The holidays can be a difficult time for everyone, but especially for online students whose coursework continues over the holiday break. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen offers suggestions for how online educators can incorporate flexibility and sensitivity into course design to accommodate students who may be struggling. Also learn about scaffolding assignments and other accommodations to help students succeed during the holidays.
Read the Transcript:
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hanson. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.
At the time of this recording, it is December 2020, and we are in the midst of a pandemic. Online students everywhere are preparing for the holidays, which might include a break from online classes, or it might not. If you’re at an institution like mine, you have classes that overlap the holidays. So students will still be working and learning and submitting assignments throughout those holiday breaks that others might take for granted.
Today, we’re going to talk about how to prepare students for the holiday break or the holidays working through assignments, either way, in three ways. The first one is through some flexibility and sensitivity to your students’ needs. The second will be scaffolding assignments and other interactive activities. And the last one will be special considerations in three areas of physiology, focus and connection. So let’s jump in.
Why should we think about preparing our online students for the holidays? This year, the year that this was recorded, there are some special considerations around the holidays. Now, we all believe that the holidays are a time of celebration, a time to connect with others, as well as a time of loss for some people who have been significantly impacted at this time of year. For whom those memories and experiences come back again and again.
Regardless of what your students are experiencing right now, the whole world is in a tense and stressful situation with COVID-19 and this pandemic adds a lot to what is going on. Online coursework can be challenging anyway, because there is a lesser degree of connection. However, your students are in good hands with you at the helm, because you will be able to be flexible and sensitive, scaffold the work, and also help them in three special ways.
Build Sensitivity and Flexibility into Classroom Communication
The first area of flexibility and sensitivity is an important one when working with adult learners online and with a variety of other groups. Knowing that for some, the holidays are a time of celebration, while for others, it’s a time of loneliness and loss, you can exercise a lot of sensitivity in working with your students.
You might consider asking them what they are thinking about for the upcoming holidays. Maybe ask them if they are going to be able to be at home. If they will have a chance to connect with others. If they have anything planned that they would like to share, and so forth.
There are a lot of reasons why students will reach out to you about the holidays. And some of those might include just sharing what they’re experiencing. I know I’ve had online students occasionally reach out to me to let me know so that they are having a struggle. They’re not able to get through the work as usual at that time of year. Maybe things slow down for them and they’re a little depressed.
Some of them have so much going on with family and friends, that they’re also torn between their school commitments and their other connections. And they have to figure out a way to balance that.
Either way, sensitivity can be in the way we communicate with our students, either through our videos or our typed messages to them, the frequency of our communication and the word choice that we use. Consider a variety of circumstances your students might be facing as you communicate about the upcoming holidays with them.
Secondarily to that is the flexibility. Some students will just need a little bit of extra time. They might need another day or two. Other students might need an entire week to submit an assignment under these kinds of circumstances.
Some colleagues and I were speaking together the other day, and we were talking about how maybe COVID-19 hasn’t impacted one or more of our homes specifically, but the stress of the ongoing pandemic adds a lot to our emotional palette anyway.
Consider this as your students are struggling through this time of year. They might also be dealing with seasonal issues, inclement weather, cloudy skies. A lot of things can pile up to create an emotional climate that makes it very difficult for them to work as usual.
Flexibility might include giving a little extra time, choosing not to deduct late points or late deductions you might normally include, and other kinds of accommodations that might work for your students and sound reasonable to you.
Although, it might be difficult to be in tune with students’ emotions when you’re working online, we have had occasions where faculty members experienced students in distress. A student might actually tell you that they are not feeling up to doing anything, that they are feeling depressed, or maybe even that they are feeling suicidal.
If those kinds of things come up as you’re teaching your online class, be sure to reach out to the appropriate services at your institution to support them, the suicide hotline or the local police, if that is appropriate. Follow through on those things students say and take them seriously.
Scaffolding Assignments for the Holidays
A second area I want to talk about is scaffolding the assignments up to the holiday period. As a holiday is approaching, some faculty members just extend an assignment a few days, or maybe even an entire week. When you do this, students feel that they have the appropriate time to complete the work.
This might require adjusting the class before the course even begins to make sure your syllabus lines up with the calendar. If you haven’t done that, you could simply move the due date out and post announcements and reminders to let everyone know you’re giving them a few extra days.
One word of warning there, students do not appreciate the extra time, when they have already submitted the work. So it’s very helpful to tell students upfront, to give them a little bit of notice when you’re going to extend a timeline and also to help them understand when things are due and what is included in that assignment.
To scaffold assignments up to the holiday period, you might consider giving them some kind of advanced organizer to help them think through the work that is coming up. As I mentioned with the added stress of the pandemic and the holidays combined, many people find it difficult to perform up to their normal level of standard for themselves, and also find it difficult to think clearly as they would like to do.
When you scaffold an assignment, what you’re doing is giving a preparation to help people think. Maybe you’re taking the big assignment and you’re breaking it down into some smaller pieces, so that they’re a little easier to complete. And then they can be combined together, to submit as that final assignment.
For example, if a student is writing an essay, you might give an advanced organizer like a brainstorming chart, so they could break down the topic, solicit their sources, explore options, and even give you an outline ahead of time to have it briefly checked and given some feedback.
Scaffolding assignments really is twofold. The first is to break it down into smaller chunks that are easier to do. But the second is also to have easier pieces building up to the more complex parts, so that students can think through each step clearly, and then have a pleasing whole at the end.
Encourage Physical Activity
The last area I want to share today when you’re preparing students for the holidays, is considerations that are in the physical or physiology area, focus, and connection.
In the physiology area, it’s helpful to make suggestions for your students and for yourself to get up and change locations regularly. The more we stand up, take a little walk, stretch, even get some exercise, that will really help us to be focused. To be able to be on target when we’re doing our online work. And also to be able to endure the long stretches of work time that we tend to be under, either as the faculty member or as the online student.
Many people sit in the chair in front of that computer and they might go for hours without a break. This is going to slow circulation. It’s going to lower the mood and the overall effect and make it easier to feel sluggish, less clear thinking as well.
The more we make suggestions for small physical movement or encourage people to get up and just stretch and walk around, the more we help them to shake off that stuck state that they might be in, being in front of the computer. And it’s a great suggestion to offer your students as well.
I myself have a treadmill desk. If I need to be in a meeting where I don’t have to be on video, I can set my computer on the treadmill and I can take a walk while I’m in the meeting. Your students might be able to do the same thing.
Many of them are online students right now and also working online. So there’s a lot of sitting around that can add to a deflated mood and more sluggish thinking, as well as lower circulation. So suggesting physiological changes will help everyone to be able to get through the holidays with a little bit more energy and a method to interrupt stuck thinking.
The focus area of this triad of the physiology, focus and connection piece, is about what people are thinking about. Our students might be thinking ahead to when the course is over and they’re going to need to celebrate the holidays. Or maybe they’re going to not be with their family; maybe they are going to be with their family.
Students are already starting to project forward to the holidays themselves, even though they might be in the middle of a class with you. As they’re doing that, a lot of added stress can come with that, especially if their plans have changed because they’re not able to travel or they’re not able to connect with the people they love.
If you find that’s the case with your students, you might help them to focus on the present, what they can do to stay present in their course. And also to think about those things that they do have and those times that they have been able to connect with others, to foster a sense of gratitude.
This brings the idea of abundance, instead of the focus on what we’re lacking, and it can help generate creativity, innovation, ideas, and the sense of being present to complete the work they needed to do. To keep learning and to also do well at their studies.
Lastly, the connection piece. I was at a virtual party the other day, I wasn’t really sure would be like a party. And I was surprised at the degree of planning that went into this virtual event. And I was also surprised at the great connections that happened at this online party.
There are a lot of ways for us to connect with other humans, other people, whether it’s our family, friends, or our fellow students, or our classmates. We really want to connect with other people around the holidays, but it can be very difficult when people are physically separated or largely just know each other in the online environment.
One of the suggestions I’d like to make for connecting during the holidays when people are working online and being online students is to use a video platform, to plan ahead for the day and time, to even create an agenda and consider including some interactive technologies.
The party that I attended had a spinning wheel where some prizes were given out that were virtual gift cards that were delivered by email. Each person’s name was put on the spinning wheel. And they were able to spin it online during the party and then it would stop on its own and a person would win here and there.
There was also the opportunity to share ideas through the Mentimeter platform. That’s a really great way to vote, to collaborate on ideas, to create word clouds. This might even be a good tool to integrate in your online teaching generally. But if you decide to have some kind of a live gathering, it’s especially useful.
So you can suggest connecting with each other, but you could also have a class gathering. A holiday gathering of some sort using virtual means with your students might be just the ticket to wrap up the semester nicely and also wish them well as they wrap up the year that has passed.
Consider these ideas, the flexibility and sensitivity, the scaffolding the assignments, and also the physiological, the focus and the connection pieces that students are going to need as they wrap up the year and whether they are taking a break or not, as they wrap up this month as well.
If that’s an area you’d like to work on in the month ahead, definitely check it out. Some great suggestions in there about shutting off the work-life and turning on the home life at the end of the workday were made. And those suggestions are incredibly valuable.
I’d like to also suggest doing the things that you love, that go with holidays. For example, if you’re a person that likes to decorate at the office, decorate the classroom, and if you’re working from home right now, go ahead and decorate that space you’re working in. Go ahead and wear your holiday sweater or your holiday blouse, that you might have worn to the office or the classroom.
Taking those little extra steps to celebrate what’s important to you is going to add energy to what you’re doing. And it’s also going to give you a sense of normalcy in a very difficult time. Thank you for being here and I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week. And happy holidays!
This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.
This content appeared first on OnlineCareerTips.Com
What areas do you want to improve as an online educator? In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides tips and strategies about how to set achievable goals for your professional growth and development. Learn about four areas to consider focusing your teaching goals, as well as how to stay motivated and remain accountable so you can achieve your goals.
Read the Transcript:
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.
Welcome to the podcast. Today we’re going to talk about setting professional goals as an online educator. Today, it’s just a few weeks before the new year begins at the time of this recording. However, you could be listening to this at any time of year, and this would still apply to you.
There are so many times when we might set goals. I’m going to talk about different times of year when you might choose to set goals as an educator. We also talk about the why. Why does it matter? Why is it so important to have goals and to set goals?
I’ll ask you a few questions to get you thinking about the kind of areas you’d like to work on. Give you some examples of the kinds of goals you might consider in education and in your professional life. And lastly, we’ll look at your motivation, develop some kind of action plan and accountability steps to help you succeed with the goals that you choose to set.
Be Strategic in How You Set Goals
Starting off, I want to talk about what times of year we might choose to set goals. Sometimes we set them around the academic year. If you’re teaching at the kind of institution that has semesters or a school year, it might make the most sense to set your goals around that kind of a system. Maybe there’s a vacation period, a few breaks, some semesters. Naturally, you might choose your goals around those times.
At the institution where I’m teaching online, we really don’t have an academic year that is official or formal. Classes begin every month of the year, they are eight weeks long and so I set my goals on the calendar year. And I might set shorter term goals by eight week segments of classes that I’m teaching. Whatever it is for you, you want to think about the short term, the longer midterm type of goals, and the bigger, longer career goals.
It used to be that we might get evaluated by a manager. If you’re teaching in secondary or primary school, it might be a principal. If you’re in a university setting, it might be another kind of administrator. Someone comes along and evaluates us on a periodic basis, whether it’s once a year, once every other year. Whatever it is, we receive a periodic evaluation. And in this process, the person evaluating us just might tell us what they think we should work on. Naturally, we tend to take those on as our goals. We want to improve to avoid having a negative situation.
The kind of goals I’m suggesting here are all about your own growth and development as a professional to take matters into your own hands rather than having a leader of some kind dictate what those goals should be. By doing this, you will own the goals and you’ll own your own success. Furthermore, you’ll own your entire career direction much more fully, as you begin to embrace setting your goals and achieving them.
Why Should You Set Goals?
Just for a moment, I’m going to get into the why of goal setting. The first one comes from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we can think about the four levels of deficiency needs starting with our physical needs: the food, water, sleep, warmth, nutrition, air, temperature regulation, all those things that we need in our lives to be physically taken care of. Then we have our safety needs: security, control and order in our lives. And after that, we have the social needs of love and belonging, and esteem or societal needs.
In these areas, it’s widely known that when we are meeting these needs, we’re really trying to make sure that we are having enough in these areas. And the sense of meeting these needs comes from a place of lacking or deprivation, so that’s why they’re called deficiency needs.
We want to avoid the unpleasant circumstance of missing out on these things. Certainly, no one wants to be living without food or shelter. We don’t want to be living in unsafe conditions. Those sorts of things.
Now, when we set goals, a lot of times the goals are in these four areas. We might want a better house, a more secure job. We might want to be in a better long-term relationship, or maybe we want better relationships with our colleagues. Maybe we want to achieve something, present somewhere, do something professionally that builds our esteem, gets some accomplishment and we get appreciation from that.
What I want to propose is that goal setting often moves us into the next level, which is self-actualization. And when we’re working on self-actualization, we’re getting away from what we lack and we’re growing so we can become a better version of who we are. It’s sort of a balance of what we want to do, our free will and our dreams, and what’s going to fit in with our possibilities. We get to accept who we are, and also maximize what we’re actually capable of.
As we’re thinking about professional goals, this drive that Maslow talked about, where people just are driven to want to become the better version of themselves or maximize their potential, that can really help us out in thinking about what goals we’d like to achieve. What we’d like to strive for. Where we might want to stretch, and where we want to grow that professional career as an online educator.
Another reason to be working on goals is that as we’re continuing to learn and strive and grow as educators, it keeps us moving. It gives us something to look forward to and be excited about, gives us something to do, and it also avoids stagnation.
It’s going to help us to be confident in the things we’re good at and we’re experienced at, but also stay connected to the role of the learner, because we’re always going to be learning something new and working on something.
As professional educators and especially online, where we tend to be a little bit more disconnected, there is a lot of great value in setting goals and working to achieve them. What kind of goals should we work on?
Identify Areas to Focus Your Goals
Now, if I were to draw a pie graph of some kind, I could divide this into four areas, four quadrants, if you will. And I would talk about these in terms of:
relational goals, as a professional
technological goals in the online environment and with the computer and the internet
teaching goals, which are more about methods and strategies
And then lastly, the contributing or growing goals about the bigger professional endeavors, the creation and the learning that we do as educators.
Questions to Consider Before Setting Goals
Before I dive into some details about these four types of goals, I’m going to ask you a few questions just to get you thinking. And here they are:
What are the five things you spend most of your time doing during your workday as an online educator?
What kind of tasks take the most energy?
Where is the stress coming from when you feel stressed in your online education work?
What kind of people are you interacting with most in your online education career?
If there are any conflicts in your work, what kind of conflicts are they? What do you face?
On the flipside, what is the most fulfilling aspect of your online education work?
What is the most challenging or stressful part of your work?
What excites you most about what you do professionally?
What strengths and skills do you have that are immediately usable and could benefit others?
And what resources are missing that you feel are necessary for you to be successful in your online educator role?
Now, as you think about those questions alone, some things might come into your mind about areas where you might want to be thinking about trying something new, connecting with other people and learning something, having an influence, trying a new habit. There are so many ways we can set very small and very large goals for short-term, mid-term, and long-term.
I’m going to go back to these four areas I started with a moment ago on the “what” of our goals. And I’ll give you some examples that you might consider for your own professional goals.
Relational Goal Setting
Now, in the relational area, we have the connection with our students. And I would say that most of our day is probably spent connecting with our students, whether we’re typing to them or talking to them in live synchronous meetings, or engaging in some way toward our students or with our students. There are so many ways we can set goals about the relational aspect of our work, insofar as connecting with students is concerned.
We can also set goals and be growing in the way we connect with our colleagues and maybe our peers in the professional community, as well as the larger professional development community we’re part of. This might be our school site, even if we’re virtual, they all belong to our same organization. Maybe they are in our networking group. Maybe they are people we got our degree with, but we don’t necessarily work with them.
There are all kinds of ways we can think about goal setting in relationships and that could have to do with the quality of the relationship or how often we check in with these people, how we maintain that relationship, and what we do around those connections with people.
And then the third area I would suggest in relational goal setting is introspection and reflective practice. This one really is about ourselves and our relationship with ourselves. It’s sort of that metacognitive reflective piece about what we think about what we’re doing.
We are there the whole time and we really are alone there in our teaching role. We typically don’t have other educator peers watching us all day long or giving us feedback. And in a sense, we’re really the best person to give ourselves some feedback about how we see our own performance.
But in order to do that, we need to reflect regularly so that we can become somewhat more objective about what we’re doing. It’s very difficult to evaluate our own teaching when we are the person doing the teaching. But when we do it more regularly, we become more able to do that.
Setting Technological Goals
The second area of goal-setting that I mentioned was technological. There are a lot of us online these days, and so many using learning management systems. If you’re using a learning management system, whether it’s Blackboard or Brightspace, Desire2Learn, Canvas, it could be one of many, you might be using Schoology.
Whatever it is, there are a lot of basic ways to use the learning management system, and there are also a lot of advanced ways to do that. If you have areas you want to learn to do differently, one of those goals setting spaces could be about the technology in your learning management system. Perhaps you want to find new ways to use it, or more fully get to know the system that you’re with. Either way, that’s one area.
Another technology-based area for goal setting could be apps, media, video creation, and ways to convey lessons and content. I have some foreign language teachers, or world language teachers, that I know who are always trying new things. They use an external program called Flipgrid that many of you might be familiar with. They also use VoiceThread.
There are always new tools coming up in the conversation. So if you’re not sure what kind of tools you’d like to try, chances are you have a colleague somewhere you could ask and simply start exploring.
And then thirdly, in the technology area, one might set goals in how they use the technology to grade students’ work, specifically. Like, are we putting reviewers comments on a Microsoft Word document? Or are we typing a question or a comment on an essay? How do we return that feedback? How do we write the feedback? Where does it go in a physical, technological sense, of the presentation of the feedback? That could include using your plagiarism detection software, learning how to do that or fully, figuring out how to note plagiarism, give comments about it, address lack of originality.
Developing Teaching Goals
We have the relational goals, we have the technological goals, and then thirdly, we have teaching goals. And I’ve just broken down three examples here for you that you might think about. One of them is the way we evaluate students’ work in terms of our approach, the quality. Previously, I mentioned the technology piece. Well, this would be more about the philosophical elements.
What is most important to you in your feedback? What kinds of feedback would you like to give students? Would you like to take a different approach? Do you want to focus more on content and less on the structure? Would you like to include more formatting elements in your feedback? Whatever it is you’d like your focus to be, that’s a whole area right there.
And a second teaching area might be methods, approaches, and framing. About how to share the content, how to get students talking to each other, even in the online space. How to have the interactivity that is needed in terms of practice, repeat, mastery, formative, summative, evaluation strategies.
A lot of the methods and approaches we use tend to be through text. Like, we’ve typed it. Or we want our students to read something. But there are many, many ways out there. We can use video. We can use different types of web sources where they can click and do a scavenger hunt to find things. There are just a lot of possibilities. And so methods and approaches are a huge area of goal setting.
And the last teaching area I would suggest is the community piece. The way students engage with each other and the way you engage with students. How do we do that better? Or where might we try some new strategy there? It can be a small thing. It can be a large thing. It could grow over time. We’ve got technological, relational and teaching-oriented goals. And the fourth area is contributing or growing.
Goals to Help you Contribute or Grow
In this area, I have considered to be the most fun. While these other areas are all very important and can be a lot of fun as well. This one is fun because really, there’s no set of norms or established criteria, you really get to invent your path here.
One area is writing. Maybe you’d like to write blog articles for other instructors who teach online. Maybe you’d like to write a book. Maybe you want to write curriculum. Maybe you want to create new lesson content, maybe create some new material for students or for the bigger professional community. Maybe you want to write a text book.
There are so many ways you can write as a professional educator that contribute a lot to the field. There are many things that you know that you might take for granted, that other people don’t know. And if you start writing about that, it’s going to be a really great contribution to your community.
Another thing you might consider in this avenue is attending. This could be attending a class, all up way up to getting an advanced degree or trying a secondary subject area. Maybe it’s not going to be academic subjects, maybe it’s going to be online teaching strategies.
There are all kinds of online trainings out there. Maybe your institution has one, or maybe you want to look outside of your school community for the professional community, like the Online Learning Consortium. There are a lot of different places you can go to get certifications, training and leadership potential. And so I would consider classes, trainings, and different kinds of things like that in this attendance arena, as well as professional conferences.
You might consider attending a professional conference in the coming semester, the coming year. Making a regular habit of attending professional conferences. Even in the virtual world that is having an impact at the time of this recording, there are a lot of online conferences to attend. Whether you can go live in person or attend online, this is another place where you might consider setting a goal.
And lastly, presentations. Even if you are not an extroverted person, or you don’t really like speaking to groups, you might consider stretching by giving presentations. You might create a webinar if you’re doing it online or consider presenting at a professional conference.
My very first presentation was motivated by the fact that I saw someone similar in my field presenting to our audience. I saw her. I watched her presentation. I thought, “I know those things. I do those things. Maybe I have other ideas people would like to learn about.” And then I created my own presentation on a different topic, and I shared it. And sure enough, a lot of people came and learned things and even reached out to me afterwards.
You might have information that you know, or skills you have or knowledge about how to teach or how to teach online, and other people could learn from you. Think about what you might present and share and start looking for possibilities where you can contribute and grow, and add to the professional culture at a conference.
Setting Personal Goals
We’ve talked about the what of goal setting. And if you’re still thinking, “Yeah, I’d love to set some goals, but none of that appeals to me,” there are of course goals you could set in other areas that would still have a very positive impact on your online teaching. Maybe there are unresolved matters in your life that you’d like to focus on as a goal. Maybe you have something you need to take care of in your family life or your home life. A lot of people right now are focusing on decluttering, minimalism, cleaning up their homes.
Sometimes professional communication training can be useful. Maybe learning how to manage email better, how to be more prompt and responsive. There are all kinds of things that could be thought about in terms of health and emotional balance, financial goals, career development goals, relationship building in personal matters, life planning for the long-term, and the development of special projects you’re interested in.
There are so many possibilities for you. And if you are not interested in your academic type of professional goals, teaching strategies, or technology areas, you might consider ways that you can throughout the online teaching day, reduce stress, or ways that you might integrate exercise intermittently throughout the week.
Maybe methods that you’ll approach students to help them be more responsible, more accountable and more proactive. There are all kinds of things you might consider about career growth, like additional training, the way you approach the work day, time management. The path of your bigger picture career, whether you’d like to be in a different leadership role in the future, or if you’d like to change lanes and go in a slightly new direction in the future. Or maybe you’d like to upgrade your professional standing. As I mentioned before, with a different degree or an advanced degree.
How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
And then lastly, of course, some type of ideas around retirement in the long-term, in the future. Long-term plans, as far as would you like to be mentored? Would you like to mentor others? Would you like to integrate some kind of vision into your long-term planning as well as your career growth?
As you think about your goals and the way you’d like these to shape up, motivation comes up a lot, right? We think about, ‘Yes, I’d like to do these things, but then the day-to-day kind of gets in the way.” We get busy and it could be very difficult to meet the goals that we set for ourselves.
Think about the motivation that you bring to that goal. Is it exciting? Is it in an area you’re already interested in and you do it well? Are there things you don’t do well or dislike and you’re trying to set a goal there?
In those kinds of areas, I would suggest starting very small for some quick wins so that you can start to make progress in areas you don’t like as much, or you’re not as good at. Then you can start setting bigger goals. If you’re already doing well at something, and you like the activity, you might be able to set bigger goals, slightly more ambitious goals, aspirational goals, even. Think about your level of motivation as you’re considering the goals that you’re going to land on.
Now, lastly, we’re going to talk about how to move from setting the goal to actually achieving the goal. You’ve probably heard of setting smart goals and these have to do with being specific, reasonable, achievable, and timely, and all of those sorts of details. Those are the kinds of things that are going to bring you success.
We want to think about what success will look like. When you’ve reached this goal, what will it look like? What will it feel like? What will become easier in your professional life because you’ve gone down this path? What will the big payoff be for this change that you’re bringing about, or this goal you’re going to achieve?
What will happen if you don’t do your goal? Is there a negative consequence that’s going to keep happening if you don’t learn the thing or grow in that area? What strategies will you use to make your success happen over time or regularly look back on your goal?
And can you think about someone in your life who has made some progress in this area, who is working towards the same goal, or who has already achieved it? And if you can, what can you learn from them? Or what tips could you ask them for that would help you?
Develop an Action Plan by Identifying Steps, Setting Deadlines, Staying Accountable
In your action plan, think about what small steps you will need to take first and what the next step will be afterwards. And jot down three action steps you can take between now and next week, as you think about the goal.
Think about the most important step to help you move forward towards that goal, and also set a timeline. You can add it to your planner, your calendar. If you have an online calendar, you can set alerts and alarms and reminders to get back to the goal and to be checking in on it. If you’re looking at it regularly and taking steps towards it regularly, chances are you’re going to achieve it.
And then lastly, do you need some accountability to help yourself reach your goal? There are a lot of professional groups, especially online that you could join. People who are making progress in the same direction that you’re looking at. If you want to be with online educators and work on technology goals or methods, you could probably find a group for that and be checking in on those steps you’re going to take.
If you’re setting a personal goal, that’s not necessarily teaching related, such as weight loss, time management, something like that, there are groups for that too. Or maybe you want to find a mentor or a coach or a peer to be accountable to. So you can check in with that person regularly, share your progress, and celebrate.
Whatever you’re going to need, knowing yourself and the accountability level you’d like, think about what’s going to help you be most successful, and write that down and note it as part of your plan.
As we draw to a close today, I encourage you to think about setting professional goals as an online educator, both short-term and long-term, to help you stay excited about what you do, to help you keep growing and to help bring energy to your day-to-day work and your long-term direction.
Thank you for being here and I wish you the best in the coming week in your online teaching. This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.
It’s been an extremely challenging time for teachers who have moved from classroom teaching to online teaching while also trying to balance family life when spouses and children are also working and learning in the home. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks to Dr. Lisset Pickens, a professor at American Public University and licensed professional counselor about managing work-life balance and managing these new stressors.
Learn about the importance of establishing distinct learning and work spaces at home and setting boundaries so its clear when work and school time is over and the “family button” gets turned back on. Also, hear recommendations for self-care, learning to say no so you don’t overextend yourself, and ways to be creative with your family during the pandemic.
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Welcome to the podcast. Today, I’m here with our guest, Dr. Lisset Pickens. Lisset is a professor at American Public University with an academic background in early childhood education, educational leadership, psychology, and child and family development.
Dr. Pickens is also a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified counselor and nationally certified school counselor. She holds certifications in teaching Pre-K through 12th grades, school counseling and educational leadership.
Lisset, thank you for joining me today. I understand that you have quite a bit of experience in online education and you’ve taught in higher ed for many years. Would you mind sharing a little bit about your background and the experience you have as an online educator to help our listeners get to know you better?
Dr. Lisset Pickens: Yes, I will. And thank you so much for having me, Bethanie. It’s a pleasure to be here. Let’s see. Where do I even begin?
My experience spans from working in the classroom directly with students at the elementary school level. I’ve also worked in the school counseling role and that also was primarily in the elementary school level. And from there I transitioned into higher ed, where I’ve been for quite a number of years. So my background stems between two areas: psychology on one side, and then education on the other.
My degrees are very diversified when it comes to disciplines. I also hold certifications in counseling and as well as in education. I’ve been an online educator since 2006, so it’s been quite a number of years. I’ve seen lots of changes over that time, but I definitely enjoy it.
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Wonderful. Well, thank you for sharing your background. And can you tell us a little bit more about what your online teaching experience includes? Is this a lot of classes throughout the year? What’s that like?
Dr. Lisset Pickens: Well, it just varies. Every semester is going to be a little different. I do work full-time in a full-time capacity. I also do some adjunct work. But primarily, it involves teaching online. So actually engaging with students.
I do serve as well as a faculty mentor. So I do assist new and upcoming faculty with getting acclimated to the classroom and the role of whether it’s an adjunct professor or full-time status. So primarily teaching. I’m involved as well in a number of committees. I do serve on the grad council committee. I’m also the co-chair of the psychology club and a variety of other different hats that I wear.
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Fantastic. Lisset, thanks for sharing all that. You’re definitely someone that our listeners are going to learn a lot from today. And I’m really excited that you’re here to talk about teaching online and life that we’re managing while we’re doing this.
So I came across a report from the Census Bureau just yesterday. I was thinking about how many people are online right now, with COVID-19 going on for months. And it is indicated right now that 93% of households of school-aged children actually have some form of distance learning right now during COVID-19.
With all these people learning online this means there are also teachers who have moved online and maybe they’re even working with children learning from home. So what’s your perspective about working online and teaching from home?
Teaching From Home Requires Planning and Adjusting
Dr. Lisset Pickens: Well, it has definitely changed the way that we not only manage our professional lives, but also our personal lives. Because of course, what has now happened is at home, you’re not only managing home, but you’re managing work as well.
And then for other individuals who may be in school, as non-traditional learners, they’re managing school, they’re managing work, and they’re managing home. So you’re going to definitely see an increase in the amount of stress that we’re dealing with because honestly, you’re juggling so many different plates, but you’re doing it in your home.
So it’s very important during this time to find a way to organize your home so that when it’s time for doing school, there’s a place for that. When it’s a time for work, there’s a place for that. And then if you have students, your own children that are also working remotely, they also need a space. So having these separate spaces is really critical because it will help to maintain that balance that you’re going to need.
You have to protect that home space as much as possible. So while you may have spaces that are dedicated to working and doing school work, it’s still home. You want to also enjoy the benefits of being at home. So actually taking the time to sit down and figure out the logistics, if you will, of how you’re going to manage these different areas is very critical.
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Lisset, as I hear you saying that, you’re describing this real thoughtful approach to setting some boundaries, defining your space. And I would bet that there are a lot of folks out there listening, who haven’t really settled on that yet. What kind of things would maybe be the red flags they might notice where they need to stop and define their space a little bit more, and their time, a little bit more. What comes up?
Dr. Lisset Pickens: If you are sitting down for dinner and you’re reaching over piles of papers or a computer, it’s probably time to set up some boundaries. And if we don’t do that, what can be impacted is our ability to even function effectively within our various roles.
What we’ll see is chaos, confusion and of course we know this adds to stress. So having those boundaries are very important. We want at the end of the week, for that to truly be a celebration of the end of the week. We’re putting in a lot of time, we’re working with our kids, we’re working from home and the end of the week, you just want to simply spend that time and celebrate your family.
So if there are no boundaries in place, that can look very different. Those lines will be blurred. And then when we get ready to start the new week, we may not find what we’re looking for. It could be a case where our learners at home are not entirely ready for the start of the week. It can really cause additional stress. So establishing these places in your home is very important.
I know for myself, I have two middle schoolers. I have an elementary student and I have a one-year-old. So sitting down to figure out exactly who’s going where, when and how, all within the confines of our home is something that my husband and I really had to sit down and figure out.
Now I’ll be honest and transparent. When everything first started, when the pandemic started and students had to be at home, et cetera, it was chaos for quite some time. Maybe about a few weeks. And what happens is we are stressed out. My son needs a paper. I can’t find the paper, or other things are happening that is not conducive to what we like to see taking place.
So we had to take a step back and figure out exactly where the learning spaces were going to be, where our workspaces we’re going to be. And at the end of the day, we had to commit to turning it off. Once school was over, we turned it off. As long as homework was done, everything was turned off.
And there has to be a time where the family button gets turned back on. Because typically what would happen is your children go out to school. You go out to work and on your way home, you enter the door. That family button gets turned on. You’re looking at dinner, you’re figuring out homework. And you’re spending that time with each other.
But what happens if all of this is taking place within one location, which happens to be your home? So establishing a sound routine and figuring out those spaces are so critical to the effective functioning of your family. All of these things have to be taken into consideration.
Prioritizing the Quality of Your Home Life Brings Creativity
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: You’re absolutely right, Lisset. And I love the way you described this as turning it off and the family button getting turned back on. So that sounds like you’re focusing a lot on the quality of your home life. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Dr. Lisset Pickens: Yes. You have to put just as much effort into protecting the quality of your home life as you do anything else, whether it’s work or school or whatever the case may be. Your home life, that’s your support system. That’s your place of comfort. That’s your place of refuge. You want to protect that, but it’s going to be difficult to do that if you do not take the time to kind of map and figure everything out.
Figure out the logistics of the different times when your learners need to be online, the different times when you’re at work. And when you need to turn the computer off, you have to come up with a plan.
One way that I protect the quality of my home life is I make sure that at the end of the week, once everything is done, that, like I said, we turn on that family button. We spend time together. And of course, we’re having to spend a whole lot of time together now, but it’s different.
I think it’s really forced us to be more creative as a family. I think it’s brought us together, just being transparent there. And my children, I think now are, they’re more into ways that they can address different things, but in a variety of different ways.
So, for example, during this pandemic and the quarantine and everything, it was Father’s Day. And typically, what we do on Father’s Day is, of course, we figure out a way to celebrate my husband. So we usually go out to eat. That’s typically what happens.
But during that time, we weren’t able to do that. So my kids came up with an idea, “Well, why don’t we do it outside? Why don’t we figure out what we can do outside?” So that ball got rolling.
And by the end of it, we came up with watching a movie outside while we dine outside. And that was something we had never done before. That was something that we probably wouldn’t have thought of, at least not right away. But what I love about it is that it was my kids who came up with the idea and I just helped to execute it.
So I think the quality of your home life, even though we’re dealing with everything we’re dealing with right now, can be maintained. It can be improved. For me, I know it’s been improved because now we’re doing more things together and we’re finding creative ways to do things together because we’re around each other all the time. So we have to be creative.
What else can you do besides being around each other all of the time? Well, we’re going to think of some different things we can do. We’ve been taking walks around the neighborhood, which typically before this, we would say, “Oh, we can’t do that because we have to go do this, or we have to do that.” And that always got pushed on the back burner. But now in protecting that home life and the quality of that life, we/re making a conscious effort to do some of these things. So it’s been really nice.
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Lisset, thank you so much for sharing all of that with us about the fact that creativity has emerged. Some new activities maybe that you would not have thought of before, and also this closeness with your family and really intentionally focusing on that. That is so helpful.
And I’m sure, great ideas for our listeners as well in thinking about, well, how can we balance? How can we self care a little bit more and focus on family time and the time outside of being online?
Three Tips for Online Educators
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: And Lisset, you’ve shared with us some great ideas about creativity, closeness with your family, turning off the online work, and also turning back on that family button as we call it.
So if you were to suggest three tips for our listeners today, to help them with balance while they’re teaching online, what would you suggest?
1: Set Boundaries
Dr. Lisset Pickens: Sure. I think having boundaries would be the most critical point. I can’t stress that enough. So when I say boundaries, I mean having some firm boundaries at a certain time where shutting things off, we’re interacting with each other.
In my house, it involves technology. So no phones, no computer, no games. It’s just time to actually interact. We need to check-in with each other. That’s very important. To see how our kids even are processing what is happening.
I have four children, like I said, and each one of them is so different. And what I found throughout this experience is that each one of them, probably minus my one year old, is processing things very differently. For my daughter, who I like to call my social butterfly, she doesn’t meet a stranger. She’s very energetic. So this for her, I can see where it’s kind of changed. And sometimes she would feel a little down but those were the times we made sure we checked in with her. “How are you feeling today? What’s going on? Would you like to do something?” And go from there.
Versus my middle son, he has flourished during this time. He was usually my very quiet child and now he’s engaging and he’s actually doing better remotely than he was in person. So just trying to figure out each child and what’s going on with them.
So I definitely think we can maximize on those opportunities when we have those cutoff times. Just a time to get away from the technology, because of course we’re all using technology right now. We have to for a large majority of the day. So there has to be a time where we turn things off.
2: Take Time for Self-Care
So I would say this will also prevent you from being overextended. You want to establish a healthy schedule. You want to engage in self-care. You want to ensure that you are balancing those plates well, so boundaries are important.
The next thing I would say, and I just briefly mentioned that, was the importance of self-care. We want to avoid burnout as much as possible throughout this time. So we have to sometimes take a step back, even step away and just reflect.
For me, reflecting is listening to music just for a few minutes, just to kind of step away and ensure that I’m checking in with myself to engage in that self-care. So we have to take time for ourselves even during all of this.
And it may look different. Maybe before we would’ve went and gotten a massage, or maybe before we would have went and did something else outside of the home. And maybe now it looks a little different, but again, that’s where we have to be a little creative in how we are addressing a lot of the things that are happening now.
So, for some people, it may be reading a book. Like I said, for me, it’s listening to music. Something else that has come out of all of this, that is somewhat new to me is I finished writing a children’s book.
And that was not even on my radar for some time, but through all of this and making sure that I engage in self-care, I took some time. And every day, just for a few minutes, I write a little, write a little, write a little. Until they started developing into this project. So I think that’s very important.
3: Learn to Say NO
And then the last point would be to embrace the ability to say, “no.” That is a tough one for some people, it was a tough one for me. And honestly it took me a while to get there, but you want to ensure that you do not overextend yourself.
Just because you may be working from home and you’re in a state of comfort, we can work from home comfortably and we don’t have to get dressed up or do anything like that, but it can create a false sense of comfort to the point where we are saying yes to everything.
Your boss messages you, “Hey, can you do this?” And you’re already overextended, but “Sure, I’ll take that on.” Or, a friend asks you to do something. “Sure, I’ll do this.” And before you know it, you’re burnt out. So it’s okay to say no.
And I know it can be difficult because you’re working from home and it just feels like it should be okay to take on more. But again, that’s where my previous point of self-care comes in and why having that balance is so important. So embrace the ability to say no sometimes. And I think by saying, no, sometimes you’re saying yes to yourself.
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Lisset, I really appreciated you sharing all these points. Honestly, they’re each effective and useful points and we all need to practice them. And the one that stood out to me, you were talking about self-care, taking time, and that you set aside a little time to write and then wrote a children’s book. Congratulations on the book, by the way!
Dr. Lisset Pickens: Thank you.
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Yeah, that is so exciting. And also it goes really nicely with what you just said about your family activities that really turning things off gave you this space to plan together. The fun movie under the stars, outdoor, the father’s day experience.
And it sounds like that same space for creativity is what is helping you to create as well in writing this book. What do you think might change long-term for people when we’re taking this time and having the space that the pandemic has sort of forced us into?
Challenges We Can Anticipate When We Return to “Normal” Work
Dr. Lisset Pickens: I think, and I thought about that recently. What is the adjustment going to be like for some people who now work from home for an extended period of time, what is that adjustment going to feel like? Or even look like? Let’s say they do return to a brick-and-mortar building after this, or their schedules become a little bit more rigorous because things have opened up or things have changed.
And I think at first it will be a little challenging. It will be a little challenging, especially if you have invested the time needed and protected your family space, invested in the logistics of your workspaces at home. And you’ve gotten into the flow of everything. Everything is working pretty well. And now you’re going to have to change again and go back to the way it was. So I think initially it will be challenging.
However, I don’t think we’ll remain there forever. I think out of that challenge, what is going to happen is, hopefully, we’re going to adapt some new practices. We’re going to put new practices in place and we’re going to take a lot of the skills that we’ve developed during this time into those workspaces, for example.
And I think it’s going to produce a more productive professional life, a well-functioning family life. Because this is the rehearsal. We’ve had this opportunity right now to really try different things, trial and error. Try something and if that doesn’t work, figure something else out.
For example, with my three school-aged kids at first, I had everyone working in the same vicinity, the same space. And that was a no-no. That did not go very well. So I had to figure out a new strategy.
So I had my daughter who, like I said, very energetic, likes to interact. What I figured out: she needs a space, all of her own, where if she wants to stand and talk on the computer with her teacher, she can. If she wants to do cartwheels while she’s doing that, she can. But she needed her own space because then my middle son, he’s one who gets distracted very easily. So he needed a quiet space. He needed an area where he can engage and be free of distractions. So I had to move him to a different place.
And then my oldest son he’s kind of like me, he goes with the flow. So he was fine either way, but this is what I’m talking about in regards to trial and error. So we’ve rehearsed this throughout this time and we’ve learned how to protect that family time. So hopefully those are skills and opportunities that we’ll take back with us and we can implement that.
And especially when it comes to saying no and engaging with self-care. Making sure if we set up a time or there’s an event that we have taking place, and someone comes and says, “Hey, do you mind doing this?” We feel comfortable in saying no, because I’ve already committed to something else with my family. Or, I may have something else going on.
Whereas before, that may have been very difficult to do. So I think that it would be challenging at first, but I definitely think this has prepared us for those challenges and that we’ll be okay.
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Fantastic. Lisset, thank you so much for sharing your time with us on the Online Teaching Lounge podcast today and for your wealth of knowledge and advice for anyone who is teaching online right now, and especially working with family members at home. Thank you for being here.
Dr. Lisset Pickens: Thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed it. Thank you.
Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Yeah. And what you shared with us about boundaries, self-care and saying, no, these are all areas that can help us manage the work and to thrive. So to our listeners, we wish you all the best this coming week in your online teaching and setting healthy boundaries as well.
This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey. For more information about our university, visit us at studyatapu.com. APU, American Public University.
Lisset Bird-Pickens, Ed.D.is a full-time associate professor in the Human Development and Family Studies program at American Public University. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from Georgia Southern University, an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from Mercer University, an M.Ed. in School Counseling from The University of West Alabama and an Ed.D. in Education/Instructional Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
Dr. Bird-Pickens has experience in online learning and has taught at the university level since 2006. She has taught elementary students and adult learners.
Lisset’s academic background is in early childhood education, educational leadership, psychology, and child and family development. Dr. Bird-Pickens is a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified counselor and nationally certified school counselor. She holds certifications in teaching pre-K through 12th grades, school counseling in K-12, and educational leadership in K-12.
Bethanie Hansen, DMA, PCC, is aFaculty Director and Certified Professional Coach for the School of Arts & Humanities at American Public University. She holds a B.M. in Music Education from Brigham Young University, a M.S. in Arts & Letters from Southern Oregon University and a DMA in Music Education from Boston University.
Bethanie focuses on personal and professional development, self-growth, teaching and working online, and mindset. She is an educator, coach, manager, writer, presenter and musician with 25 years of experience helping others achieve their goals.
The use of online teaching has risen in popularity due to restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic. But teaching online classes can be incredibly time-consuming, because the classroom is always open.
In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen offers several time management strategies to help online educators complete their teaching tasks in an efficient, effective, and organized way while also improving their classroom presence and student engagement activities. Learn more about creating an online planning grid that designates time for grading, classroom activities, curriculum creation, professional development and personal time.
Read the Transcript
This is episode number 30: “Using a Planner for Amazing Time Management in Your Online Teaching.” This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging and fun.
Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.
Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge, and thanks for joining me for today’s podcast. Today, we’re going to talk about a subject that we all care a great deal about. And the main goal of this subject is to conserve our time and energy, and also help us stay connected to our students while being part of that bigger professional picture. One of the things that keeps me engaged is having that variety in my own online work, and I wish the same for you.
In today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about three different areas of time management and how we can plan carefully to get it all done. The first area will be a principle from Getting Things Done, also known as GTD.
The second principle will be to plan a weekly routine that alternates items that must be scheduled so we don’t overlook them. And the third will be a planning grid that includes central teaching tasks and a bigger curriculum work or creative pursuits you want to be involved in as part of your overall career and professional goals.
Understanding Time Management
So let’s dive in. First of all, what does time management really mean when we’re teaching online? Time management is really all about using the energy that we have as human beings to the best way possible. The more we can manage our time carefully, the more productive we can be, the more we can get things done in a responsive way, and the more we’re on top of our game as educators.
After all, our students are looking to us for some sense of connection, for guidance in a subject matter, and for overall connection to the bigger content that they’re learning about. The more we can manage our time well and the more engaged we are in our own thoughtful process, the more we’re also able to connect with them and the more we’re able to also manage all that’s going on in that very complex environment.
If we have something that literally will take us two minutes and we schedule it, and we manage it, then we’ve already spent more than two minutes on the task. Pretty soon, we have spent way more time on a two-minute task than the time that it was actually worth.
So the first idea is that when you come across, say, a message from a student, it’s very easy to just respond immediately and be done with it. If we come back later, like I said, we’re going to spend a lot of time and wasted energy just putting it off and trying to manage that.
Store Big Ideas in Your ‘Incubator’ File
The second idea that comes from getting things done that I particularly love is this idea of a folder called “incubate.” Now, an incubator is something that is a machine that we used to put, or we might still today even, put eggs in to keep them warm until they hatch into chickens or other fowl.
So if you are not familiar with the idea of an incubator, it is carefully designed to a certain heat and temperature setting. And also, it’s going to be housing the eggs for a certain period of time.
So the idea of an incubator in our own professional practice means that maybe we come across a multimedia tool we would like to integrate into the online classroom. When we come across this tool, it’s not urgent; it’s not necessarily important to the now. And so this tool can be put into the incubator file until we have a little bit of time, maybe between classes that we’re teaching in the future, during summer break or something like that.
So big ideas that we really want to dive into and pursue can be stored in that special file that we label “Incubate.” That way, we don’t have to always say no to ourselves.
And then we can schedule, like you could schedule one hour a week to just work on things in your Incubate file. That would give you permission to create new ideas, spend time developing things and not feel like it’s always the heat of the moment or the urgent items.
So those two areas of Getting Things Done, I highly recommend for our time management and online teaching. The first was the two minutes or fewer pile and just do them quickly and the second one is to use a special folder called “Incubate,” to put those big ideas that don’t really have a due date. They’re worth considering, but just not right now.
Strategies on How to Plan a Weekly Work Routine that Alternates
So we’re moving on to idea number two, planning a weekly routine that alternates the items you need to schedule. So one time management strategy that would really work for planning your routine could be to post a minimum number of your forum discussion responses to your students every other day, and completing a percentage of grading students’ work on your off days in between and taking one day completely offline so you can have a mental break each week.
Schedule a Break from Work
This is going to help you have the space to recharge and come back at it fresh. I have known a lot of online educators who literally are online seven days a week. They’re really answering messages every other minute on their phones. They’re taking their laptops to their outings with them, and they’re sort of half-present when they’re with family members or doing other things.
I don’t recommend this. It is helpful to be responsive, but if you plan that time, instead of kind of putting out fires and treating it like everything’s an emergency, you’re going to have better peace of mind, a more planned approach to your work. You’re going to also have a greater sense of wellbeing at the end of the week.
Time Management Scheduling Example 1: Divide Work by Day
So this one-time management strategy of posting in your discussions every other day, and doing a percentage of your grading work on the off days in between, it might look something like this: Maybe you’re going to grade 30 essays this week, and you’re going to post in your forum discussions Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Well then on Tuesday and Thursday, you could divide that up and grade 15 of the essays on Tuesday and 15 of them on Thursday.
Now, some people really love to go all out and just do all of their grading on one day. I personally find that a bit draining, and I also find it difficult to treat each student’s work uniquely when I take that kind of approach.
So I do like to split it up. I like to plan it on a couple of different days, and you’ll need to just decide what works for you in terms of do you want to do a little bit of grading every day, every other day or all on one day.
Time Management Scheduling Example 2: Divide Work by Time Duration
Another time management strategy you might consider in terms of this second idea, planning a weekly routine that alternates, could be to engage for a specific length of time each week, a specific duration. This would be instead of dividing the workload into quantities or proportions.
Again, I always recommend taking one day completely offline each week to disengage and be able to come back fresh for the week ahead.
So with this approach, you might find that there’s a bigger workload waiting at the end of each week if you use the duration method.
The duration method might look something like this: I have a 40-hour workweek I’m trying to fill, and I’m teaching four classes. And that means I’m going to try to get the work done in each class during a 10-hour period, spread out throughout the week.
This might mean that I’m going to spend about two hours each day in the class. That would be correct if I think all of my job is teaching. Now, if some of my job is also creating curriculum and contributing to bigger professional endeavors outside the classroom, this might be different.
Maybe 30 hours a week is my teaching and 10 hours a week is divided between my curriculum work and my professional pursuits. Or depending on my teaching load, it might be further yet broken down differently.
Either way, when you use an approach of time duration spent in each course, you’re going to need to anticipate what will happen at the end of the week when there is a large workload still waiting if you haven’t budgeted to adjust to getting the grading done throughout the week and being in the course, engaging with students regularly.
When you establish a pattern or a schedule for these routines, this is really going to help you ensure that you’re able to complete everything by the end of the week and at a professional, helpful level for your students.
Create a Planning Grid
I love this idea number three, trying a planning grid that includes your essential teaching tasks and curriculum work or creative elements and including your bigger professional goals.
I created this grid several years ago. I was a full-time faculty member at American Public University. And in my courses, I wanted to engage my students fully, but I also wanted to be sure that I was demonstrating social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence. I really thought about these, read some of the research and decided what this would look like for me.
Once I decided how this would show up in my courses, I broke my teaching down into little tasks. For example, certain days, I would engage in the forum discussion. Every day, I would answer the messages.
And on certain days, I would do my grading and post the grading. There were a few other things I also needed to do, like publishing a weekly announcement.
Either way, I planned this out thoroughly and then I scheduled another section for my professional responsibilities. I had an agenda of posting lots of research, writing a lot and contributing to professional conferences. I decided I wanted to actively present at professional conferences every year, and so I did that. I scheduled that time using this kind of block planner that I created.
Now, I’m going to include a link to this planner in the podcast transcript so that you can check it out, see what it looks like and perhaps, it will inspire you in your own version of this kind of planner.
There are also a few examples in my book published by Oxford this year, Teaching Music Appreciation Online. In Chapter 12, there’s an example of the weekly schedule of how you might use time limitations to plan your work. And then there are a lot of different discussions in there about how to engage, how to plan time for grading, and some example grading comments. You might find these helpful if you’re looking for more ideas about that.
Back to this last idea, the planning grid. The planning grid that I used had a big category of daily requirements for Monday through Saturday, grading tasks, also for Monday through Saturday, housekeeping announcements, notes, and wrap-up posts and lastly, other professional activities. And I would just call those my research and scholarship time, even though some of it was curriculum creation and some of it was preparing to present at professional conferences.
Under those daily requirements, the kinds of things that I would look at every day in my online teaching that I highly recommend thinking about are checking your email every day or at the very least every other day, checking and responding to messages, reading forum discussions and posing questions and sharing expertise, prompting students for more thought, more engagement there.
Forum Work Section
In that forum section, I always broke down a few ideas just to remind myself. So I have some bullet points here that include:
Instigating higher thinking that applies to students’ lives, jobs, etc.
Connecting conversations between posts to guide productive and relevant dialogue about the task
Another area that I scheduled every day is whatever I felt was my minimum attendance in the classroom as the instructor. I always wanted to make sure I at least met that and hopefully went beyond it.
But sometimes there are days where meeting the minimum is all you can do, and then there are other days where you can spend a lot more time and a lot more energy in that online classroom.
Grading Task Section
In the grading task section, I included:
Zeroing out the grade book so students know when they haven’t turned something in
Editing written assignments to ensure the directions are clear in their examples
Returning the graded work with comments on it in a timely manner
Zeroing out the scores for quizzes at the end of the week. So if there are quizzes in the course, I would always add the zeros after the due date, so students would know they missed that assignment. If I’m going to let them go back and fix it, they can always do that, but they need to know where they stand at all times.
Housekeeping, Announcements, Notes and Wrap-Up Posts Section
And then this last section, housekeeping, announcements, notes and wrap-up posts. In this section, I have private messages and video screencast tips to guide students.
During Week One, I spend some time giving them guidance to move around the classroom. I like to help them know how to get started, what are the critical spaces they should know in that classroom, and how can they engage in their assignments, their learning, and their discussion.
I also have some before the week starts announcements. I also include instructions for how to participate, and I give a screencast that shows me so they know I’m a real person and I’ve got some presence there.
There might be a wrap-up announcement or something that’s telling them their grades are published, and they can check for feedback. I might use a closing comment in the discussion forum to wrap up the dialogue that has occurred.
We often forget that when a student is less engaged, they need some follow-up. I like to schedule that so that by Friday of the week, if I haven’t reached out, I’m going to do that because some of the work is due on Thursday.
And then lastly, I’m going to communicate when an assignment or a quiz has been missed. The passive way to communicate is to fill in zeros in the gradebook. And the active way would be to send messages or emails to reach out to those students.
Scholarship and Professional Time Section
In terms of the scholarship and professional time on that planner, I try to do one thing a week at least. That might begin with looking at a call for proposals to a conference. Maybe I will read some research papers to get some ideas about what I might study next or write about next.
Either way, I’m going to do something that consumes or contributes to my field in research, scholarship or conference presentations, or nowadays it might also include writing blog articles, creating podcast episodes, or otherwise engaging with people about things.
Which Time Management Strategies Work for You?
Whatever your calendar is going to look like in the end, it’s very helpful if you use a thoughtful approach so that you can manage the workload of teaching online and ensure that you’ve got every avenue finished up and checked off. One of the things that is going to help you the most as you do all of these activities and consider your time management, whether you use the getting things done approach, plan the weekly routines that alternate or try the planning grid, or maybe you want to do all three of those things.
All of these depend on having a well-developed class that you really prepared and ensured is ready to go for students before that first day of class. These time-management strategies I’m talking about have to do with teaching the course itself.
Presence in the live lecture class can be easily established when you’re just walking around the room and talking to your students. But in online teaching, your presence comes through in all of these different ways: teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence.
Each of these areas are needed to help you connect with your students. And also to build that robust academic atmosphere where all kinds of learners are going to be successful.
Together, all of these time management strategies will allow you to develop a strong presence in your online teaching. But more than that, they’re going to help you be efficient and help you connect more with your students.
It might take some time to develop time management strategies that really suit you, but it is highly worth the time and effort to allow you to enjoy your online teaching and to focus on getting connected with your students, overall.
I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week. This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast to share comments and requests for future episodes. Please visit bethaniehansen.com/request/. Best wishes this coming week and your online teaching journey.
When I have been stuck in situations I did not like, I wondered why. What did I do to deserve it? Why didn’t things change?
Have you ever wondered why things never changed?
At times like these, I have found that just like the man in the video, I needed to make room for something new. Also, I needed to put myself in a position to receive inspiration. Then, I needed to listen.
And, I needed to learn.
Learning is the best way to change.
If you want to make a life change, to change your circumstances, or to feel differently, learning is the best way to make it happen.
When we are learning, we have to be humble and available.
We must listen.
And take action when opportunities come to us.
When you’re the teacher, learning is still important.
For example, after I completed a doctoral degree and felt solid career direction, I kept learning more. And that learning has made me a better teacher. It continues to be critical to my success and personal growth.
Learning more has given me the power to grow. And, because I keep learning, I will always understand my students.
Ultimately, you can feel lighter and have influence when you keep learning, too.
I hope you will enjoy today’s video share and find ways to keep yourself open. Be available. Then, listen and learn.
Because if you can do these things, you will always have direction. Even though you’ll get stuck, as we all do, you will eventually get through it.
And the future you will thank you for your commitment, perseverance, and tenacity.
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