COVID-19 has impacted education drastically. Thousands of educators are now responsible for educating students online, which many are doing so for the very first time in the public school setting. Teachers have set up classrooms and offices in their homes. Once online teaching procedures and routines are established, the main barrier to overcome is time management. Educators must have excellent time management skills and be highly organized to ensure they are successful with online instruction while also taking care of their families. Therefore, time management is crucial to a well-balanced online teaching career.
Time Management Tips
The convenience of online teaching may be easier for some but a challenge for others, especially if teachers are not technology savvy. Educators need adequate routines, technology equipment and resources, and collaboration tools to better manage time teaching online. With the appropriate time management tips, educators can experience success in the virtual education setting.
Routines should be established as similar to a normal work schedule as possible. Those that teach online should have the same start time every day. The beginning of the day should be used to check emails and messages, respond to pressing concerns with parents, and check in with students needing additional support. Morning and afternoon times should be established for synchronous instruction for no more than an hour, and the remaining time, asynchronous, should be spent responding to discussion boards and grading assignments from students.
Establishing office hours also allows for uninterrupted time to take care of students’ needs and discourages students from reaching out to teachers during non-office hours or inconvenient times. Some students will need the additional time to ask questions, gain clarity, and receive affirmation of tasks, which can be arranged by the online instructor at a convenient time. The range of office hours should last from one to two hours daily. Some instructors may choose to offer support times two to three times per week. School districts and colleges normally provide guidelines for setting up office hours to support students, which online teachers should adhere to.
Online teachers should end instruction at the same time daily to ensure they are consistent with meeting the needs of their families, but most of all taking care of their own social-emotional needs. It is important to end the workday between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to ensure a work-life balance. Teaching online for multiple hours of the day can be draining without frequent breaks. Also, screen time may produce eyestrain. Therefore, time management is of essence to prevent burnout when teaching online.
Adequate technology equipment is needed to manage time with online teaching. An appropriate wi-fi band is needed to run many of the different technology tools and video platforms to collaborate with students and colleagues in the online learning environment. The bandwidth needed to sustain elearning may be different from the devices that may already be in an educator’s home. Technology glitches can diminish time educators could spend instructing students. Updating software and submitting support tickets for technology issues can last for multiple hours, which can hinder productivity with online teaching. Educators also need updated computers and laptops to be able to run software programs, access private networks, and to explore technology features in learning management platforms.
Collaboration tools can help online teachers better manage time. The ability to meet with colleagues to plan instruction is important to ensure students are receiving quality instruction. Planning with peers helps educators to collaborate on the best instructional tools in the online setting, which saves time when delivering instructional content to best meet the needs of students. Educators should not have to plan lessons in isolation and search through a multitude of resources when they use digital collaboration tools when planning with others.
Learning Management Systems
Learning Management Systems help online teachers navigate through subject content and student work and provide synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. In synchronous learning, instructors can teach live lessons directly through learning management platforms. In contrast, educators can post daily assignments and resources for students to access during asynchronous times.
Instructional resources in the learning management platform can be automated with delivery time to help instructors with time management (Cross and Polk, 2018). The instructional resources in a learning management platform may include discussion boards, media albums, quizzes, content folders, grade books, calendars with alerts, and embedded video and conferencing capabilities. Learning management platforms make it easier to save, share, and reuse material. Some learning management systems allow for copying and pasting materials among multiple folders, which makes it easier for instructors to share materials. Overall, learning management systems save time in the online learning environment.
Online teaching may come with challenges such as managing time. However, with adequate systems, organizational skills, and sufficient equipment, teachers can be successful while teaching online. Networking with colleagues and following the guidelines of educational institutions can help teachers experience success when teaching students online. As educators embrace the new normal of online teaching, many strategies and technology tools will evolve to make the online teaching experience more manageable and less time consuming.