Friday, December 3, 2010

working class

Faculty can be funny. When working with them on online course projects, they like to dance around the workload issue. More precisely, they want to know how much time they'll have to put into teaching online without directly asking the question.

Yesterday one of our program directors called to ask about contact hours in an online class. Apparently a faculty member she's working with needed to know "how many contact hours will be required" before he would commit to designing, developing, and teaching an online course. I hadn't seen that fancy step before, but it shows how lithe faculty can be on their feet.

Rather provide a description of how contact hours work in an online courses, I sent up a general description of faculty workload for an online course, which I found in a new and incredibly useful book titled The Online Teaching Survival Guide by Judith Boettcher and Rita-Marie Conrad. The authors claim that because a 3 credit F2F course typically represents 20-25% a full- time faculty workload (assuming a 4-5 course load), faculty are working 8-10 hrs. per week on that course (representing 32-50 hours per week just on course-related activities). For an online course, after an initial investment of time (tools training, resource collection, course building, etc.) faculty should therefore be spending no more than 8-10 hrs. per week on course-related activities.

While I like the generalization about time commitments, I see some problems with using this model as a standard reply to the question about workload. My principle hesitancy is that the model assumes faculty put in 8-10 hrs. per week on each class they're teaching. This is more likely and average time commitment over the course of a semester, rather than an actual time-on-task commitment each week per each course taught. I see faculty recoiling from the idea that for their online course, they'll be actively working 8-10 per week for the duration of the course. My opinion here has little to do with faculty work ethics. I'm more worried about complicating the dance with the misconception by many faculty that online teaching is easier than F2F instruction. This isn't about the politics of dancing with faculty, it's about first getting them out on the floor. The invitation has to be appealing, nonthreatening, and genuine.

That's why we have our work cut out for us.

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