading, and office hours. It is important to remember the hard work comes in the course development, not the teaching. It still takes brain power and expertise, but it is not particularly more time consuming.
Dr. Aitken has extensive knowledge and experience in adult and higher education. She spent 24 years in technical training with AT&T/Lucent serving in a variety of functions including managing a global training initiative. She earned a PhD in Education with an emphasis on adult and higher education from Capella University, a Master of Science in Telecommunications Management and Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a Master of Arts in Organizational Communication, and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, both from The Ohio State University.
Dr. Aitken has been an adjunct for 15 years in both face to face and online courses with traditional and non-traditional students including teacher candidates and military personnel. She has served on both master’s thesis and dissertation committees and has held fulltime university positions as an Assessment Coordinator, the Director of Instructional Technology and eLearning, a Distance Learning Coordinator, Instructional Design Faculty, and as an Instructional Design Project Manager. She currently holds a fulltime position at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio where she is the Assistant Vice President of Educational Effectiveness and Institutional Accreditation. Dr. Aitken guides several of the Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan-C) workshops and works with Clemson University faculty as a course development leader. Dr. Aitken has administrator experience with learning and assessment management systems including eCollege, Blackboard, WebCT, Desire2Learn, ANGEL, SAKAI, Moodle, TaskStream, TK20, and Folitek.
Dr. Aitken is serving her third 5 year term on the editorial board for MERLOT and is a peer reviewer for JOLT, the Journal for Online Learning and Teaching. She is a reviewer for the OLC conference and has been a Master Chef in the OLC test kitchen where faculty share new technology. She lives in Xenia, Ohio and is a big Ohio State hockey fan.