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.