Time Management Tips For Online Instructors
By Timberley Barber
Scheduling Your Time
1. Schedule time during each day where you will check your messages and discussion boards. By checking daily, you avoid excess build up and backlog. Make sure that you set up a "response time" (the ideal response time is within 24 hours or less) for any messages sent to you outside of your scheduled office hours. By making the students aware of how quickly you will respond to their messages, you can avoid excessive emails asking if you got the message and/or why you haven't responded yet.
2. Schedule regular office hours for your students - even if those office hours are just times when you will definitely be online checking your messages. Let students know when those office hours are so they can send urgent messages to you during that time and get immediate response. If possible, set up online chats for your office hours so students can speak to you directly. Be sure to announce any times when you will not be able to adhere to your schedule.
3. Schedule time to grade assignments. This should not be scheduled during the same time as your office hours. Your students will want your "full" attention during the office hours, so be sure to dedicate specific times for just grading. Do not allow distractions!
4. Create a routine and stick to it! It is much easier to accomplish tasks by having regularly scheduled times and places in which to do it!
Communication with Students & Mentors
5. USE YOUR MENTORS!! You are not alone when teaching your course! Make sure that you communicate with your mentors often - they will be able to help you locate and assist students.
6. Use the Mentor's Corner. Put any important information that you have for your mentors in the Mentor's Corner area. Be sure to include any special instructions or requirements that your course needs. By having a centralized location for your important course requirements, you can help to limit mentor questions.
7. Keep a hard copy list of your students and their mentors. This can be obtained from the online registration system. Keep the list handy so you can easily identify students and their mentors.
8. Always include mentors in your communications with your students. By keeping the mentors informed, they will know where their students stand and will not have to constantly message you to find out.
9. If you are having trouble contacting a student, reach out to his/her mentor directly. The mentor may know the whereabouts and status of the student. If not, have the mentors track the student down.
10. If you are having trouble contacting a mentor - send a message to Gretchen Hayden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
11. Do not spend more than 5 minutes on any one message response. Student questions to you should be content oriented and you should already know the answers. Any technical issues should be immediately forwarded on to our helpdesk. It is not your responsibility to provide technical support to your students.
Course Format Modifications
12. Create a discussion board for questions and direct students to go there to ask their questions. By having the questions posted in the discussion board, you can create an FAQ where students can check to see if their question was already asked and answered!! Sometimes the students will even answer the questions for other students! Furthermore, you can even post messages that reflect questions that may have been sent to you directly via messages. So be sure to save your messages! ** In the beginning, you might have to model how the FAQ section works. Post a message or two at the beginning showing an example of a "good" subject and content.
13. Organize your messages inbox into folders. Break it down in a fashion that is easiest for you. By assignment? By week? By student? Whatever makes most sense to you!
14. Focus on your syllabus. Try to make it as complete as possible. The more specific information you include in the syllabus, the fewer questions students will have. When responding to students, try to get them into the habit of referring to the syllabus.
15. Adjust your syllabus. Do not be afraid to identify and cut out some assignments if the workload for you and/or your students is excessive. Be sure to announce any changes to your students!
16. Don't be afraid to adjust your assignments!! When students are struggling to understand your assignments, your best bet might be to adjust it. Again, make sure that you announce any changes to your students!!!
17. Don't be afraid to stay out of discussions. You do not have to respond to each and every comment! Some of the best student discussions come when no teacher comments are present. Do monitor and track the discussions - and be sure to remove any harassing or inappropriate comments. Sometimes it is best if you only intervene when the discussion is getting too far off topic.
18. Create rubrics for your each assignment. Grading can be simplified by using rubrics and it also helps make the grading process more fair and efficient.
19. Be flexible - but not TOO flexible! Teachers want to help students succeed, but it should not be at your own expense! Try to keep your students to your weekly schedule. Too much flexibility can burn you out!
20. Create a list of sample responses that you can use and reuse. By creating several encouraging messages that are broad enough to be reused in multiple situations, you can eliminate the need to retype messages that express the same ideas. Create several types of responses (try to keep the messages positive and encouraging!) then copy and paste these in as comments for your students' work. (see Sample Progress & Comments Sheet for examples).
21. Encourage peer review where appropriate. Having students review each others work and submit comments will engage students more and save you time!
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