When planning to teach online, we should always make sure our students know what we want them to do. When teaching online, provide a written, posted schedule weeks in advance. I also repeatedly assign the same types of assignments. This is true whether I’m teaching in a blended class, or all online.
I am not afraid to tell students what I want them to do and when I want them to do it. Research supports this: instructor-directed online learning has a greater effect on student learning (+.39) than collaborative instruction (+.25) or independent work (+.05).
Why post schedules so far in advance?
Offering students a schedule well in advance increases equity in education because it gives low-income parents, who are often subject to severe time constraints, forewarning to plan for their child’s device access, Internet access, and a quiet space to work, as well as time to seek assistance for concepts their child doesn’t understand.
Why do online students need extra activities outside of live classes?
While parents do their best, the home environment is often distracting. Because students are part of an active household, often in apartment buildings, when students turn on their microphones teachers can sometimes hear musical instrument practice, crying infants, arguing siblings, and loud televisions.
Because teachers are not in a face-to-face classroom, they cannot easily tell how well students understand the topic and adapt their teaching. Even when students seem to understand the topic, students are not going to remember what was said during a synchronous session without reinforcement. Most students will pay attention, but many will not be able to recall and use the information.
Instead, teachers must provide materials and activities outside of lecture, on a schedule given to students and parents in advance.
Why is posting work in advance sensitive teaching?
While face-to-face classroom teachers may refer to their students as “my kids,” in the online learning environment teachers are not in loco parentis. Instead, teachers must work closely with the parents or other caregivers as partners in the student’s education. In this case, being sensitive to the student’s needs also means being sensitive to the family’s needs by posting work in advance.
When families have their schedules in advance, they can plan to make sure that the work gets done. This is as true for small, ungraded assignments as it is for big, multi-week research projects. In my most recent astronomy class, 96% of students completed a science fair project despite being in the middle of pandemic.
assign all work two weeks in advance