Managing the Workload
Along the way, I've suggested you don't have to comment on every draft of writing--you can do a lot by simply reading. Similarly, you don't have to comment on every post or email message or chat utterance either. Here are some ways to think about workload:
- Read and comment on posts and e-mail as they interest you.
- Make sure to reply to every student's writings at some point, however.
- Use your discussion leading skills to get students to respond to each other--point out when they have ideas in common, or opposed, and invite responses.
- Don't get caught up doing tech. support. Urge students to help one another whenever possible--if you introduce online tools in face-to-face settings, you can move this along by having students who complete a step or task move around the room to help those who are still working at it.
- Peer review. Teach it, and help students find the value in it. Treat peer review comments as what they really are -- micro essays -- that, like any essay, can be improved by rewriting, feedback, and discussion. Spending more time on teaching students to do peer review in the early weeks -- even if that leaves less time to work on essays -- can pay off in the end. The skills they learn writing comments -- being a close reader, writing full, descriptive comments, offering a writing choices, learning to read writing like a writer -- all transfer and support what writing is about. There's no loss to spend more time on peer review and a little less on actual essays early on.
- Conference with students--read writing cold, on the spot, in conference. Conference online in chat spaces and have students describe what they're doing. Talk about the writing. As the semester goes on, make more of your comments orally, in mini-conferences, and let peer reviews be the comments of written record.
- Don't try to grade everything. Have students periodically write reflections and self-analysis (have them quote from class transcripts, discussion, peer review comments to make points); remember you're reading and skimming and keeping track that works getting done, but you don't have to grade every jit and jot.
- Set office hours and keep them.
- Set times for your own work and don't let students intrude.
- Set rules for when and how frequently you'll answer student email.
- Keep students on schedule--nothing like extensions to stretch your work out.
- Don't be afraid to cut down on work you assign from time to time.
- Teach computer skills as writing skills. For example, how to save a file in rich text format might seem computer skill, but it's an essential writing skill if writing's to be shared among platforms. Realizing this helps put that necessary teaching in perspective--it's work worth doing, and saves time down the road.