Time Saving Tips for Online Teaching
- actually teaching - not setting up a classroom
- bullet points below

It is crazy to me how public schools and higher education are asking teachers and faculty to create online classrooms within 2 weeks to finish the semester off. But of course, it is crazy times. There are some Online Tips Workshops out there and I see them pumping up in volume, but I am not sure the costs or if they are really providing some insight into HOW TO TEACH….instead I fear they are focused on how to set up a classroom….and well that’s not really that helpful as you move through the semester.
I have been teaching online for the last 12 years (believe me it is as bananas to me as it is to you – as a painter I spend way more time on the computer then I ever thought would be possible). For nuts and bolts - I am a part-time lecturer (PTL) at MICA and Rutgers. So without terribly long explanations, I want to share some tips for the actual TEACHING component of distance learning education. If anyone wants to talk more specifics or has specific questions – please don’t hesitate to reach out.
-Teaching online takes up WAY more time than your on-the-grounds classes did. Don’t think you are missing something or doing something wrong – it is well known by online teachers that the reward of online teaching is flexibility in time and travel – but the trade is the amount of time it takes to respond meaningful to your students.
-Speaking of time – gathering resources, writing out your curriculum (instead of talking it), finding appropriate online resources to meet accreditation standards, recording videos, and setting up an online classroom takes most online teaches 6 -12 months.
-Your Rights and Compensation: I work at MICA and Rutgers, we have part-time faculty unions that do a decent job protecting our rights, but this is new territory and I know MICA is working with administration to make sure PTL are compensated. Because I imagine not many people are telling you – at both institutions – there are TWO core things you should be asking for.
  • To create an online course at both the private and public institutions I work at, you, the “course author”, is compensated for the creation of the course the same as you are for teaching that course for a semester. Ex. Rutgers pays PTL around $5000 a semester to teach a course. So, to create a course, the course author is paid $5000. MICA did the same for me when I created my online grad seminar course several years ago.
  • As the course author you should have all rights to your course content. Your contract should include that the course is your property.
    • If this course is offered again – you are the first person offered to teach the course, unless you are deemed unfit.
    • You can “take” your course anywhere you go in the future.
    • Courses are automatically archived in Canvas.
    • When I did this at MICA, they were very new to the process and it took about a year to get the green light. Obviously, you do not have this time and it is only half a semester – but look into it for back pay as things settle down.
-Now some things to think about and general tips for once you begin teaching. When I speak to specific examples, they are all in the Canvas platform.
  • Students have short attention spans and even shorter when it comes to online learning. Slice anything you are thinking about in half……or more.
  • When I make any recorded lectures – I do them as a screenshare with PowerPoint and a voice over. They don’t need to see me talk.
  • I never post a recorded lecture longer then 15 minutes. Rather, if I was going to give a 2.5-hour lecture in a class, I condense that information into 1 hour, then break it up into 15 minute intervals. This allows me to have control over when they decide to break – and is also less daunting to them when they log into the classroom and click on a unit.
  • I provide a lot of written content as well – also broken down into smaller sections then what I would assign as a reading in a classroom. Again, our students have so much on their plate in general, struggle with time management in general, and now are terribly worried (once again) about the state of the world. Help them with time management but condensing information and breaking up content.
  • IMAGES – I include a lot of images – makes sense for teaching art – but for everyone really. Even if it’s not needed – find something to break up written information to include in assignment directions. AND more importantly make sure you are embedding them into the content and not adding them as attachments.
  • IMAGES – Make sure you have your students do the same – whenever they are posting in the classroom ask them to embed images. This is going to save you a lot of time – and honestly the only way other students really look at and respond to one another.
  • IMAGES – In addition to not wanting downloads – you do not want links – way too many windows. Let students know they can either insert embedded images by uploading or by providing links in the ‘insert image button’. This is explained in the classroom – but I would encourage you to make a how-to video for them – so you are not jumping all over the place when looking at images. These are good sources to get them out of google.
  • For short video recording on ‘How To’, I use JING. It is free and cuts you off at 5 minutes – so makes you stay on point. And you can embed in the classroom. I have also used Jing for quick crits for Freshman students on formal aspects. Ex. Correcting their perspective drawings but drawing over them in a video or for color theory in adjustments that can be made in photoshop. For longer recording I use Quick Time Player on my mac.
  • Technical Thing with assignment setup in Canvas. It is very rare that I actually use the “assignment” button to create assignments. 90% of my assignments are set up as “Discussion Questions”. When you set it up this way, it becomes a discussion thread, where students can respond directly to your question/assignment but they can also see and respond to other students’ posts. When it is one thread, it become the closest to an -on-the-ground class discussion.
  • I do not respond to ever post in a discussion – again this would take much longer then when teaching on the ground. And more importantly it can become very redundant, as students’ responses will be similar. I post throughout the discussion thread and refer students to other students in the class, and ask them to read my responses throughout – not just to their posts. This also helps facilitate dialogue amongst the students – and insures they are actually reading other students posts.
  • As far as I have seen, many colleges, mine included, are moving to Pass/Fail. This should make the gradebook in Canvas simple. But if you have questions on that- let me know.
  • Due to this quick shift, I think everyone in education now knows the difference between synchronous and asynchrony online teaching. I primarily teach asynchronous, as my students take many courses on the ground (usually) and some online. Therefore, most students are completing their work at night or squeezed into their busy schedules.
  • When I do teach asynchronous portions – the same rule of condensing content stays true. If you are doing a critique, I recommend shorting them, or breaking them into groups. Let’s be honest – it is insane to think a student can switch from a 6 hour in-person crit to a 6-hour online crit. With a lot of effort, I can do a live webinar for 3 hours with my graduate students. We crit 8 students grant proposals in 3 hours.
  • I usually have a guest with me for the crit – again variety is key in holding attention. I have them paid…. but I don’t know how that will work for everyone now. But I do know a lot of artists and freelances out of work that may just love to volunteer for a crit – exercising a studio visit vibe in a time when we cannot do otherwise, and need a break from our own studio work (ideally we are using our time creatively to avoid total anxiety), the rabbit hole of the news, and just how many google happy hours can we have?
    • When doing a live crit – make sure students put their mic on mute to avoid feedback. After me and my guest give feedback – the student whos work is being reviewed turns on their mic for questions and responses. Other students provide feedback through the IM in the webinar.
  • Technicals on live webinar
    • – Your will have a format, whichever it is, test run before. Find out how you can record it (this is useful for students and if we want to be forward thinking – you can archive this and use it in your teaching portfolio in the future (for PTL in Unions – this can be a great supporting document when you are up for a raise – PS I hate the bull shit of having to justify raises in a manner that is often like reapplying for the job – but ehhh that is the system – oh and now that you are going to be having so much written exchange with your students – create a ‘compliments folder’ for yourself – save emails and take snap shots of all the ‘thank-yous’ you are going to get (good for that raise and our general self-esteem)
    • If you are using Canvas Conferences for your live webinar – you may be using a component called Big Blue Button. If you are recording the webinar– check to with your tech support to see what kind of account they have. Some school accounts only archive for 14 days.
Last note – maybe I will think of more – but you know – online=condense
I always want to believe the best in students, but online teaching opens up a lot of room for student excuses and a lot of student emails. I post announcements every week with the upcoming deadlines (yes – even though they are in the syllabus). I also email them directly to students (oh – if you are emailing through Canvas click the button that says ‘Send an individual message to each recipient’ – this makes the flood of emails and responses easier to keep track of). I refer students back to emails that have the answers to their questions. And if you are questioning if a student has really spent time on the course material you have provided, you can check out their “activity” in the “People” section of the course. It is rare I do this, but it can help in a rare student issue.