One of the ways we can set our online students up to succeed is to create a predictable classroom environment – an environment where students know exactly when they are expected to do what over the course of the week. How do they know this? Because those assignments are typically due at the same time every week. Of course, students can calendar themselves and make note of due dates, etc., but if assignment due dates and work schedules follow a predictable pattern anxieties are eased…and it makes our work easier too!
Lawrence Ragan, in a section of the Distance Education Report, writes:
“An instructional design model with consistent pacing and course activities allows the learner more control over their online learning experience. For example, if lessons begin and end on consistent days and assignments are due on a regular schedule the learner can plan other life activities around these aspects of their online course.
Where the course structure deviates from an established pattern, early notification and reminders are helpful in order to aid the learner in making the necessary adjustments.”
Ragan offers 4 strategies for creating predictability in your online classroom. These include:
- Have specific assignments due on specific days of the week. For example, students can expect that their initial responses to a discussion question are due on Thursday night, quizzes are due by Saturday night, and assignments and classmate forum response posts are due by Sunday night. Each week should be consistent, predictable, and create a reassuring rhythm. If one week a quiz is on a Monday and another week it is on a Thursday, this is unnecessarily confusing. Also, opening and closing modules on the same day every week is important as well. This gives the sense that “this week is over – assignments are all turned in – now we are on to something new.”
- Have the syllabus clearly outline due dates. Listing due dates in a calendar format might be particularly helpful.
- Use dynamic communications to alert students to changes in the predictable course calendar. For example, if a holiday lands on a Monday and a quiz is typically due on Mondays, send an email reminder to students that the quiz is due on Sunday or Tuesday instead. And/Or post it in the Announcements Forum that, hopefully, all students are subscribed to.
- Inform students of your work schedule. When students know when we are working, they know when to expect feedback and can better gauge the best time to contact us.
Comments or questions about creating predictability in the online classroom? Please comment below!