The Electric Educator: Part 4: Pacing and Scheduling

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Part 4: Pacing and Scheduling

Note: this is part 4 of 5 in the series "Overcoming the Challenges of Online Learning"

High school students are lousy at keeping a schedule. In online courses at the collegate level, students are typically given a weeks worth of assignments and told to turn them on before midnight on the due date. It was the students responsibility to figure out how long each assignment would take and match that up against their personal schedule and responsibilities.

An online high school courses run like this will quickly dissolve into chaos. The typical student has no ability to estimate how much time an assignment will take. Left to their own devices they will wait until an hour before an assignment is due and complain when they don't get it done. We quickly realized this and decided to make some changes.

Image by Tricia Wang via Flickr
In our courses, everything is given a due date: reading, projects, labs, videos, and assessments. Even things that are not graded show up on a students calendar. We set the minimum course pace. Our goal is to give students 60-90 minutes of work in each course they take, each day. This is very similar to the amount of time students in our traditional campus spend on their course work (45 minutes in class and 30+ minutes at home).

Our learning management system (we are using BrainHoney) does a nice job of tracking the amount of time a students spends on an item. We can pull reports detailing a students activity for each day. This has led to some very interesting conversations as students claim "I'm always studying" yet the report indicates they are spending less than an hour a day on their coursework.

Our goal is to help student learn to be disciplined. We understand, however that teenagers are still learning and developing these skills. In addition to the academic knowledge we seek to impart, we hope that they also gain valuable life-skills that are transferable to all aspects of life.

Check out my other posts in this series:
1. Lousy, Inflexible Course Content - making your courses better.

2. Is that your work? - Overcoming the challenge of cheating. 
3. The Hallway Conversation - finding ways to encourage authentic conversations between students and instructors.

4. Pacing and Scheduling - helping students stay on schedule and learn discipline.

5. How does this work? - providing first hand experience to families who have no clue.

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