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Community Coach
Community Coach

Saving time teaching online

Hello everyone, 

I teach a course on developing/facilitating online classes and have a question I wanted to pose based on one of our class discussion topics.  For those who teach online, how have you found ways to save time on various teaching tasks so you can spend this instead on engaging and connecting with students?

This topic has come up in a couple of blogs before (see Canvas Tips to Save Teachers Time and Time-Saving Tips: Stop Repeating Yourself (CanvasLIVE Session)), but it would be great to see what else folks have come up with!

My hope is to hear if there are Canvas tools, outside apps, or general teaching techniques you have found which could help others. Here are a couple I have used with success:

  • On a topic about student/learner characteristics, I have class participants draw a picture and post this instead of providing a written response as I can grade the images more quickly than papers (and it is more engaging!).
  • When teaching math classes and a student has a question about a concept, I will make a recording of solving a problem with Explain Everything, upload it to YouTube, and then post it in Canvas for the entire class to review.

I look forward to learning what others have found to be beneficial to their teaching . . . thanks in advance!

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Like kelley.meeusen@cptc.edu‌, I'm with stefaniesanders‌ on this one: I make sure to have the class all ready to go by the start of the semester. I know the students really appreciate it (it answers their questions, it's very reassuring, it demonstrates my commitment, etc.). With this proactive approach, I dramatically reduce the number of student questions and I also reduce the time spent fixing mistakes that would result from doing work in haste or forgetting to do things when the semester actually gets going. And by having courses completed and ready to go, I can take full advantage of james@richland.edu's amazing update dates all at once API magic spreadsheet: 

Adjust All Assignment Dates on One Page 

Another proactive habit that has really worked for me: DAILY class announcements. Teaching online is an invitation not just to have better communication with students than in the hectic classroom (where some students are going to be absent on any given day)... I see teaching online as a chance to over-communicate, to repeat, to reinforce, etc. That's what the daily announcements do for me.

I write my announcements as Monday of Week 1, Tuesday of Week 1, and so on, which makes it easy for me to retrieve them and tweak them from semester to semester. The days may change, but that doesn't matter: Monday of Week 1 is still Monday of Week 1. Then, I run the announcements as a blog which I then use as my Canvas Homepage. That allows me to use the same announcements across both my classes (that might not work for other people, but it does for me: I have two classes with different content but the same assignments).

For example, here are the announcements for "Week 3" at the blog:

Online Course Announcements: week03 

Here's how the blog looks embedded in a Canvas course:

Myth.MythFolklore.net

Go blogs! Go Canvas! GO CONTENT RECYCLING!!! 🙂

screenshot of canvas course

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The announcement page looks very nice laurakgibbs!  It appears that you are not using the Announcement tab in Canvas, is that correct?  Are students messaged your daily announcements the way they would (probably) in Canvas?  I am wondering about the student response to receiving emails and/or texts daily from a course. 

Thanks for the ideas!

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Hi ericwerth‌! The students can get the announcements blog content in whatever form they prefer: it's there as the landing page in Canvas, they can get daily posts via email (and the formatting is really nice!), OR they can subscribe via RSS. Since they all have their own blogs in the class, giving them these blog options (showing them that blogs can be embedded, have email, or arrive via RSS) is a natural choice for my classes.

Here's a screenshot of what the email looks like; since I rely on images to do a lot of the work in the announcements, I really like how Blogger's email service (Feedburner) does a good job with formatting, and also offers all kinds of options re: the email delivery. I would guess that about a half of my students opt for email delivery, but half of them do not -- and I'm with the no-email crowd myself; a big goal in my life is to reduce amount of email ha ha. I subscribe to the class announcements myself just to make sure it's working.

Here's a fun thing: a lot of students stay subscribed to the announcements after the class is over because there is fun stuff in there, totally aside from classwork. 🙂

screenshot of announcements email

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Thanks laurakgibbs!  From an instructional standpoint, one thing that I go back and forth mentally on is how many announcements to post in Canvas itself.  An announcement is much better than emails, which many faculty have gotten in a habit of sending, for many reasons.  I also normally ask my students or course participants to consider having announcements sent as texts to their phones so they will see the information quickly.  However, I have wondered how many announcements in a week is too much.  I most often have 2/week, but I like how your solution keeps students "in" the class (it is too easy to go days without logging in) but they still have control over how they receive this communication!

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ericwerth I have so much fun with the announcements! Some students check in maybe twice a week, and that's fine; the class is designed to be done in ANY weekly frame: every day, a few times each week, or just twice (or even once, although that's pretty extreme, doing all 6 hours of work in one session)... anyway, my way of encouraging them to read through the whole week's worth of announcements is this fun extra credit assignment:

Online Course Wiki / Backup, Checkup and Review

For the review part, they read through the week's worth of announcements and share their favorite items; I learn a lot from seeing which items people choose: it gives me insight into their interests, and also helps me learn what kinds of announcement materials are popular. 

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stefaniesanders - I am constantly amazed at how many of my faculty run their courses two weeks ahead of their students (generalizing, of course, but not by much). I feel enough pressure in daily life without that added hassle. I understand how busy they are, but it seems that if I were teaching that way I'd go nuts. 

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cholling‌, I agree. Much of my in-class experience as a student harks back to the dark ages before course materials were posted online, and I remember how professors would come running into the class with photocopies of articles and exams they had just "xeroxed." And that was par for the course. I've always been the "plan, plan ahead, and then evaluate the plan and plan again" type, so that would drive me nuts too, but I know instructors who thrive on that—and generally speaking, I think that teaching two weeks ahead works to the detriment of students, and if it's a fully-online class, I don't think it is good practice regardless of one's personality.

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Hear, hear! We always tell our folks that they'll be so busy *teaching* the course (especially the first time teaching online) that they won't have time to further *develop* the course once it starts.

I am curious if everyone has a time frame they tell faculty to assume course development will take.  I have always suggested 3-6 months depending on how much of the course material (objectives, content and assessments) has already been created and how much time each week can be spent on development.

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That's what we tell them, too. In the program that has a coordinator to check content and do a final edit, 3 months for the instructor to get materials together and 3 months for the "final check." Which in reality is more like a 4/2 or 5/1 split. Smiley Wink

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