Managing Workload: Remote Expectations for Students & Faculty

What can students and faculty expect in terms of workload during remote teaching? How can faculty plan to manage workload while meeting with students remotely? What assignments best meet the needs of faculty and students in their new remote classroom? After two semesters of working closely with faculty who teach Macaulay Honors seminars across a range of subjects, Teaching and Learning Collaboratory Fellows (TLCs) Frieda Benun, Kelly Eckenrode, Amanda Matles, and Andres Orejuela suggest practical advice for faculty as they consider student and their own workload expectations during remote teaching. As with most teaching, it is important to set clear expectations early, and revise them with students as the semester progresses.

A person on a unicycle juggling for a crowdAs the semester proceeds, please consider the following:

  1. Set classroom norms early: Students may not realize that a remote classroom requires many of the same norms as an actual classroom. A reminder is not only helpful for students, but also allows faculty to continue many of their long-established classroom practices, reducing the need to reinvent the wheel entirely!
  2. Check-In: On the one hand, most faculty already check in with students across the semester for feedback. During remote teaching this is especially important, as students can help faculty understand what has been successful and suggest options to address any challenges. On the other hand, Macaulay Honors faculty can check in with other faculty across Macaulay, with  TLCs, and with TLC Staff to see what has worked for them or simply talk through questions and remote teaching experiences. Feedback is key, so be sure to have a system to receive it.
  3. Focus assignments: One of the major challenges for faculty is redesigning assignments for a remote classroom. A helpful way to solve this problem is by focusing on what the assignment assesses: by picking one or two main competencies in an assessment, faculty can design an assignment that is manageable for students and avoids unnecessary steps. A good example is removing the movie or podcast as a final product from an assignment while still asking students to submit a script that allows faculty to assess student storytelling abilities.
  4. Creative assignments: Students and faculty alike will spend more time in front of their computers during remote teaching, so creative assignments that ask students to spend time with pen and paper, at the window, or even outdoors (when safe) give everyone a chance to engage with class skills in an exciting, practical, and potentially memorable way.
  5. Create more student-led class discussions: Remote classes lack the important social interactions of in-person learning. It is important to create new ways for students to connect, and the instructor to take a step back. Let the students lead conversation and as an instructor: be open to the direction this might go and resist the urge to jump in too often. Even during awkward silences or off-topic discussions. Sometimes, it is more important for students to connect, then to solely focus on course content.
  6. One-on-one: Consider one-on-one meetings with students and assigning these meetings with TLCs too. These meetings offer a different way to check in with each student and can be scheduled across the semester in accordance with particularly important assignments.
  7. Contingency plans: Assignments may change in the middle of the semester, topics that were unintended may be more interesting than expected, and students may ask to pursue specific topics. Be prepared to switch plans while maintaining key competencies that can be explored in different ways in many versions of an assignment.

In addition to these tips, we recommend considering how to use Macaulay Honors College’s Eportfolio system to manage and set workload expectations. Contact your TLC to set up a one-on-one consultation for this–we’re here and happy to help.


Credits: Post based on a planned TLC workshop in January 2021 by Frieda Benun, Kelly Eckenrode, Amanda Matles, and Andres Orejuela; post drafted in March 2021 by Andres Orejuela

Featured image from The Pattern Library.

Post Image from Unsplash.

Last updated: March 25th, 2021.