These days, more and more faculty members are teaching both traditional face-to-face (F2F) teaching and online courses in the same semester. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Some equivalency studies have shown that there is little difference between online and traditional classroom instruction when taught by the same professor in the same semester, which makes traditional faculty more comfortable about trying online courses.
- A study by researchers Mischelle Taylor Stone and Suzanne Perumean-Chaney shows that instructor experience teaching online courses improves their performance in their traditional courses.
- Many traditional faculty members have discovered the benefits of online teaching and have added such courses to their schedules.
- Lower salaries and budget cuts have led more educators to seek additional income opportunities through online teaching in addition to their full-time positions.
In addition, the majority of college faculties now consist largely of part-time or adjunct instructors who must teach at multiple schools and in multiple formats to piece together a full-time income. According to the Modern Language Association, “adjunct, contingent faculty members now make up over 1 million of the 1.5 million people teaching in American colleges and universities.” This has led to the creation of New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct and Contingent Equity, a non-profit organization that advocates for policies that will create greater equality between full-time faculty and their adjunct and contingent faculty colleagues.
While such initiatives are valuable, we also need to pay attention to the pedagogical needs of these hard-working adjunct and part-time instructors, who take on multiple burdens without much financial reward or, often, full access to all of a college’s resources. It gets even more complicated than that for instructors who teach in both online and physical classrooms. The delicate balance of different schedules and workloads for different educational formats can be difficult to manage.
Here are seven basic tips to help instructors better manage this balance:
- Use the same textbooks: If you are teaching the same course in both formats and are able to choose your own texts, try to use the same textbooks. Make sure that you evaluate the textbook to make sure it will work for both formats, including whether there is an online version. The advantage of using the same book is that it will cut down on the amount of time you spend flipping between different books, and will prevent confusion over what you’ve covered in each course and how you’ve covered it.
- Hold separate office hours: There is nothing worse than trying to work with a student in your office than being interrupted by telephones calls, e-mails, etc. If you hold separate office hours for each format, you will reduce the number of students you have to focus on and be prepared for at one time, and will not have to jump back and forth between formats and different groups of students.
- Use separate e-mail addresses: Having a large number of students is confusing enough, and using the same email address for all your students might not help you keep the students in each format separate. This means you may have difficulty keeping track of the different needs of your students. For example, online students rely more heavily on virtual communication and may require more extensive explanations in an email than your traditional students. Using separate email addresses can help you keep track of the course in which a student is enrolled.
- Stagger due dates: A mistake I have learned the hard way is to create syllabi that require assignments on the same day from all my courses. If you are teaching both online and face-to-face courses at the same time, you may feel swamped as papers are submitted all over the place at the same time. Establish a schedule that keeps assignments and their due dates clear, and try not to cluster them together.
- Maximize your lectures for both formats: You can use the lectures you deliver in your traditional courses as part of the curriculum of your online courses by offering your online students the opportunity to watch them live, and by recording them for your online students to watch later.
- Use as many of the same student resources as possible: I have a standard hand-out on how to write a paper, and that doesn’t change with the course format, though the way it is submitted might. If you use as many of the same resource materials in your online courses as you do in your F2F courses, you create consistency in your teaching and grading.
- Examine your contract: All instructors must act as their own advocates. Examine your contract to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of by your employers. For example, some contracts specify the number of course preps, not the number of courses, for which you are responsible for in a given semester. If your college asks you to teach online and F2F, make sure that you are not going over the maximum number of course preps specified by your contract. If you are a member of a faculty union, check the particulars of the contractual agreement regarding online courses.
As you continue to teach in both formats, you will most likely identify other best practices for balancing your online and F2F teaching. Do you have any tips based on your own experiences? Share them here!