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Top Ten Online Workload Management Strategies

Recently the University of Waikato Teaching Development Unit published their TDU Talk magazine - an issue with the theme Towards the University of the Future.

All of the articles related to elearning in some way - to read, click this link:

One of the articles looked at the top ten online workload management strategies experienced e-lecturers use to manage their workload.  

Top Ten Online Workload Management Strategies

E-teaching (teaching online) is different from teaching in a face-to-face environment.

Recent research in four Australian universities indicates that :

 “New methodologies have increased both the number and type of teaching tasks undertaken by staff, with a consequent increase in their work hours”.

Some in-house research, interviewing experienced online lecturers, is the basis for this handout, which outlines a range of strategies these lecturers have developed to manage their online workload.

While not intending this set of strategies to be a ‘recipe’ or formula, this range of ideas may be useful to  staff teaching online on a ‘try it and see if it works for you’ basis.

Design it in plenty of time not ‘just in time’

Online teaching workload was considered to be much more easily managed if the online paper was completely or substantially ready in terms of resource items and student activities before the course was opened for student interaction

Talk to me in Moodle

Limiting lecturer-student communication to the tools available in the Learning Management System (LMS) was a common strategy. The Dialogue tool for private 1-1 discussions with students was noted as very useful. Keeping the communication within the boundaries of the LMS helped prevent email overload, missed emails through institutional spam filtering and also provided a reliable history of communication around ‘high stakes’ items such as assignments


Little and Often

Online teaching has a different rhythm to face-to-face teaching – the pattern that most experienced lecturers preferred was a ‘little and often’ approach, logging on to the online papers several times a day at both regular and irregular intervals throughout the working week. This enabled them to keep up-to-date with discussion forums, as well as intervene quickly when a crisis occurred.

Leave Me Alone… I’m Teaching

Experienced lecturers employed  some  strategies which were aimed at safeguarding online teaching time – for example the simple strategy of a putting a sign on their office door when they were doing online preparation. Another strategy was blocking out that time scheduled for online teaching in their Google diary, so they could spend that uninterrupted time focussed on online teaching tasks.  Diverting the office phone to voicemail during designated online teaching time also helped lecturers achieve uninterrupted blocks of time.



Talk to Me Time – Not Anytime

One lecturer had a strategy for supporting students new to elearning of giving a designated phone-in time for the initial weeks of the course  (e.g. 11.30 am – 1.30 pm ).This was a time she set aside to work in her office so she was always available to answer calls immediately if students phoned in. She found this reduced student anxiety and paid off in terms of support workload later in the course, with fewer enquiries or requests for assistance, as well as reducing drop-out rates of students.

Don’t be a Lone Ranger

Team teaching was identified as both a workload creator (e.g. team co-ordination meetings) but it was also viewed as a workload management enabler – for example other lecturers being able to help moderate or manage online discussions, and provide online cover for a lecturer when they were sick or had an unpredictable crisis. In addition using the other team members as a sounding board for ideas when a problem had to be solved was identified as a useful strategy.

Listen to Me

One of the substantial workload elements for online lecturers is giving personalised feedback to online students. Three lecturers reported that they found doing short podcasts as a way of giving student feedback a more efficient way of working than typing substantial text-based feedback, using freely available podcast software (e.g. Audacity). This was also seen to have benefit in making the course more personal for students and improving the ‘teacher presence’ element of the online learning experience.

3 b4 Me

Another innovative strategy reported by several staff was the ‘3 b4 me’ protocol. In other words, if you have made a discussion post, wait for at least three other people to respond before posting again on this topic. In some papers this has been found to be a useful protocol both for students and for lecturers, to help manage any over-involvement and possible domination of the online discussion.

Have You Got the Answer? 

This strategy involved waiting to see if students could sort out issues and questions among themselves… some papers had a ‘questions for anyone’ discussion forum to facilitate this. Waiting to see if students could resolve things for themselves rather than ‘diving in and fixing it’ was often seen to be a more effective and efficient way of managing problem-solving in an online paper.

Time to Grow

Another strategy that one participant outlined related to lecturer input to discussion forums, which the literature notes as another major component of elearning lecturer workload. This involved progressively less lecturer input as the course went on. The lecturer made the level of input s/he was going to give to each discussion explicit at the start of each week of the course as part of a weekly news forum posting. The lecturer talked about this as a strategy relating to the explicit overall course goal of growing the students to be ‘autonomous learners’ in the online environment.


Bright, S. (2012). eLearning lecturer workload: Working smarter or working harder? In M. Brown, M. Hartnett & T. Stewart (Eds.), Proceedings of ascilite 2012, 25-28 November, Wellington, New Zealand.


Tynan, B., Ryan, Y.,Hinton, L., & Lamont Mills, A. (2012). Out of hours Final report of the project e-Teaching leadership: planning and implementing a benefits-oriented costs model for technology-enhanced learning. Strawberry Hills, NSW Australia: Australian Learning & Teaching Council.




































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