Teaching online can be a seven days a week habit. This thought came to mind today as this is a holiday weekend in Canada. Classroom teachers are out for three days – granted they may have grading to do – but it is more likely they are planting their gardens, or opening cottages (summer cottage to the non-Canadian), or just planning to take family to a fireworks display, or dusting off the BBQ (grill to non-Canadians).
I should define ‘teaching online’ a bit more specifically before delving into this temptation to teach constantly. The whole package consists of marking assignments, commenting on student discussion/conference posts, answering emails, posting information on the main course page, fixing broken links, reading essays, offering advice via email, conference boards, Skype…. posting additional information on a linked Prezi…
Not a terribly tight ‘definition’ but rather a grab bag of duties and pleasures (yes, pleasures!) that take up an online instructor’s time. Unlike a carefully delineated period of time spent in front of a class, online teaching can take a few short minutes in a day, or hours.
I overheard another online instructor telling his teaching assistants to set up one hour per week where they would answer emails or texts or IMs – and that under no circumstance should they communicate with their students outside that hour, unless it was a pressing situation. On the other extreme, there is me. I answer emails at 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. I chatted on Skype video with a student while walking my dog one night. The times when I can smell a burnt toast odour from my brain and notice a few wisps of smoke coming out my ears, I shut down and ignore all my students for a full day. None of this is tightly scheduled.
Should there then be a scheduled day and a scheduled week for online instructors?
I think that you must do what works for you, as long as the students in your class know your availability at the outset – and remind them along the way. Say you decide on an office hour every afternoon, Monday to Friday at 2 p.m., and that you will be unavailable after 5 p.m. and all weekend and holidays…. tell everybody and anybody that, and remind them each and every day.
If you are like me, tell them on the day you know your brain is malfunctioning and just state you will be unavailable on that day, all day.