Five tips for online instruction efficiency
I’ve been teaching online for quite some time now – well before Covid. I teach a course on how to teach and design online courses. In the realm of online learning, a lot of research and practice is focused on how to create a better student experience. Very little is written about how to make a better instructor experience. I figured I’d share a few of my tips for instructor efficiency.
1. Subscribe to the Q&A forum
Most Learning Management Systems (LMSs) allow you to subscribe to discussion forums, and most courses have a discussion forum where students can ask questions. Students are encouraged to use that forum for questions that might be of interest to the entire class. If you are someone like me that watches your email regularly, but only looks at the LMS once or twice a day, then subscribing to the forum means you see students questions quickly, without the need to be continually monitoring the entire discussion board.
2. Screen videos in double time
When I’m trying to find video resources for my students, I watch them in double time. I have installed a browser plugin that lets me adjust the speed of video playback for any video – but a lot of video players also allow you to do this. Since I know the content and I’m mostly screening for appropriateness and quality, watching in double time saves me a lot of time.
3. Use breakout rooms during sync sessions
With Covid I find myself holding more sync sessions that I would have previously as students are craving that extra connection. One way to do this without having to be “on” for the entire session is to plan several small group discussions among students. If you have a leading question or two you can have the groups contribute responses in a shared Google doc, which gives you a way to gage how the groups are doing without needing to jump into the rooms. I will often setup a breakout room and then use that time while students are interacting to mark or setup my sessions for the following week. That way, I’m present if students run into trouble or need me, and yet I’m being productive with my time. The bonus is that students generally love the opportunity to interact with each other in small groups. Just make sure the groups are not too small (3 or more) and not to large (6 or less).
4. Create re-usable resources outside of the LMS
If I’m creating a resource that I think I will use either multiple times or in multiple classes, I create it outside of the Learning Management System. For example, I have a page of Open Educational Resources that are all things I use in my classes. Since I’ve put them here, I can easily reference them and I don’t need to recreate them or maintain them within a system that I don’t control.
5. Provide video feedback on projects
When I have students submit projects, especially multimedia projects, I use video as a way to provide feedback. I usually use screencast-o-matic, as it is inexpensive and easy to use. I can load a page, look at it, hit record, provide some feedback, pause the recording and move on to the next page. This saves me a lot of time, but also personalizes the feedback for the students. In general, students prefer this type of feedback as it not only tells them what you are thinking but also shows them directly where you were on their project when you had the idea.