One thing that is especially important in online education is managing the workload. It’s easy to add things to a calendar and forget how difficult they are for a new student (the curse of expertise), or accidentally create busywork. I manage student workload in online homeschool classes in several different ways.
- I buy curricula made by professional instructional designers whenever possible. I’m not wasting my time reinventing the wheel. I choose time-tested curricula like Saxon math, paying attention to editions with scripted or clear goals. I also look for curricula with pre-made tests, quizzes, graphic organizers, presentations, etc. Even if I don’t use them as purchased, it’s good to have.
- I test how long it’s going to take. In the online classroom, I’ll sit down and do the assignments myself, correcting for my expertise whenever possible. It’s humbling.
- I try to give students information in different modalities–not because of learning styles–but because it helps to prevent boredom. I suggest videos, have them read, and give them hands-on projects to photograph and upload.
- Some non-academically-inclined students view themselves as artistic, so I always make sure I have some art assignment every week, across the content areas. Yes, you can do it for
- math–art and music and math are tightly intertwined, and you can buy books of suggested assignments
- science–drawing the natural world has a long, storied history often associated with women, such as Charlotte Mason
- social studies–art history is an entire academic field
- literature–art and literature have been intertwined for centuries
- I also make sure to assign reading, preferably not a textbook. I do assign textbooks, but news articles, essays, and so on are more interesting and help stave off those “When am I ever going to *use* this?” questions. Generally, I have students discuss amongst themselves in online, written discussions, and then I refer to them during lecture.
- Carefully curated videos on the content area can be a great help if you have students with reading issues or gifted students who want to go deeper. I spend an hour or two per week, per class, selecting videos.
- Most textbooks are terrible. They’re visually cluttered, full of extraneous details, double as doorstops, and present information as a static point of reference. That said, they’re also invaluable sources of information. So, every week, I write guided notes and/or knowledge organizers for my students to pinpoint vocabulary, concepts, and maps/diagrams I want them to know. Generally, I give it to them blank and have them fill it out while they read. Allotting time for this helps me feel better about “read chapter 6, section 2.”
- But perhaps the most important part of their workload is the weekly assessment. I’m a fan of cognitive science, and continual low-stakes formative assessments make or break online classes (so they don’t wander off to play video games) and learning (for information retention). I have been known to give:
- multiple choice / matching / etc quizzes
- a series of short-answer essay Qs
- 20/30 problems to solve
- metacognition self-analysis frameworks
- “letters to friends” explaining a concept
- short (2/3 pg) essays, or sets of essays
- long term project check-ins
- final drafts of sci/ss projects
- research papers
- unit exams
- comprehensive exams
These items are one aspect of managing the workload for online and/or face to face and/or homeschooling classes.
- pre-made curricula
- test run time
- hit the same info in different ways
- guide the reading
- assess weekly
Managing student workload in online homeschool classes is a crucial part of successful teaching in this format. I hope you find these tips helpful.
This is part of our series on online homeschool class design, written by an experienced online teacher and homeschool parent. Please add your own tips and questions in the comments!