First Edition-Summer-2008


A Minute Saved is a Minute Earned: Timesaving Tips for Managing Your Online Workload
by: Jennifer Rafferty | Instructional Designer

When you teach online for the first time, it doesn’t take long to realize that the time requirements for online course development and instruction can be greater than traditional, on-ground courses.  Fortunately, there are a number of great strategies that can lighten your workload and make your online teaching experience a pleasant one.

Establishing a Routine

 A routine for your online workload and engagement in a course can:

  • Eliminate a backlog of emails and discussion board postings because you have designated shorter more frequent times to moderate content and respond to emails
  • Increase student satisfaction and confidence
  • Establish  consistency for both the students and the instructor

The Syllabus
A detailed syllabus that clearly articulates the following areas can save you significant time.  A course syllabus should include:

  • course prerequisites and requirements
  • grading method with an explanation of how rubrics will be used
  • a course calendar that highlights critical dates and deadlines
  • office hours,  methods of communication and course parameters
  •  online etiquette and expectations for discussion boards, wikis, blogs, and journals
  • timing for instructor feedback and response to emails

It’s best to avoid putting the above information within the modules.  You will only have to update one document with dates and course parameters when you do maintenance each semester if you include this information in your syllabus and post it in one location.

Course Resources

A course resources folder that can store, videos, reading assignments, and simulations will also help to organize the course content for both you and your students.  When organizing content and materials, it is important to envision the easiest and most efficient way for you and your students to navigate the course. 

Discussion Boards

Discussion boards can be used in a numbers of ways to save time.  Examples of how to use the discussion board more efficiently are:

  • Consider creating small discussion groups if you have a class size of 15 or more students.  This method of small group work will still support quality interactions and will create less reading for everyone.
  • Create an FAQ section where students post general questions about the course.  This strategy will help you to decrease the number of individual emails you send to your students.  Students can also be encouraged to respond to their classmates’ questions if they know the answer.  
  • Require or limit your students to responding to only 2 other students’ original postings.  Encourage quality, not quantity and model quality responses when you can.
  • Create a posting requirement that will prevent all discussion responses to be posted the last day of the weekly module.  For example, “post your original no later than Wednesday, then make your responses no later than Friday.”
  • Allow students to take turns being discussion board moderators.  While it might seem like more work at first, some up front guidelines and modeling during the first weeks of the course will help students to take on this role.

Additionally, discussion prompts should be posted under the name of the forum rather than as a thread within the forum to avoid the need to re-create those threads each semester.   While the Discussion Forum page is permanent, the threads within the page are not.  These threads are removed each time a course is cleaned out at the end of the semester.


Most of us are familiar with the reusable learning objects that we have available to use when we employ simulations and videos in our courses.  There is also another level of reusability found in the content both students and instructors generate over the course of the semester.  Examples include:

  • The posting of weekly announcements that are used every semester
  • An archive of responses and comments that you have used when providing feedback for assignments each semester.   Responses can be adapted or reused when new students do the same assignment the next semester.
  • The development of rubrics for grading assignments and discussion board postings

A first attempt at developing and delivering an online course may seem like a daunting task.   Fortunately, as more of us become versed in the world of online teaching and learning, we are discovering a plethora of time management strategies and techniques that improve both the quality and the experience of online education.  Try a few of these tips and see what a difference it will make for your online workload!

Marcisz, Nicole. Managing Your Time While Teaching Online: How Do YOU Do It?  (2007)
Ragan, Lawrence C., and Terheggen, Sarah.  Effective Workload Management Strategies for the Online Environment. (2003)



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