Almost overnight, our teachers and professors became the students, many learning how to teach, connect, and collaborate online while working from home for the first time. Instead of carefully orchestrated schedules, educators now have much more freedom at their disposal. And a lot less structure. Stay productive with our time-saving tips for online teaching.
Of course, online learning has been around for a while, but never delivered at scale, to every learner, with so little lead time. Pivoting from the classroom to the home office can result in poor time management, procrastination, and the overwhelming feeling of needing to be available 24/7.
If you – or a teacher friend – are still struggling to adjust to remote teaching, you might benefit from some time management lessons of your own.
Below are some tips that can help make your new online school environment a little more productive.
Set your space up for success
If you don’t already have one, create a quiet place where you can work with no distractions. Just like you tell your students, the more focused you can be, the less time it will take to get your work done. Organize your home office like your work environment – familiarity breeds efficiency. And make sure you have all the tech you need to be an effective remote instructor.
You’ll get a lot of cheers from your students for this one. Our world is changing, and our expectations need to change too. Off campus, your students may not have all the technology they need to engage in online learning. They may be responsible for taking care of siblings while their parents work. And they’re most likely dealing with feelings of shock, fear, and disappointment and cannot concentrate – or don’t care. So give everyone a break, including yourself, and lighten the load.
A little structure helps
Students still need a reliable weekly schedule as much as you do, just with lower expectations and fewer time commitments. They were used to regular class times, and you all will be more successful if you stick with a consistent flow and rhythm for the week. If you leave the schedule up to them, you probably won’t see positive results.
In uncertain times, predictability and structure help us all maintain some semblance of normalcy. With regular assignments, they’ll know when tasks are due and can plan their week accordingly. Of course, we’re also dealing with the emotional shock of a global pandemic, so empathy and flexibility are just as important as deadlines.
Manage your inbox
If you received a lot of emails before, your inbox is probably overflowing now. While email is a great way to stay connected with your students, it can quickly take over your waking hours. Establish email boundaries and communicate the specific times you’ll be checking and responding to emails each day.
Students also tend to email the same questions over and over. Instead of answering each email individually, send out group emails, or post Q&As to your online class discussion and chat boards. If it’s a complex question, answer it in your next video lesson.
Use the tools
Fortunately, we have technology and platform choices designed for this moment, making it easier for you to deliver quality online learning experiences while effectively managing your time. Learn and use the tools at your disposal. Get creative. In addition to live sessions, pre-record video lessons, share high-quality blogs, articles, and videos, or narrate your presentations and post those in advance. Our Online Learning Best Practices for Educators and Keeping Students Engaged in Online Learning blogs share tips and advice that can help make your online learning courses more successful.
Be a good host
Hosting regular and consistent virtual office hours adds more structure to your day and can lessen the number of emails you receive. You can also use this scheduled time to respond to emails and grade assignments or discussions if you have time before or after meeting with students.
Just say no
Don’t assign too much busywork. Your students don’t want to do it, and you don’t want to grade it.
Need more ideas?
We’re all struggling with this adjustment and the challenges, feelings, and limitations that come with it. Our Time Management Tips for Remote Workers blog has other ideas to help bring a little more balance to your day.
Consider this a first draft
COVID-19 instantly created a paradigm shift for many industries, and it certainly illustrates the need for our education system to build new infrastructures and systems that can withstand the ebbs and flows of our changing world. As schools and universities adapt and develop their own digital competencies for the short-term response to the current crisis, we’re most likely witnessing an enduring digital transformation. So jump in head first, and while you are practicing the art of teaching, go easy on yourself and remember you are still learning, too.