Online teacher workload - annotated bibliography

“Reducing the Online Instructor’s Workload: Tips on designing and administering online courses can save faculty valuable time while producing high-quality content”

Sheridan, Rick, in Educause Quartely, number 3, 2006, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm06311.pdf (3 pages)

Many hours are dedicated to design and administrate an online course, even more when a few changes in the content or format are required later. So there’s a need to reduce faculty workload. The author is an experienced online teacher that discusses in this paper the way teacher and students might save time on online courses, by making them easy to administrate through, for example, a discussion forum or a reference section with links to health-related sites. This teacher is aware too of the advantages and disadvantages of online learning, and concludes that “a well-designed and well-managed online course could save an instructor a quarter of the time normally devoted to teaching in a traditional classroom”.

“Faculty self-study research project: examining the online workload”

Thompson Melody M. (The Pennsylvania State University) JALN Volume 8, Issue 3 — June 2004, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://www.educause.edu/Resources/FacultySelfStudyResearchProjec/153176 (15 pages)

This paper describes a project in which six faculty members teaching courses through the Penn State World Campus conducted studies of the comparative workload in the online environment. Results of the studies indicated that faculty workload for teaching these online courses, as measured by time on task, was comparable to or somewhat less than that for face-to-face courses.

Some conclusions are:

“Achieving the goal of high levels of interaction is often accomplished by implementing tools and strategies that impose a higher workload on faculty.”
“Workload in the online environment is a variable dependent on a number of factors, many of which are amenable to intervention by either the course designer or the faculty member.”
“A model of small faculty research studies, whether supported by an external grant or by institutional research funds, represents an effective and easily replicable approach to examining and addressing the challenges and opportunities of online teaching and learning.”

“Effective Workload Management Strategies for the Online Environment”

Ragan, Lawrence C.; Terheggen, Sara L., (The Pennsylvania State University World Campus)
April 15, 2003, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/pdf/fac/workload_strat.pdf (44 pages)

The workload management strategies discussed in this paper related to the success of an online teaching program are based in four categories: Authoring Strategies, Teaching Strategies, Course Improvement and Revision Strategies, and Institutional Strategies. The aim is to collect and catalog a variety of feedback from experienced online educators in how they reduce the amount of time and energy in the online environment, so online teachers can benefit from this expertise.

Some of the most effective strategies for reducing faculty workload online teaching are, for example, clarifying and enhancing students’ technical skills before registration, providing a detailed syllabus, defining the operating parameters of the course, creating feedback rubrics, establishing a routine.

Much time and energy are required to design, develop, and deliver online course instruction and many educational institutions are now establishing systems and services to support student and faculty use of electronic communications. The adoption of online technologies may resolve issues surrounding the perception of unmanageable workloads, and consequently improve the educational process. The authors believe that “careful application of the strategies above to the needs of online educators can significantly enhance the success of the online education program a work in progress”.



It seems that online education can be expected to grow over the next decade or so as more and more universities offer it for more and more classes. There is no doubt that it enjoys a degree of novelty and excitement and provides a different experience for many participants. The above studies measure the amount of time instructors and students dedicate to courses, and raise important issues for development and delivery online courses, for university administrations in introducing online classes, for the academics who may push for or be called upon to teach them, and for the students who will take them. The authors consider too how technology can be expected to continue to develop and new problems will continue to arise.

Just like the physical classroom, there is considerable time involved in grading, updating web pages and responding to students. Even updating may be easy, there is some time involved in the set-up of online classes. We learned that these classes meet for a specified amount of time in the online environment, and students are given a wide variety of group and individual work to complete outside of class. A key problem in facilitating a successful online course is the highly time-consuming nature of the administrative and pedagogical tasks involved.

In order to help their students succeed in class, online teachers begin to understand that technology has improved and may contribute to handling the workload of an online class. So, organization and time management are the keys to reduce online workload.

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