Advice for Beginners

Margie White‘s presentation at the @ONE conference, though supposedly about Effective Time Management Techniques, was actually an outstanding primer on how to start teaching online.Her first main area was organization. First one must organize oneself, focusing without interruptions and avoiding multi-tasking unless you’re really good at it. You organize your students by being clear with instructions and answering class questions in a public place, like a discussion forum. Organizing materials can best be done by using your own file system, instead of typing things into the Course Management System. (This was dear to my heart, as I’ve been advising folks to do this for years!). I was also delighted to hear her advise that instructors organize and learn their technology: CMS, browser, manipulating images, html (also dear to my heart), accessibility, and screenshot programs.

Next came a discussion of consistency, in materials and course design so that students develop habits of moving through your course. She recommended repeating things in multiple places, using a template for presentation pages, and creating a pattern of online assignments (i.e. “due every Wednesday”). For good instructor workflow, Margie recommended creating the schedule around the instructors’ times for grading and working on the class.

Last was planning (though of course all of this requires planning!). An important point here was Margie’s encouragement for staggering the opening times of course content, as opposed to showing the whole 17 weeks at once. An entire course calendar may be used, but materials only made available a few weeks ahead, to prevent overload. One unique recommendation was keeping a text file of “canned” comments often given on assignments, which can also help retool instructions for the next semester. Working on student boundaries was part of planning: helping students keep up, and being flexible while not allowing them to ignore deadlines.

An outstanding review of what every instructor needs to know, and some ideas I’ll be using myself!

1 comment to Advice for Beginners

  • bk2nocal

    Great suggestions…I don’t teach online, but I have definitely learned by trial and (mostly) error that I need to design assignment due dates (consistency) around my schedule, not what seems to work in the class schedule at the beginning of the semester. Workflow is something I never really thought about when writing my syllabus for the semester, but something that I will definitely consider in the future! I would love to get more information on this conference presentation or any others related to planning and workflow for instruction. Thanks!