Friday, August 7, 2009

Time on Task

"Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time on task. Learning to use one's time well is critical for students and professionals alike. Students need help in learning effective time management. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty. How an institution defines time expectations for students, faculty, administrators, and other professional staff can establish the basis of high performance for all. " (Chickering and Gamson)

Time in the synchronous online classroom is critical. Students who wait for the instructor to load materials, prepare polls, or master the necessary technologies will be diverted by other distractions (e.g., e-mails, Facebook feeds, private chat messages) and may not be able to focus once the instructor is ready. This puts a burden on the online instructor to prepare delivery as well as content so as to minimize delays and control time in the online classroom. With Confer, using the Plan tool - which allows you to pre-load multimedia content, polls, quizzes, slides, and Web pages - is an excellent way to manage the pace of your instruction.

It's also your responsibility as the instructor to reinforce time on task in your classroom. Students need help in learning effective time management, and you can provide this by giving them realistic time expectations during the class. The "Timer" tool - which presents a visible running clock on the desktop of each participant - is a great option in this context. Give students a task - for example, list what you know or think about X issue - and set the clock for five minutes, with an audible alarm option selected. This lets the students know that they have a job to do, in a limited amount of time, and that the "clock is ticking" for them to accomplish the job.

You can also help your students by reminding them of deadlines throughout your teaching. Use part of your lecture time to post reminders on the Whiteboard, or post announcements in the Chat area (you can post an announcement message here that pops up with an audible alert). These messages help students organize their time and focus on their required work.

One tool that helps reduce the time students sometimes squander searching for assignments or syllabi is the File Transfer tool. Using this simple tool, you can transfer your assignments to every student (even those who are viewing your archived session) in real time. This eliminates the concern that your Course Management System may be down when students are trying to access assignments, or that they won't be able to find the assignments you've posted. "Hand out" the assignments in real time, and let students know when and how you expect them to be completed.

Speaking of archives, remember that your recorded sessions can be paused and resumed. It's a good idea in longer class sessions to allow for breaks and to pause the recording so that viewers of the archive don't have to navigate through "dead time" to find the point where you resumed teaching.

Carl Sandburg wrote, "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you." This applies to students as well as instructors, in all learning environments.

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