Online learning saves time for students. Students in online courses have 24/7 access to their course materials, other students, and their instructor. For working students, this is an incredible benefit. But we often hear that online learning takes a lot of an instructor’s time. I have found that it can be, but when a course is set up in advance to take advantage of a learning management system’s features, a lot of time can be saved. Many of these techniques make for a more engaging experience for the students and less stress for the instructor. Note: this is an update of a post from 2009 that adds tips that teachers have sent in since then. Thanks everyone!
Here are some of my favorite time-saving tips. Please add to them!
1. Create a “Welcome Letter” that not only introduces the instructor and the course but gives detailed instructions on how to access the course and where to get help. Here is our example from DE 101.
2. Create a comprehensive syllabus.
- Utilize a “Week Zero,” a module that explains to new students how to be an online student and use the learning management system (LMS).
- Direct students to tech support and the help desk as much as possible.
- Create a course “scavenger hunt.”
3. Use a syllabus quiz.
4. Make your course easy to navigate.
- Keep as much content as you can no more than two clicks away.
- Use a consistent format week-to-week or module-to-module.
- Remove buttons or tools you are not using.
5. Schedule your time.
- Do not work on your online course because you can; work on it because you have scheduled the time.
- Let the students know your schedule.
- Access your course consistently (e.g. three times a week) and respond to email promptly (with-in 48 hours).
6. Be strict about forms of communication. E.g. ONLY take assignmnts in drop box; only accept e-mail in 1 acct. etc.
7. Automate your course as much as possible.
- Take advantage of the time-release feature of announcements.
- Record and reuse lectures.
- Let the LMS handle as much of the grading as you can.
8. Distributing and exchanging documents.
- Use the assignment feature of your LMS instead of e-mail.
- Have the students attach documents to a forum posting.
9. Centralize question and answers.
- Use a discussion forum for “Frequently Asked Questions.”
- Create a FAQ page.
- Ask students to ask questions in the forum rather than e-mail.
10. Use online groups with a deliverable
- Let the students do the work.
- Do not respond to every posting, respond to the group deliverable.
11. Use a “common responses” file to quickly paste in answers to common questions.
12. Allow students to facilitate online discussions.
13. Use a detailed grading rubric to help answer questions in advance.
14. Encourage student-student interaction and study groups.
- Give them the space to solve problems.
15. Communicate to entire class in general terms using audio and/or video on a regular basis.
What about you? How do you streamline your online teaching process? Leave a comment below if you have any time saving tips.