Issues of Time in Teaching Online: Part 2

Last week I started talking about how I think about time as it relates to teaching online. I noted I had to think through two areas:  (a) how much time students should spend engaged in the course during a week and (b) how much time I will be spending. Last week, I discussed how I thought about time as it relates to students’ engagement with the course. In this post I want to think about how I will use my time in teaching it.

Creating Anchors

The biggest thing that is throwing me is this lack of F2F meetings. Even when I taught hybrid courses, I still had a F2F session typically every other week. Those sessions, I think, grounded me in some way. They probably kept the students grounded too. I see those F2F sessions now as anchors. They gave us all a set time and place to check in. In an asynchronous class, how do we create these anchors? Because I do think they are important for both myself and the students.

One obvious way to create an anchor is too clearly define the schedule. I decided that the first day of class was the day the university said classes started (a Wednesday). I then defined a week as Wednesday-Tuesday. This is something that happens in a standard F2F class, and in hybrids, but is super critical in an online class where we have to move through at a set pace.

I want to make a quick distinction here: I think that if this class were competency based, more self-paced, and not grounded in having to meet university semester requirements, I would not be setting up a week system like I did. But, under the current structure and rules, I think it’s necessary. In a competency, self-paced system you probably still need anchors, but I would imagine they would look different.

The Feedback Process

The other thing that’s throwing me about not having an in class meeting ever is the time. On the one hand, I suppose it seems very nice. I don’t have to show up at a certain time every day of the week to teach class. On the other hand, that time must be utilized in some way.

I’ve talked about how I will be implementing weekly challenges for my students. I F2F classes, we would do these challenges during class. They wouldn’t take the entire time, but we might have an activity that was 45-60 minutes. The goal was never to produce a finished product within that time, but it was to have an experience around something related to what we were learning in class. Usually I gave extra points if people wanted to continue working on whatever we did and finish it.

But in a F2F class, I am there to answer questions and give feedback as students engage in a challenge. Even if they don’t ask me any questions, I am still there walking around, talking to them about their work, etc…as they do it. This is missing from an online class. I can tell students to confine their time in terms of a challenge (i.e. don’t spend more than an hour on this), but I can’t be wandering around and interacting with them while they do it.

Obviously a chunk of my time will be spent providing feedback on things like these challenges, but how I go about it will be different. I’m not sure what I mean by that yet, but I imagine it will work itself out. I’ll get back to you in a couple of months if something interesting emerges.

My Own Structure

Obviously I need to think about how and when I use my time each week once class launches. When I taught F2F and hybrid, I always made sure that I had time blocked out each week where I planned my classes and took care of feedback/grades. This is still critical. Although I am not accountable for an in-person session, I do need to plan each week what my students will be doing and then interact with them around it. I need to make sure I have time blocked out on my calendar each week to do this. It may be that I need some time most days or it might be that a chunk of time once or twice a week will do it. That’s to be determined, but it has to be worked in there.

There are things around time and structure that are different in a purely online class. I am just getting a handle on it, but I think it’s important to create an awareness of it for yourself if you haven’t already. As I move through the semester, I’ll be making adjustments and sharing my process with you.

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