Surviving as an Online Instructor

What can you do to help yourself get settled into a pattern for engaging with students in the discussion board, grading assignments, providing feedback, and posting any media resources to support learning?  How can you keep from becoming overwhelmed with the students desire for you to be available 24/7?  Try these tips:

  • First, remember that you are not expected to be on call for your students 24/7 just because you teach an online course.  If you see a student email come in on your smartphone, that does not mean that you need to drop everything and immediately answer their question.  In fact, if you do that, you end up teaching your students that they can expect you to immediately respond whenever they email you.  Set realistic yet fair expectations for yourself and your students for communication. Faculty working on laptops outside.
  • Set aside times when you will respond to student emails and phone calls.  Online students are best served if you are able to reply within 24 hours.  This is due to the fact that they are remote and if they have a question about an assignment, their ability to move forward with that assignment may be hindered until they hear back from you.  If 24 hours is not feasible for you, try to respond within 48 hours.  Be sure to let students know what they can expect for your response time so they won’t be left wondering.
  • Create an FAQ page in your course to alleviate the number of student emails asking the same question.  This will save you and the students valuable time!
  • Set aside specific times and days when you will check in with students in the discussion board.  Let students know your schedule for doing so.  The discussion board is where students talk about and process what they are learning.  It is important to engage with students and check for understanding on a regular basis.  This doesn’t mean that you become a slave to the discussion board, so set a schedule that you are able and willing to work within.
  • Similarly, set aside specific times when you will grade assignments and provide feedback.  Don’t wait long after an assignment is submitted to grade it.  Online students, because they don’t see you regularly if at all, will become nervous about their grades sooner than face-to-face students.
    • Tip for getting it done faster!  Consider providing students audio feedback instead of typed feedback.  Recording yourself explaining your feedback can save you time typing.  Once recorded, your audio feedback can be uploaded into the online grade book for each student.

Hopefully these suggestions will help save you time and stress.  Keep up with grading, streamline feedback and communication processes, and you will notice that the online work-load doesn’t have to be overwhelming.