For the first time since I started kindergarten twenty years ago, I am not enrolled in school. I have no new professors whose names I pray to pronounce correctly, no terrifying homework, no assignments that boggle my mind, and no lengthy lines outside the campus testing center. No, instead I am the new professor whose last name nobody can remember, who assigns terrifying homework and mind-boggling papers, but who stops short of sending students to the testing center. And I don’t have to go out and buy school supplies — the department provides them.
All in all, it’s a decent arrangement. I teach as an adjunct at a university that pays adjuncts relatively well, and I only teach three days a week. Those three days are long, mind you, but if I stay focused and grade in between teaching, I can leave everything in my office at the end of the day and focus on PhD applications, my writing, and other fun activities when I go home. But wait – I’m also teaching an online course. So where does that fit in?
Each week I learn a new lesson about online work, and last week’s lesson was simple: online work will take as much time as you let it. I learned this lesson as I hurried to meet the deadline of posting the first 25% of lectures, grading rubrics, discussion boards, etc. Because I was designing grading rubrics and assignment sheets, this work took much longer than I’d hoped it would, slowed down, of course, by my attempt to make work more fun by watching Netflix in the background. For a while I felt frustrated. I knew my first week teaching full lecture (in-person) courses at BYU was coming, and I wanted to either relax or prepare for those courses. And instead I was stuck in front of a computer, putting together materials for 13 strangers whose voices I will never hear.
But then, I finished posting materials for the first unit, and I saw a glimmer of light. I had two weeks before classes even started, and the majority of my unit 1 work was already done. Even as I type this article, I have a long weekend before my students start the course, during which I’ll try to put up another unit or two. In the future, when I have an entire course set up in advance, I’ll be able to fine tune without devoting hours to creating each unit.
So yes, online work might take more time than I’d prefer, but here’s the beautiful thing: I can control the time slots it does and doesn’t affect. For the next few days, I allot it no time at all.