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Self-Management for Online Instructors

Instructor: Terri Beth Miller

Terri Beth has taught college writing and literature courses since 2005 and has a PhD in literature.

Online teaching can be one of the most rewarding experiences of an educator's career, as s/he builds relationships with students of all ages all over the globe. However, online teaching also comes with an array of unique challenges.

The Agony and Rewards of Online Teaching

Like it or not, technology is changing the world we live in, from the way we do our banking and our shopping to the way we spend 'face time' with family and friends. It is also changing the way that we learn. Nowhere is this more evident than in the rapidly growing world of online education. Once the redheaded stepchild of education, e-learning has gone mainstream. It is making higher education accessible to those who could never have dreamt it possible: working adults, the elderly and homebound, those with physical disabilities, even deployed troops learning from the frontlines.

Time Management

One of the biggest culture shocks those transitioning from on-ground to online teaching is that the online teacher has the potential to be on the clock 24/7, not just twice a week for 90 minutes or so. This is where proper time management becomes key. Because online teaching will consume your life if you let it.

This is why it is crucial to establish clear and definitive boundaries both for yourself and your students--and then stick to them. Let students know exactly when you will be available, and when you won't. Above all, honor and enjoy that downtime. You can't give your students what you don't have; you can't recharge their batteries if yours are empty.

So establish an absolute cutoff for all posts, emails, and phone calls. Nothing is so dire that it cannot wait until morning. Make these times clear to students and stand by them. Otherwise, the 3 a.m. phone call from a student on the opposite coast asking for a last minute extension will become your frequent friend.

At the same time, it's vital that the online class is treated just like any full-time job. Some coursework should be done on at least five out of seven days per week. Though you may choose to abandon the traditional Monday-Friday schedule if that works best for you or your students. This may include grading, posting, or developing instructional materials.

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