The first week-long workshop I took with the Online Learning Consortium was Workload Management. Frankly, I think this is a topic that is not addressed enough and I think it should be required for everyone who teaches online. This course has created a paradigm shift for me, and while it might not be completely evident in course changes this semester, the reverberations from what I gained from this workshop will last a long time.
It seems to me that we are constantly told to “Do this, and this, and this, and this, oh and try this new tool too!” No one ever seems to say, “Enough!” We give up our lives and sanity to teach online–tied to the endless cycle of feedback, emails and online course management. I have put in an amazing amount of time working on my courses this summer and it will improve my satisfaction and probably will improve student satisfaction and learning. I am hoping that my up-front coursework is going to lead to less stress and smoother implementation during the course itself.
Here are a few of the suggestions for reducing workload we batted around in this workshop:
- Have fewer assignments
- Have the assignments pass/fail rather than graded
- Have students self-assess or peer-assess (takes pressure off instructor to provide all the feedback)
- Have well-written rubrics and use them in giving feedback
- Use audio feedback (most students prefer this, the time spent is about the same as written, the quality is better and it increases instructor presence in the course) for homework assignments or discussions
- Use examples of student work for assignments
- Reduce number of things that need to be changed when the course is copied from semester to semester
I am going to begin implementing these and other plans. But the “big idea” that I took away from this course, partly due to a really good instructor, is that we need to manage our workload so that we can be effective in the courses we teach, have balance in our lives and continue to teach. If we get burned out we are going to be useless so those things that we do (many little things) to protect our time allows us longer longevity in online teaching. So rather than working more and harder, work smarter. I wish someone had given me this big idea years ago, or maybe they did I and I wasn’t ready to hear it. Taking these workshops I see time-saving practices being implemented by the instructors and that is as powerful as any discussion.
I hope some of you Tech Fellows read this and comment, sharing your ideas about time-saving ideas–ways to be more efficient teaching online without sacrificing student learning. This is an area I find extremely valuable and I think others will as well, particularly as online teaching/learning becomes more and more popular.