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Do Your Students Have More Skin in the Game Than You Do?

Have you really thought about that as an online instructor? Do your students have more skin in the game than you do? What in the world am I getting at with that question? Well, there’s been lots of discussion around direct instruction and regular and substantive interaction in online learning. If you don’t remember, I shared about: New federal US Department of Education (DoE) regulatory definitions of distance education require that institutions ensure regular and substantive interaction (RSI) between a student and an instructor(s). And I also wrote about direct instruction in online learning here. Read those to better understand where I’m going here.

The amount of time an online faculty professor should spend teaching an online class can vary depending on various factors, such as the course’s level, complexity, and the number of students enrolled. However, in general, faculty members should expect to spend a comparable amount of time teaching and preparing for an online course as they would expect a student to spend learning in the course. Now is that a bold statement, a personal opinion? Let’s see. The official credit hour definition states:

A credit hour is an amount of student work defined by an institution, as approved by the institution’s accrediting agency, that is consistent with commonly accepted practice in postsecondary education and that reasonably approximates no less than
-One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time;HEA Definitions – Distance Education (GCC Institutional Effectiveness Office of Compliance Regulatory Reference Series

So basically that means we’re required by HLC to deliver 3 hours of direct instruction and a minimum of six hours of out-of-class work (homework) each week. That’s nine hours for each course. If they are a full-time student taking 5 classes, their skin in the game is that this is a full-time job at 45 hours per week. That’s probably why they call it full-time.

Now for faculty, according to the Quality Matters Program, an organization that provides standards for online course design and delivery, a rule of thumb for the amount of time needed to design and teach an online course is 8-12 hours per week for a 3-credit course. This time includes developing course content, facilitating discussions, providing feedback on assignments, and grading. But let’s break that apart because we’re not always designing and teaching at the same time. And let’s use direct instruction (DI) and regular and substantive interaction (RSI) as our baseline. Much of our DI can be done during the course development phase. We create videos, caption them and sometimes create quizzes to go along with them. No doubt this is time consuming, but once it’s done, often there’s not much design work to do once the class begins. There’s also lots of other engaging content that we develop and provide in an online course that doesn’t require weekly work once the course begins. So we can’t always factor in time for that for time needed to teach an online course.

Now let’s consider the RSI factor. Faculty members should also consider the time they spend communicating with students and providing support outside of class time. This may include answering emails, hosting virtual office hours, posting announcements, and responding to questions on discussion boards or via email. And we have to add in the time spent grading student work. Grading student work is a fundamental component of the teaching and learning process in a college course, and it is critical to assessing student progress and achievement. Providing clear feedback on student work is essential as it provides students with feedback on their progress and helps to guide their future studies in the course and beyond. The best type of feedback for student assessments is one that is specific, timely, and constructive. Specific feedback is clear and detailed, highlighting particular aspects of a student’s work that are well done or require improvement. And it should also be timely. That all takes time.

One major way to ensure RSI is happening in your online course is to make sure you are providing feedback that is specific, timely, and constructive. Auto-graded assessments are not the best example of that if that is all you provide. So would you say you spend at least 2 hours per credit hour or 6 hours a week doing RSI for your online course? Just one course? Well, that is the expectation we have for our students. Nine hours each week. And that should be the expectation for faculty as well. That would mean that your minimum load of 5 courses each semester would require you to spend 45 hours each week. That’s something to consider, but let’s pretend you say, I’m not doing that much RSI in my online courses. Okay, but you are spending that time in other ways that support students and the college. We have required office hours, committee assignments, department meetings, and 4Dx. All of that supports students in some way either directly or indirectly.

So, do you have more skin in the game than your students? Or are you dialing it in? Setting it and forgetting it? Here are some characteristics of bad online teachers: lack of organization, poor communication, limited engagement, inadequate feedback, unavailability, and technical difficulties. Overall, a bad online teacher can negatively impact the learning experience for their students and hinder their academic progress. Don’t be that guy. Get engaged in your own online course.

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