computer work

Managing the Teaching Workload

Strategy 1: Draw on University Resources by referring students:

Academic Challenges

  • The Center for Writing Excellence where students can receive 1-1 tutoring, but also can avail themselves of a rich array of resources.
  • The Library for research support.  Reference librarians work with students 1-1 and are excellent at helping students narrow their searches and find appropriate sources.
  • Navigate for Student Support – Advisor Contact: If a student isn’t doing well, make advisers aware by completing an alert in Navigate.  This is the best way to document a problem so that any adviser or faculty members who are working with the student can know your concern.

Coping Challenges: Faculty are in a great position to observe students and to encourage seeking support when people are struggling, both to the whole class and as an individual recommendation.

  • CAST (again):  Beyond academic support, CAST offers programming for students struggling with timeliness, keeping up, coping with the distance experience, etc. They run Zoom seminars, in-person sessions, and other support opportunities.
  • CAPS (Counseling & Psychological Services): Along with 1-1 counseling (free), CAPS has drop-in quick appointments (Let’s Talk) and an effective set of digital tools that have been found to help with coping.
  • Dean of Students Office. When a student’s problems don’t fall easily into an existing resource, the Dean of Students is the right place to go.  The staff are resourceful and connected with all the other support services. You can email the office or fill out a Student Concern Form.

Technical Challenges

  • Technical Training from IT: Technical training classes and support that faculty have enjoyed are not just for faculty and staff!  They are also open to students.  Students can also call the Helpline at 973-655-7971, just as we do.
    • Laptop lending.  If students are reporting trouble with computing, encourage them to borrow a laptop.
    • Canvas support. You are not Canvas support. There are resources right out there for students to use.
    • Software (students have access to Microsoft 365)

Strategy 2: Control and limit your time and digital bandwidth (eye strain, Zoom fatigue)

  • Don’t teach around the clock.  Set times for teaching work.  For example, two hours a day, three days a week, excluding weekends.  Similarly, set research days or half days, vacation days.
  • Manage the email.  Do not email around the clock — instant email response leads to another instant follow-up email.  Instead, try these tricks:
    • Only email students through Canvas.  This controls your time/space. You go TO your teaching email, rather than have it follow you around 24/7.  You need to go regularly (see above), but not constantly.
    • Use “send later” email options.  You don’t have to send your email when you write it.  Send emails during regular work hours — 8:30 to 4:30 — even if you actually write them at 10:30 pm.
    • Consider ways to get off the computer: for your own reading/writing life, consider print magazines, and paper books, write in notebooks, print pdf files, and read them like the good old days.  Too much digital is hard on our eyes, our heads, and maybe our psyches, too.
    • Build and assign a syllabus quiz that ensures students really read the syllabus.  This will reduce all those questions that are already addressed in the syllabus.
    • 5 minute Q&A at beginning of class to reduce emails.

Strategy 3: Reach for curriculum and course design time-savers

  • Build assignments collaboratively with colleagues.  Originalism isn’t essential.  A good assignment, explanation, or module can be lightly edited and re-deployed.  Department listservs are great places to ask for and offer sample assignments.
  • Go to Canvas Commons to find Canvas ready-built materials that can be similarly adapted.  Simply enter a search term, review options, download selections, and edit for your own use.  See also the featured Canvas templates and pages developed by OFA and ITDS.

Strategy 4: Deploy time-saving techniques for assessment (a.k.a., managing the grading load)

  • Embrace the idea that student writing is for student learning, not faculty reading. Understand that the goal of assigning written work is student learning.  Students learn by writing, thinking, and writing some more.  We all do. Students do not learn so much from having faculty read and comment on their writing.  What is more, the expectation that all student work needs to be commented on by faculty is what drives faculty not to assign student writing, which damages student learning.
  • Read student work purposefully, not comprehensively.  Read for what you will do — assign a grade or provide formative assessment — and look within the text for what it is you need to read to do your job. Do not read every student submission like it’s a Dickens novel.
  • Use completion grading.  If it’s done, it’s complete; if it’s not, it’s not.  Explain the process to students.
  • Try lottery grading.  Random selection of student assignments, with a small set receiving close reading with feedback, and the majority receiving completion grades.  Explain the process to students.
  • Group conferencing for feedback on student work.
  • Use peer review groups to provide some feedback, with a rubric to support strong feedback.
  • Use rubrics found in Canvas for faster grading.
  • Try Screencastify or other audio feedback methods.
  • For paper submissions, ask students to signpost by bolding key elements such as their thesis, word count, or reference to required terms.
  • Limit page numbers or word count.  There is critical thinking value to concise writing.
  • For grammatical, usage, and editing issues, consider:
    • Try end-of-paper general notations about types of errors: i.e., run-ons, subj-verb agreement, etc.
    • Correct just one paragraph to demonstrate editing problems.  Explain that these errors occur throughout the essay and that students need to identify and correct the entire essay.
    • Capture individual sentence problems that occur frequently, across the class, and share several of these with the whole class to raise awareness for everyone.  Discuss writing problems and brainstorm solutions.
    • Use Canvas Quizzes if you don’t already for assignments that are designed to assess reading or other required tasks; these quizzes can be automated so that the instructor’s work is frontloaded to designing the quiz, but the assessment is automatic.

Updated 8.11.21