taking off on weekends


Good morning. It’s Saturday and there’s coffee brewing on the stove. This morning I was contemplating the lifestyle of online teachers, and how the phrase “24/7, anywhere, anytime, anyplace” has affected the way I teach. I’m left with the question, “Can I take off on weekends?” The logical part of my brain says, “Of course. Everyone deserves a weekend off.” Another part of me, however, gets a little anxious if I don’t login over that time when many students are completing their work.

If you read books on online teaching, you’ll get some fairly common advice that teachers should visit their online classrooms several times a week. If you talk with online teachers, you’ll find a wider range of approaches–teachers who login everyday, those who login 2-3 times per week, and those who login once a week or less.

I suppose what interests me most are students’ perspectives on how often their teacher should login, how immediate they should receive feedback on their work, how quickly their posts should be responded to. The newer a student is to online education, the more quickly they will want and expect feedback on their posted writing/work. Now, mind you, I can’t cite this claim from any research; this is based on my own personal experience. I’ve questioned what causes that expectation. Why? Well, let’s say I’m teaching on campus, a 3 hour class that meets once per week. A student hands in a paper. When do they get that paper back? A week later, at the earliest, sometimes two weeks if the writing is intensive or I’m overloaded that week. However, to wait a week or two to give feedback in an online class gives me butterflies–not to mention my students. What is it about online learning environments that creates the need for instant educational gratification?

I’ve explored a variety of informal approaches to assist my students with the expectation of my availability. In my syllabus, I discuss my availability (that I login 2-3 times per week), that they can email or call if they need more immediate assistance, and I provide an instant messenger address that I try to keep open whenever I’m online. If I’m going to be offline for more than two days, or out of town, I’ll post an announcement letting folks know about it in advance. Part of my professional responsibility, I believe, is educating online learners about the nature of online learning, and setting the tone for how my online classroom operates.

Now, I’m going to finish up my cup of coffee, post this blog entry, and head off for some fly fishing this weekend. Hope yours is a good one, too.

2 thoughts on “taking off on weekends

  1. Vanessa July 1, 2005 / 12:22 AM

    Hi again, great post and definitely interesting questions. When should you be available to students? How often should you login to your course? Even more importantly what does your university require and are you getting compensated? In the Information Age, students, i.e., the customers are getting accustomed to getting reponses within hours if not immediately. So as new students from the “internet” or wired generation come into the educational system they will have higher expectations from the instructors especially if they are taking online courses.I have taught online and my experience is the students expect more interaction, communication with me as an instructor. And I accomodate this even though the university doesn’t expect me to be online 24/7 although I have seen many organizations realizing this is part of the future and how they will be able to retain students. But I agree often times we need down time, we need to get away from the computer and do some outdoor things.Regards,Vanessa HaakensonDistance-Educator.com< HREF="http://www.distance-educator.com" REL="nofollow">http://www.distance-educator.com<>

  2. Lisa Dawley, Ph.D. July 7, 2005 / 4:35 PM

    Oh you gave me some good food for thought here! You make a great point about the growing accustomization of immediate response–after all, that’s what the internet is all about, no?>>Even more importantly what does your university require and are you getting compensated? Another great question, one that many people are afraid to ask–why? Teaching is a profession. My time has value. It’s important to know the expectation of my time and the compensation I’ll receive in return. I teach because I love to teach. However, I also love to do a lot of other things–my time to teach isn’t a bottomless pit. At the present time, my department doesn’t make a distinction between the work load for teaching live vs. online, although our Chair works at limiting the number of online courses most faculty are required to teach, and we do receive a stiped for distance learning students. Hence, the time adjustment tends to be made on my end–alternating assignments that require quick vs. lengthy feedback, making assignments go over a two-week period or longer, reusing curriculum from prior courses to shorten the time spent in curriculum development. In the end, we have a win/win situation for everyone, but it does leave me feeling like I need to be a very creative and flexible teacher!>>although I have seen many organizations realizing this is part of the future and how they will be able to retain students.What strategies have you seen other universities using to address this need? I’d love to learn more.Thanks again for the great post!

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