One of the myths about online courses is that they are “easier” than classroom based courses. From a faculty perspective, experience with one online course will dispel that myth. When thinking about just the factor of planning, you will see the complexity of preparing and delivering an online course. There are implications for both faculty and students in how each will manage their time and involvement with this course. Although there may be similarities, there are also unique considerations. Students may take an online course and think that it will be easier or take less of their time than a classroom course. By setting expectations about your course, you can address this misconception.
Classroom courses are typically structured around a weekly schedule. Online courses may be designed using a weekly schedule of activities but can also be in longer blocks, modular or self-paced.
Faculty considerations regarding their own time include:
- Modifying someone else’s online course can be harder than starting from scratch. Make sure you give yourself enough time “offline” to prepare the course site.
- Students will expect the course to “be there” as soon as you activate it. Unlike a classroom course where you may add materials throughout the semester, the online course is typically completely available. However, if you plan to add content as the course progresses, make sure students are aware of this, and use multiple reminders such as a statement in your syllabus, an announcement on the main page of the course, and a prominent note on the discussion board.
- Establish specific guidelines and expectations about your time and the student’s time that students will see immediately on accessing the course. An example is what the student can expect regarding your online presence: will you be checking every day, weekdays only, once per day or multiple times? What you establish will determine your time management. Another example is describing what the student can expect in terms of study/prep time and direct engagement in the course. Spelling out that the student can expect “x” number of hours on average per week in your course is helpful.
- The course site is the equivalent of a classroom, so you will want to develop both formal (Discussion Boards, Voice Boards, Wikis) and informal (Student lounge) gathering places. Be aware that what you establish as a graded assignment will impact your time online. For example, given the number of students and an assignment that includes an original posting plus comments on postings by 2−4 other students, your time to read all the posts will add up.
- In developing your assessment plan, consider the number and variety of assignments for students. Think not only in terms of your time but also the student’s. As many students know, they can “hide” in a classroom, not participate, and even not complete the reading assignment. Online, those scenarios are less likely.
- Synchronous activities can be created through various methods. Depending on your class size you may not be able to have all the students together online at the same time. Thus, you may need to provide several options for synchronous activity, which will require more of your own time.
Student considerations regarding their own time include:
- Discussion Boards can be used for various purposes: class discussion on a topic, posing a course question (like raising a hand in class), posting resources for classmates, or a social site for conversation. Graded Discussion Boards can be time-consuming for students as they are for faculty. Because they are asynchronous, students post at any time of the day and thus must revisit frequently to respond to each other.
- Synchronous activities also can affect students who need to manage work and family obligations to “attend” class. Advanced notice and/or options of days and times are critical. Having too large a group online together will hamper participation, so you may need to provide multiple synchronous options − which will require more of your time.
- Online lectures may or may not be appropriate for the course content. When they are, keep in mind the length of the lecture. Whereas in a classroom, you might lecture for 45 – 60 minutes, online it is better to divide the lecture into shorter (15 – 20 minute) sections.