Time-Saving Tips for Large Online Classes

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"Time-Saving Tips for Teaching Large Online Classes" (online article; the link is dead, but the content below remains useful) offers 7 "broad strategies" for "deliver[ing] high-quality education in classes with increased class sizes, while managing your workload within realistic time constraints."

  • "Although the focus is on online education, many of these strategies could be applied in face-to-face classes as well."

1. "Modify assignments." 

  • Replace "some time-intensive assignments ... with more time-efficient ones that still target learning objectives."
  • "[A]sses[s] knowledge-level learning outcomes with auto-graded quizzes ... [This] might require more up-front work, but inclusion of one or two quizzes can significantly reduce grading time."
  • "Be creative in designing assignments that capture analysis-level learning outcomes."  

2. "Increase efficiency in grading papers."

a. "Reduce assignment length."

  • "Decide what’s most important to assess and ... shorten assignment length to target those criteria."
  • "[U]se the reduced page count guidelines as a learning opportunity, reinforcing the importance of conciseness ... crystal-clear focus and ruthless editing – ... skills that will serve [students] well in their professional writing."

b. "Grade efficiently."

  • "If you’re not teaching a writing course," don't "mark every mechanical error on each paper."
  • "Identify and note syntactical, editing, punctuation, and/or citation errors for a page or two, and indicate that you’ll focus all remaining feedback on content and analysis exclusively."
  • "Those few mechanical notes provide valuable feedback and let students know the kind of errors to avoid on future assignments, which should mean fewer missed points and less pushback on grades."

c. "Look for one or two points per page that effectively (or poorly) address key learning outcomes."

  • "[H]ighlight those and provide a comment."
  • "[N]ot[ing] a few examples that demonstrate attainment of intended learning outcomes reinforces those objectives and facilitates learning, without demanding much time."

d. "Use rubrics."

  • "Share rubrics with students before assignments are due ... [to] hel[p] them better meet expectations and reduc[e] your own frustration and time-demands ... when students submit work that misses key criteria."
  • "[P]rovide overall comments (utilizing a bank of often-repeated comments can save time, too), and assign points per criteria to help students understand how they did or did not meet expectations."

3. "Use your announcements."

  • "Announcements ... can set expectations, clarify objectives, and offer class-wide feedback."
  • "[H]ighligh[t] commonly-made errors on assignments" to avoid "repeat[ing] the same comments on multiple papers and [to] reduce the number of student questions." 
  • "Post 'tips' before assignments are due [to] demonstrate instructor commitment and interest (increasing student satisfaction), and help students understand and meet objectives."

4. "Facilitate your forums more efficiently and effectively."

  • "Track your posts to students in the discussion forums."
  • "I download the gradebook at the beginning of the term, deleting assignment columns, and then save a spreadsheet with a column of student names and one column for each week."
  • "When I reply to a student post during the week, I place an 'x' in that week’s column by their name."
  • "By the end of week, I can just quickly skim any new posts (since I’d marked posts 'read' each time I’d been in the course site throughout the week), and focus reading only those posts by students I’d not responded to yet."

5. "Develop daily course-site habits."

  • "A daily quick check for questions and a few posts to the discussion enable you to establish presence and stimulate conversation, facilitating learning and increasing satisfaction, without consuming a great deal of your time."
  • "It’s easier to budget your time by making two-three posts per day, rather than trying to respond to 10+ students a few times each week." 

6. "Schedule email time."

  • "Reading and responding to emails for a few minutes each morning and/or evening, rather than checking your inbox multiple times a day, allows you to budget your time, and reduces the inefficiency of multi-tasking."

7. "Utilize your LMS tools."

  • "Get comfortable with the LMS features that will, ultimately, reduce demands on your time."
  • "[M]arking posts 'read' at the end of each visit to the course site means that you have fewer posts to wade through the next time you come to class."
  • "[U]sing the LMS embedded rubrics can significantly reduce grading time." 
  • "Automating notifications can allow you to prioritize and organize your tasks each week."

Schiffer, Eileen F. "Time-Saving Tips for Teaching Large Online Classes." Faculty Focus Premium 1 February 2018.

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