Hello, I’m Kieran Lindsey…
I’m Dan Marcucci, and this is Wired Ivy. We have combined 20 years of experience in the virtual classroom.
Dan lives in Pennsylvania, I live in Missouri, and we work for a university in Virginia. As part of a geographically distributed team we know from personal experience that online faculty and staff benefit from having access to their peers.
You may have been teaching online for a long time now or relatively new… you may have been thinking about a move to online or suddenly find yourself doing it… regardless, you are welcome in this virtual salon.
Our goal is to create a collegial community for real academics working in virtual classrooms… a safe, supportive space where we can learn from one another and share what we’ve figured out.
Time is the raw material of our days. On the one hand it is precise and predictable. The clock chimes hours into equal measures. But on the other hand it is pliable and easily warped. We write the syllabi, we schedule assignments, we set grading schemes. If we are careless, time can unravel and spin out of control.
In online education we have intentionally loosened some of the time threads. We empower faculty and learners with greater control over their schedules. But there is a wrinkle in online learning that anytime, anywhere easily slips into all-the-time, everywhere. As educators, we need to manage our time commitments and create effective experiences for learners. This is even more important in the Covid pandemic, when work and life schedules for many of us became fully unstrung.
Kieran and I have been discussing the importance of efficient use of time and energy in online education. If we are teaching in a time warp, how can we be sure to optimize our own time and effort, and improve the efficiency and efficacy of activities for learners? This is a question we will return to periodically on Wired Ivy, starting with this episode, with our guests, professors Sarah Heath and Beau Shine of Indiana University Kokomo.
STING (TIME WARP STING)
Our guests today on Wired Ivy are Dr. Sara Heath and Dr. Beau Shine. They recently published an article in the Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology entitled, Teaching Techniques to Facilitate Time Management in Remote and Online Teaching.
Sarah Heath is an Associate Professor in the Department of History, Political Science, and Philosophy at Indiana University Kokomo, where she teaches courses in American history, some with intriguing titles like The Sixties, and Crime and Punishment. Her earlier research related to Chicago women’s participation in juvenile delinquency reform and in civic organizations during and after World War II.
Her current research focuses on women in the National Parent Teacher Association, particularly their efforts with desegregation in post-World War II. She also publishes on effective teaching and learning strategies, and I happen to know is coming to us today from a conference on teaching in Indianapolis. Sarah, it’s great to have you on Wired Ivy. Thank you for joining us!
Thanks so much.
It’s good to meet you, Sarah.
Beau Shine is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Homeland Security, also at Indiana University Kokomo, where he teaches a spectrum of courses in his area of expertise, Corrections. Beau is a supporter of active learning and the flipped classroom model, and uses a variety of tools, both face-to-face and online, to encourage engagement and discussion on the issues his courses examine.
Beau’s research in criminal justice currently examines the management of deaf subjects and defendants from a systematic perspective. He also maintains active research into teaching itself, which we will get into in a minute. His teaching and his research are geared towards making positive impacts for the populations he works with. Beau Shine, welcome to Wired Ivy. We’re thrilled to have you with us today!
Thank you for having me. Nice to meet both of you.
Nice to meet you. Should I assume — I’m not going to assume, I’m going to ask — did both of you teach online intentionally before this great pivot to remote emergency instruction brought on by the pandemic?
I did. We’ve had quite a few requests to offer online courses at multiple levels. I teach everything from introductory through graduate level. I’m certified by Quality Matters. So we knew that what we were doing is an appropriate way to approach learning and teaching. But comparing notes, especially across disciplines, was what appealed to me.
I’m glad you brought up that you have taught online at different levels because so often the media throws K-12 all the way through graduate courses together when they talk about online learning, as if there’s no differentiation at all and how you would go about doing that.
Beau, how about you? Had you taught online before, and at what levels if you had?
Yeah, I have had the opportunity to teach online. It wasn’t coincidental that we published this paper. We both were familiar with the strategies that we were discussing and have employed them in our own courses previously.
In terms of my own, uh, personal experience, as a graduate assistant I was a course facilitator for a distance learning program, and then I’ve taught my own online courses here at IU Kokomo since 2015.
So your article really caught our attention because Kieran and I have been having conversations about exactly this question — time management. The article looks at time management from both the learner’s perspective and the teacher’s perspective… was that kind of your target audience? To look at both of these spheres together?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that one of the issues of teaching well is thinking not just about what works for me, but is this really functioning adequately for a student.
I would agree with that. Time management is a big issue for all of us, and the pandemic only magnified that creating, uh, a host of different ways that it impacted people’s schedules. Really getting things pinned down, to, to make the most of the time that we do have was imperative.
That kind of suggests the next question but let me ask that explicitly. We’re really interested in what prompted you to do this research on time management at this point. We always have 20 things we could write about… what encouraged you to write about this now?
Some of it had to do with opportunity and really just immersing ourselves in subject matter that we might not otherwise have been focused on at the time. This really just changed all of our schedules. It also changed research agendas across the board, within our discipline and more generally in education. RFPs were being sought for things related specifically to the pandemic and our adjustments in our own courses, created opportunities to talk and share about them with our colleagues.
As Beau indicates, it was fortuitous that there were plenty of calls for papers. Several of us were asked to help others through that process of making the sudden transitions without feeling like they had to reinvent the wheel. Sharing some of those benefits for people that had less experience was certainly a motivation, but it also just reflected our own experience, and I think that of about 90% of faculty.
A couple of questions about time management… I have to walk new faculty who’ve never taught online through the thought process of setting assignment deadlines when your course content is delivered asynchronously, not self-paced, to give students enough time to come to the content on their schedule and meet your deadline. Is that something that you all have seen? Needed to address?
I think it’s a concern, more so than in face-to-face classes because they’re not going to get that reinforcement. They’ve gotta be self regulated in terms of keeping up on assignments and looking where things need to be due. I, I typically teach upper level students and if they don’t get it right out of the gate, they usually do pretty quickly.
I’ve found that if you set your expectations from the start, to make it clear how you want the course to run… I tell my students that I liken my job to that of a master chef. If you follow my recipe for success, then your finished product is likely to look like what you want it to. However, if you deviate from my recipe and you start taking things in your own hands, then I can’t tell you what your final product is going to look like.
When it comes to things like discussions, we want to avoid a situation where students all pile on at the very last minute with their comment and it’s not a discussion, it’s just a posting of thoughts.
But then how are you going to manage that with students? You’ve said this module is going to last a week and a half and, therefore, they have to figure out when they’re going to do the readings, or watch a lecture, or any of the other components.
Because the instructor is not used to doing asynchronous, not thinking, “Wait a minute, if I’m going to make a bunch of things due two or three days into this module, I’m not really giving them the flexibility that I was intending with an asynchronous delivery.”
Does that make sense?
It does. Normally I’m saying save time, and this is one where you’d need to commit some time.
I, I can’t remember, Dan, if a guest spoke about this or some colleagues… They were saying, if you don’t want to show up Monday morning and find your email inbox filled with student queries, make an assignment due on a Friday afternoon so that you’ll get all those queries on Wednesday and Thursday.
Thinking those things through, thinking about the repercussions of what I’m asking from students, and what’s the impact, not just on the students but on me as well. So yes, absolutely be student centered, but don’t leave yourself out of the mix when you’re trying to figure out how to navigate all these different pieces.
It’s a good point to make that if you make an assignment due on Friday afternoon, then you better be prepared to strap in and do grading all weekend. You can adjust deadlines based upon your personal commitments, but you better take those into account.
Or be transparent about your turnaround time. If we’re going to be clear with them about when we want something provided to us, it’s equally fair, then, that we should be clear with them about when we expect to have something back. You all know this, students often don’t know whether they’ve hit the mark, or what they need to do next if they don’t get feedback on the previous assignment.
You’ve got to model the behavior that you’re looking for. It is imperative to make sure that you’re grading your own work in a timely manner if you expect them to submit their work in a timely manner.
I’d love to get some definitions on the table here, because I want to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing. Beau, can you give a description or an example of chunking as a means of organizing learning materials? What does that look like?
Chunking as an instructional method in which students are exposed to course content in smaller, manageable segments, with the goal of helping students to understand complex concepts. Chunking really facilitates incremental exposure to the course content. I’ll let Sarah piggyback on that. If she has, uh, something to add.
Yeah, sure. I do this quite a bit in a United States history course, for example: Discuss whatever aspect of American foreign policy in the 1890s you choose — you can look at Cuba, you can look at the Philippines, you can look at Hawaii. Discuss what the goals of the United States were and what were its outcomes? Would you consider the foreign policy to be effective? T
hen you can say, “Put yourself in the shoes of a person who lived in one of those countries. How might they respond to American foreign policy?”
Then you can ask a more complex question for a paper. I would say, “Okay, you’ve been working on the facts, meaning you are learning content. Now I want you to work on argumentation. What do you see as the merits or the limitations of American foreign policy, both within the country and outside of it, in the late 1800s?” Now the students have to think about, “How do I address the issue of different priorities for different groups of people?”
In the 20 plus years I’ve been teaching. I’ve never used the expression chunking with respect to how I’ve structured assignments, activities, whatever I’ve been working on.
Now, hearing you describe it, it makes me think… I do a lot of case study based structure in my courses. Case studies seem to lend themselves to chunking almost automatically because you’re looking at a variety of elements within the case, and then you’re doing a synthesis about the case, and then you’re applying that case to other situations.
What I’m hearing from you is a type of chunking. I’m sure there are many different ways that one can structure chunks within a course. That’s why we have these conversations to see how other people are approaching it.
There’s a lot of parallels between chunking and scaffolding. I think the primary difference is that the content you’re learning during chunking isn’t necessarily necessary for the next piece of information that you’re learning. Whereas, typically, scaffolding builds on a previous bit of knowledge that you’ve learned. Chunking — there’s overlaps in the themes but it’s not necessarily building on a previous chunk of information.
So it doesn’t have to be as linear.
What are examples or a description of micro-learning?
Well, micro-learning was really a pedagogical style in which instructors expose students to course content in short doses, the rationale being that delivering the course content in brief segments makes it easier for students to consume and comprehend.
I’ll give an example to contextualize this. If I’m covering, for instance, capital punishment in one of my criminal justice classes, and I have a scope of material that I want to get through by the end of a module, then you can break those down into subtopics — cost-effectiveness of capital punishment, whether or not it’s a valid deterrent, sentencing disparity, wrongful convictions and executions, retribution, victim satisfaction — these are all sub-discussions you can have across the course of a week or two that all relate back to capital punishment.
It’s all material that I want my students to consume and digest over the course of two weeks. But if we do this incrementally, then we’re making sure that they’re staying on top of the content.
Some of the things you talk about in the articles — asynchronous instruction, chunking, and micro-learning — in my mind are somewhat related to each other because it’s how you’re organizing material, but then also how you’re organizing the calendar. Is that an accurate assessment or am I completely off base here?
I think that chunking and micro-learning are both important pieces of the asynchronous model and lend themselves well to it. You’re providing students with the ability to learn at their own pace and giving them that added flexibility, but that doesn’t just mean, okay, everything’s going to be due at the very last date. If you want to set your students up for success then you need to expose them to material incrementally.
I began teaching online, as I mentioned, during my PhD program and everything was asynchronous. I was a distance learning facilitator, so I didn’t teach the course, but I oversaw the day-to-day operations of it. It was an online masters course, and we’re dealing primarily with practitioners who were pursuing their terminal degree, who were working 40, 50, sometimes 60 hours a week and then doing this degree on their own time.
I realized how valuable their time was. Getting them to build things in an incremental manner chunking lends itself to, and exposing them to concepts in short bursts that micro-learning does, it allows them not only to get that material in a shorter duration, but to walk around and chew on it for a while. Think about it, and revisit that before the next idea, so that we’re not just throwing all these concepts at them at one time. We’re not saying, “Okay, you’re going to be teaching yourself via self regulated learning and the LMS, and I hope you don’t leave this all till the end.”
Let’s set our students up for success. I think that both of these are techniques that ultimately improve the asynchronous model.
So like stepping stones, instead of expecting them to make a big leap.
Exactly! And not only avoid that cognitive fatigue, but it avoids the concern of them waiting for the last minute.
Let’s say we break a discussion down into 10 points. So you could have everybody pile in on Thursday or Friday and answer it, or you could spread those 10 points over five days and students have to post and reply to someone’s posts — so two points, right? One for posting, one for replying — on each of those five days, covering five different subtopics. They get what they want and we’re getting what we want, which is to make sure that they’re learning the material and not just going through the exercise for points.
Understanding the value of chunking, from a pedagogy standpoint, what is the benefit to faculty of incorporating chunking into your courses from a time management standpoint? I’ll start with Sarah.
To me, one of the benefits of chunking is that I find that when any student faces a major portion of their course grade, based upon a single assignment, that’s where you see the highest degree of stress. It’s where as a faculty member you face the most communication — all of those 24 hours before the deadline emails.
So if I chunk, instead all I have to do is make sure I can assign points based on gaining mastery of segments or of individual skills. You could do a series of short essays, assigned different groups to do a five-minute presentation, you could have a discussion. I can award a smaller number of points focusing on gaining content, and then I can assign a slightly larger assignment that involves that synthetic effort of bringing it all together.
And how do you advise faculty who might push back on that and say, “Wow, so now instead of one assignment per student for this module, I’m going to have three or four to grade? How do you approach that aspect of it? You don’t have to spend as much time grading each one?
I can see the benefit from the standpoint of the students, but I can also hear a faculty saying, “How does that help me? If it’s a big assignment, yeah, I have to block out a big amount of time but I only have to do it once per week! Am I going to be grading constantly if I do this approach?”
Sure. So, obviously, the first thing I do is what Beau does and say, I’m not taking responsibility for your course. You can choose what you want to do. However, just because you assign four separate smaller segments, doesn’t mean you have to grade them. Don’t forget that many of our LMS is allow for automated grading.
The second thing that I tell them is don’t reinvent the wheel. If you want the big paper to be the most important thing, that’s where you’re going to devote most of your time. But even a discussion doesn’t have to be really onerous in terms of the feedback — you’re going to limit yourself to no more than two sentences per student. Other people use a rubric that describes what are the primary characteristics of a B, a C and so on. I can simply copy and paste from those.
Typically what I try to do is the sandwich — here are a couple of things that I think you’re doing really nicely, here’s one thing that I want you to work on for the next discussion.
I like the idea of not everything you assigned needs to be something that requires long, lengthy feedback.
Beau, would you address that same issue from the faculty’s perspective, and the benefits of this micro-learning approach from a time management standpoint?
Absolutely. I’m going to go back to chunking first, for the time management perspective, in terms of how it can promote time management among faculty. By designing and importing activities and assignments in advance, chunking may reduce the amount of time faculty spend on their courses during the semester. So, again, front loading, getting that stuff done at advanced freeing up the crucial time during the semester that you need to have for students and for grading.
The automated assignments are certainly more conducive to micro-learning tasks, where, where you’re covering small bits of material. For instance, if I wanted to have an end of the week assignment, I could say, “Evaluate the pros and cons of capital punishment across all of these categories,” and likely have a relatively lengthy answer that may be all over the place or missing areas that I wanted them to cover. Dividing all of those subtopics and then creating automated assignments, that’s not only going to save us time, it’s going to promote retention amongst students because you’re not throwing 5, 6, 7 concepts at them at once.
Colleagues, especially those who haven’t been involved in online instruction, think designing an online course is a lot more work. It may be more work, definitely a successful course has more of the work front-loaded. You need to think things through. That’s part of the idea behind intentional online instruction.
The good part of that is, if you’ve got the basic structure of the course and these different components in place, you have more time to respond to discussion, to give responses to these smaller assignments, because you’re not scrambling to put together your lecture five minutes before you have to leave! [laughing]
We’ve all done it. It’s, “Oh man!” Fortunately, you’ve got a PhD in the field and they’re undergraduates so you can go talk for an hour, but, mmm..
Most of us can talk extemporaneously about our subject matter for as long as we can get anybody to listen. It doesn’t mean that anybody’s gonna retain anything from it [laughing].
Exactly. But still, a little work ahead of time is probably good for everybody.
It is true. I guess that is an important point, right? COVID really did cause a panic because most of us said, “I have to prepare multiple courses in very short order.”
In Indiana, we knew it was coming. We had been told, as the diagnosis numbers were rising, that we should expect a likely closure unless things got better. That wasn’t true for everybody. So there was a great deal of stress.
I think that’s an important thing is deciding what do you feel like you can do at any given moment, right? What is the easiest for you? So, if you have never done chunking before maybe that’s not the approach that you should take. What is your pedagogical approach to teaching and how does it fit into your particular discipline? Go with the easiest. Don’t try climbing Mount Everest when all you need to do is get over the little incline.
I freely borrow from other people and I offer some of my resources to others. That’s part of what we do as academics. Can I see what guides you offer? Can I see what your rubric looks like? I tell people just copy it, use it as it works best.
Now that almost everybody is not dealing with the urgent, what I would say is decide what’s going to make this course shine. How are you going to make it really good? What are some ways that you can front load a lot of materials? So, for example, I link documentary films. It’s a really helpful thing to front-load the Malcolm X at the Oxford Union debate, talking about why he supports radicalism, and compare that with Martin Luther King, talking about why a more moderate approach is called for in the race rights movement.
You can assume that the students should devote quite a bit of time just watching those materials and you don’t need more than a short paragraph to say, “Here are the issues you should be looking for as you view these materials, and if you’ve done that you’re in good shape.”
Don’t you think part of the, the stress that happened is that we don’t get formal training in how to teach, but we have a lot of experience in the classroom. So when the time comes that we have to move into a different venue for teaching, we don’t have any models if we have not ever taken an online class ourself, which is one of the reasons why I always about that — because I want to know how they came to working in this space.
Did they come with some ideas about what worked and didn’t work for them as a learner? Or did they come with the idea — really common — that the whole point is to try to make online as close to the classroom environment as possible with no question about whether or not that was actually a teaching approach that was the best for all learners and all subjects. I, I wonder if part of the stress was, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in this space.”
Sarah, did you want to weigh in on that?
We have something called the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. We are very driven in terms of establishing high standards for instruction. Now, if your campus does not have an office like that, I think the least a, a unit could do academically is identify people who have been teaching for a while online.
I had an instructor from Spanish communicate with me and say, “Is there any way that you could let me into your class? I’d really like to see some of the materials you use or how you set up a discussion.” Colleague from History did the same thing. He’s going to offer his first upper level course and said, “Could I go into your 1960s course and see what that looked like last spring.”
It doesn’t mean that you’re doing all the work for somebody else. You’re just showing them an example of what worked. I even said, “Hey, I’m going to let you into this course, but I’m going to tell you, that was a rapid transition I had to make. Here are a couple things I would definitely have changed if I had to do this over again.”
I’m very interested in this emerging landscape that we’re talking about and the situation we find ourselves in going forward. We’re seeing some returning to classroom, but then we’re also seeing blended learning, and hybrid learning, or this thing that’s called hy-flex; you refer to hy-flex, actually, in your article.
There’s a real challenge — how do we, as educators, adapt to these different forms, these different modalities, in a way that’s highly effective for the learning outcomes and also highly efficient? That goes back to our time management question.
You guys look at the idea of asynchronous as being something that can be effective for the learners and efficient for the faculty, but for the learners as well. I’d love to get your thoughts about how you’ve deployed asynchronous. How do you see that fitting into this emergency landscape? How does that help with time management and outcomes?
I think that initially institutions across the country had some concerns about moving to an entirely asynchronous model. There was really this desire by everyone to try to retain some sense of normalcy. I understood the call for it but I wasn’t convinced at the time and I’m still not convinced — we’re not in hindsight yet but having an opportunity to look back on the past 18 months — I’m still not convinced that it was ultimately the best mode of delivery for students.
Now, it may have been the best mode of delivery for students for some subjects or for some faculty. But I think asynchronous teaching and asynchronous lend themselves to time management extraordinarily well, for reasons already discussed. And the need for it was only magnified during the pandemic, when everybody’s work lives, professional lives, home lives were turned completely upside down the only common theme was that everybody was on a different page.
Asynchronous learning still allows for students and faculty to work at their own pace based on the obstacles at that particular time, and provides them with the flexibility to continue their education.
I do think that staying connected with students is important… being available for office hours online via zoom, for having regular online group discussions. But I think that giving them the autonomy to consume materials at their own pace, during a time when they need that most, ultimately really benefited our students.
And I’ll add one more thing. I typically teach upper level classes. I think that asynchronous teaching and learning becomes even more important the higher up the academic ladder you climb, short of PhD. When individuals are taking on more personal responsibilities, whether they have significant others, whether they start a family, whether they’re working part- or full-time, those things tend to build on themselves throughout the academic career. Giving them that additional flexibility, I think, really allows for them to maximize their own opportunities.
In a non-residential campus like our own, with so many first-generation and working college students, they need flexibility like that.
I taught at the graduate level, and let me tell you, asynchronous was really a benefit. Because all of these students are in a program in which they’re earning a graduate certificate in history but they all teach in a dual credit high school program. It was a graduate research seminar when archives were closed, right? During the pandemic.
What I did was to set very loose boundaries. They had definite deadlines for things like submitting a bibliography list of sources, submitting a rough draft, turning in the final. But the interim period was usually two weeks span. I would say, if you’re ready and you know what you’re doing, you should sign up for an early appointment. But if you need a little bit more time, look, you’ve got two full weeks to really get things in order.
I could be very sensitive to the fact that these were all taking at least one, and some of them were taking two graduate courses. Many of them had summer development workshops that they had to participate in. This could really work around all of those commitments and still give them a chance to finish their projects.
Let me ask a question about that, again, from the faculty side. We talk a lot about the need for the students to figure out how to manage their time when they’re in an asynchronous course. We work with a lot of adult students, they’re already doing this in their work space, juggling their time. They get it.
The harder part often is trying to help faculty. The idea is that with asynchronous, you could set a time when you’re going to work on your class. But what I see happening is, when they start teaching asynchronously, their duties to the students expand like a gas to fill every waking moment.
It does seem to me — and I could be wrong — but oddly enough, the face-to-face classroom seems to have more of those time guard rails. I’m curious to get your input, your thoughts, and how you all are navigating that as two professionals who are working in this space.
First of all, I agree with you. And that just really gets back to the point of being able to front load and prepare in advance so that you free up more of your time.
Look, asynchronous teaching is, in my opinion, more time-consuming than face-to-face teaching, and likely more time consuming than synchronous teaching because you’ve got so many more moving parts. You’re not having the questions coming at you in real time, or at the end of class. Everybody’s operating on their own schedule and you’re expected to accommodate that.
Ultimately, the bottom line is that we’re here to serve our students. We need to manage our time the best that we can. Using the techniques we’ve discussed today facilitates that process. As asynchronous educators, we, we chose that role, right? So we need to embrace the challenges that it presents, realizing that while it may be more time consuming for us, there’s things that we can do to alleviate that. Ultimately, it serves the interest of our students and that that’s our number one goal.
Don’t forget, there are a lot of best practices. For example, one thing that a lot of faculty do really nicely in an online course is having an introductory video, or at least a narrated PowerPoint. I think humanizing yourself, letting them hear your voice as part of that delivery, they start to see and understand that you have lots of different things going on.
It really helps to be absolutely clear about, what is my response time going to be. Typically what people do is to say you can expect a response from me within 24 hours. or “I’m usually available during weekdays. Weekends, it is less likely that I’ll respond to your emails” so students know if they’re asking a question on a Friday, they might not hear from you for two or three days. Many faculty say, in the introductory video,” if you’re getting in touch with me five hours before your big assignment is due, you better not count on a response that’ll give you enough time to react to anything I might say.”
Our programs are a bit of an anomaly from what is often seen on campus. We don’t have a standing faculty. The majority of the folks who teach for me are Professors of Practice, limited term contract faculty. They need to put limits on their time.
When I have a faculty member who comes to me, feeling overwhelmed with the demands on their time, one of the first things we talk about is how to design the course. They get to have some agency in how they’re doing that. Dan, since you are actively practicing in this space, I would really like to get your take. We’ve heard from our guests… what wisdom do you have to share?
As our regular listeners know, my work is all asynchronous. I think the key to doing that is, Sarah and Beau have both referred to already, which is front-loading.
It’s interesting, the comment you made, Beau, about asynchronous, possibly, is more time consuming… I think it depends on how you apportion that over the years. When you start up an async class, it’s very time-consuming because, unlike when we we’re giving classes as lectures, you really gotta have everything planned out. You’ve got to have your lesson plans organized and articulated. You can’t just speak them, they’ve gotta be either in a video or written. So there’s a much greater amount of work that goes into designing the asynchronous class the first time up. And I find, actually, that there’s a lot of tweaking that goes on because we have the opportunity to make things better.
I’m trying to decide if I agree that it’s the same amount of time or less or more, when it comes to the actual delivery of the course.
I think there’s some difference… we’re talking about multiple issues here, the delivery of course content, the engagement of the students, and then also the grading. I should’ve probably been a little bit more specific. I think the grading is more time consuming because, while I’ve already praised the benefits of auto-graded assignments. I rarely use them because I want to have my, my, my finger on the pulse of my students.
I’ve never used them. Exactly.
Upper level, it gets harder and harder to do that. Lower level, you’re just trying to get them familiar with the terminology and the concepts and that’s something you can automate.
Yeah, you can automate assessment in that case.
The courses I’m teaching this semester, there are 17 discreet grades they get. Now some of them are close to participation grades. You’ve done this, I’m not evaluating what you said in the discussion, I’m evaluating that you had a discussion of the right character. But still, yes, I definitely agree that grading can be a challenge.
In the end I think it’s really how you’ve designed the course. You have to figure out, how are you going to structure the activities? How are you going to structure the grading? Is the communication going to be individualized or going to be more collective?
But I think that we have to make very conscious choices and yeah, I agree completely, Kieran, you can let it fill up all that space in the room. I think if we’re not intentional about it, then that can happen. But when you do asynchronous ahead of time, you’re designing time management into the course.
I think, too, as educators… it’s our subject, we’re passionate about it. Often we’re worried we’re not giving them enough, or that we’re not doing enough for them. Instead of trying to just light a fire of curiosity about the subject matter, pointing them in the right direction, and then giving them some guidance along the way, we want to hold their hands and take them along every single step with us.
Inevitably, they start falling behind in grading. That’s when I, as the program director start, hearing complaints. When I go back and talk to the instructor, the first thing I have to do is get past the hurt feelings because they’re given everything they have to this and these students are so ungrateful! How can this be? [laughing] We have to go back to the very topic we’re talking about today. It all keeps coming down to time management.
And we’re all trying to navigate in a new space, too, right? When I was a kid, mail came once a day. Even at your office, it came once a day. You opened it, you dealt with it, you were done. Today the mail just keeps coming. It never stops, right?
It comes while you sleep.
Yeah, I like your mail analogy there. And I would just piggyback on it and add that today, because it’s free to send, there’s a lot more of it coming your way.
And there’s texts, and there’s messages coming in through the LMS. It’s coming from multiple people all the time. Yeah. It’s crazy making, for sure.
You know, everybody who teaches online, we all tell our students that, that online education takes more responsibility. That’s not unique to the student’s perspective. That’s a shared… by educators as well. With this added flexibility comes added responsibility.
Well, I think there’s wonderful observations to be made there about agency, and active learning, and collaborative learning that comes out of this conversation.
We’re close to the end of our time, so we’re not really going to have a chance to get into the details of why hy-flex is potentially the worst of both worlds and is only really successful if there’s a technical assistant in the room with you. We’ll save that for another day.
I do want to go back to the meta conversation, though. Particularly, are we going to have enduring lessons from this experience? Is this changing education?
Many campuses are pushing people to develop online courses. In a period where enrollments are declining in many parts of the country, offering a platform that can go nationwide obviously has an enrollment benefit, right? That’s good for instructors and it’s good for campus in terms of the overall enrollment figures.
The biggest lesson is that if you’re asked to do an online course, you should accept the responsibility. Ask if you can have a full semester to develop that course. You could say, “I couldn’t do it in the spring, but could I teach it next fall or even over the summer. I would have a better course for you.”
Just make sure to do a little bit of reading either in Quality Matters or in other expert literature on online learning. That would be my big go-to lesson.
Part of the driver behind that for institutions is that we know the traditional demographic for higher education is shrinking but adult learners and lifelong learners for professional development, that’s a growing field. You have got to meet them where they are. They’re not going to sell their house and pull their kids out of school to come to your campus. They’re not. Yeah, I think we’re going to see more of that push, just from an existential standpoint for a lot of institutions.
The pandemic has certainly led to a more versatile workforce within our profession. It was challenging for everyone. In some way, probably felt like a trial by fire for those without online teaching experience, but it also forced us to adapt and refine our teaching to meet the needs of our students and institutions.
Administrators, enable your faculty to take those lessons with them. Enable them to use asynchronous learning. Give faculty autonomy because these are things that we were forced to learn and they shouldn’t be forgotten.
I think the point is very well made. I have had many conversations with friends and colleagues who, honestly, had never heard the term asynchronous before because they’d never taught online. It’s not that they didn’t know what the word meant, they didn’t know that was a question you were supposed to ask when you were teaching online. That was eye-opening to them.
The other thing that I think came out of it is a lot of faculty members have a much deeper understanding of their LMS than they ever did before. When they were teaching in a lecture room, they post the syllabus in the LMS, maybe they use the grade book on the LMS, a lot of people have the readings on the LMS, but they’re not really using it as a teaching tool.
Now everyone’s been forced to actually learn the LMS, and all of a sudden the idea of flipping lessons or flipping whole classes is different. The type of collaboration you might set up is different. The LMS might help time management.
A good educator has never done being a student.
Excellent words of wisdom. Dr. Sarah Heath and Dr. Beau Shine, both from Indiana university Kocomo. It’s fantastic having you on Wired Ivy today. Thank you both so much.
Thank you for inviting us to join you. It’s been a great discussion.
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Until next time, this is Dan Marcucci…
… and I’m Kieran Lindsey.
DAN & KIERAN 38:28
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