Core Strategies for Online Time Management
The best time-saver is tight organization of material, so students know what to do, how to do it, and when and where to post. Plus, the more you can prepare before the semester gets rolling, the easier it will be to keep up with the day-to-day work of online teaching. There's nothing worse than trying to (re)organize once the semester is well underway: it's stressful for you and confusing for your students!
Set up as much of the class before the semester begins as possible. If possible, import global topics and run through them to make sure they're all still timely before the open of the semester.
Prioritize: Will doing XX make a difference to your students?
Recycle your best stuff.
You will find that the same sorts of issues and questions arise in your class semester after semester, so instead of writing new answers to the same questions, save your well-crafted answers into a text document. Then copy and paste your remarks — editing them, as needed — from the text document into your class next semester. This works for discussion posts, critiques, announcements, etc., and it's a huge time-saver! So start saving your "keepers" now...
Save your critique snippets.
I keep a file of "standards" that I re-use semester after semester. This includes announcements, standard emails, discussion posts, grade comments, general feedback on assignments, etc. I organize these clips by module and by assignment, so it's easy to find what I need.
Keep a Word doc of important information that you can use again and again for each assignment. Then cut & paste that. Tailor the rest of your feedback on an individual basis.
What I have found I use the most is cutting and pasting comments. Students tend to make similar mistakes from semester to semester, and it saves a lot of time for me to repeat comments. I keep a list of phrases and suggestions that I use all the time.
Because there is no "global announcements" tool that lets you automatically re-purpose announcements from a previous semester, it's especially helpful to keep your own file of announcements that you can reuse, as needed. Because you can use HTML in your announcements, be sure to save that coding, so you don't have to recreate it.
Save your images online.
Embedded images can make discussion posts much more interesting and engaging! Images that you use online must "live" somewhere on the web, so that they have a stable URL you can cite. While it is possible to re-upload an image every time you want to embed it, it's simpler to put your images in a place where you can always find them. You can use a global topic as an image bank (by attaching images to the topic), or you may prefer to use another online storage site, such as Google docs or Picasa.
Keep notes on your students.
Easy Grade Pro is a wonderful tracker. I use footnotes and comments a lot, so that I don't have to find posts again. I track both late and unacceptable work and when I emailed the student.
Every time a student is late with his homework I make a note of it on a sticky note. I check this list to see if student is on it the next time (in my class you can only be late once).
I think that it makes sense to keep a writing pad next to the computer in order to make some notes on anything that will help with the grading process or the class workflow in general. Since I teach 5 different classes at FA Sculpture, I find it really helpful to make some notes about any student I am working with for the first time.
I think that one of the disadvantages of online teaching is the fact that there is no face-to-face time and thus it is more difficult to build a personal relationship with students. Teaching quite a few classes in the department, it is difficult to remember everyone, so keeping some notes about each student helps me to refresh my memory regarding what kind of work they do when they are in another class of mine at some later point. After all, it is kind of awkward if you address someone like a new student even though they might have taken one or more classes with you before.
Since many students don't have much information listed in their profile, I find this a good strategy to give them a sense of being taken seriously and that the instructor cares about them and their work.
I keep an old-fashioned grade book open at all times. This is my teaching "Bible." I take an actual pencil and record comments, grades, and make notes about emails I've sent. This way, when I have a student's work up on the computer, I'm also scanning over my grade book, seeing at a glance how they've been doing and comparing it to the work that's up on the screen. I can see right away if they're making the same mistakes over and over. This is what makes things work for me. I couldn't be without my grade book! Every time I open an email, I turn my grade book to that student and glance over any potential problems I can see happening, so I can bring that up in the email.
Expect students to take responsibility for their own learning.
I try not to waste too much time on failing students. Everybody deserves a second chance but nobody deserves a fifth one. If you don't check in to the class until week 3, I'll give you until midterms to make up all the work, and will not remind you. If it doesn't show up, it's a zero. If you never post in the discussion, I'll note in your week 4 progress grade that discussions are a large part of your grade and you must participate or you will not pass. Then either they do it or they don't.
Update your class.
Instead of filling in the same gaps every semester by posting FAQ or announcements or something similar, you can instead choose to update your course material. This approach means that your "fixes" become part of the stable module content, so that you don't have to constantly patch the holes!
Keep notes on the changes you would like to make, and talk with yourabout rebuilding your class (which can be done in full or only in part).
It is a good idea to review possible holes in class content (written sessions). If you find that students are asking similar questions each semester, keep a log. At the end of the semester work with your Online Education team to incorporate the answers to the FAQ questions into each module. It's definitely a time-saver.
I built both of the classes that I teach, and after teaching them for several years did rebuilds on both of them. This allowed me to be very specific as to requirements, and eliminated 99% of the routine questions by those who either skimmed or didn't read the site at all. It eliminated having to repeat explanations and improved the quality of work across the board.