Pennsylvania State University states a tougher expectation on teachers of one business day response, and a suggestion to monitor courses at least once on weekends:
Establish and communicate to students, early in the course, a regular schedule for when you will be logging in to the course.
Normally this is once per business day. Many of the students studying via the World Campus are adult learners who have work and family responsibilities. These students tend to be more active in courses on weekends, so you may wish to also include in your schedule time to monitor courses at least once on weekends.
Provide feedback to student inquiries within one business day.
Because online learners must manage their time carefully, timely instructor feedback is especially important to them. If
the you cannot provide a detailed response within one business day, we suggest that you respond to the student within one business day to simply let them know when a more detailed response will be provided.
John A. Dutton e-Education Institute
Best Practices and Expectations for online teaching
adapted from “Online Instructor Performance Best Practices and Expectations,” Penn State World Campus.
I have been wondering what is a reasonable and effective expectation for response to student inquiries, in an online course. The University of Southern Queensland is very much online for students. It has a statement of some minimum standards for online courses, which include some expectations for teachers of online courses:
USQ requires minimum standards in the operation of StudyDesk to support student learning.
- Checking of discussions and other student access areas on at least three  working days per week in order to:
monitor and moderate comments and discussion by students;
manage course operation by responding to student enquiries and learning activities.
Student requests for clarification or assistance should be responded to as soon as possible, but certainly within 48 hours during the working week.
This statement has an old-fashioned ring to it. The concept of the “working week” does not fit with the current goal of fitting courses to student desires, and enabling students to study at any time. (If teachers are checking Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday then a Friday query will not be answered within 48 hours: the weekend intervenes, when students are often studying but staff expect not to be on duty. It’s effective to have a day or two block time away from the inquiry desk, and the 3 days per week standard allows that: but teachers would have to work Mondays and Fridays to ensure 48 turnaround. Is 48 hours way too long anyway for the learner?
It’s a good start to have some stated targets for turnaround : if it means teachers will need to work in a larger team to get coverage of desired turnarounds, that can be negotiated with their managers; or if having a team is not possible, having a different way of working with the students, with longer turnaround of queries. Otherwise it’s not reasonable as a work requirement, and it’s not effective for good teaching or any interleaved good research, if that’s still part of the academic work requirement.
What’s the optimum response time for best learning? it must depend on the discipline area and the level. Is there any research reported?
The experience of some university academics teaching online is that they feel a need to answer student email and forum queries quickly, extending the teachers’ workload over the hours of the day (and night) even if handling each query is light work. Such immediate availability of the teacher is often regarded as a desirable aspect of new educational technology. But there’s another side: how do the students use immediate queries in their learning? The temptation to ask a question rather than think a bit longer is made even less costly if the question can be asked facelessly online, with no body language to read impatience in the teacher or reactions from the rest of the class about what’s a fair share of teaching attention. The unexplored trade-off is that a quick question may be less useful for learning than longer consideration. Michael de Percy [Political Science, University of Canberra] is quoted in Campus Review 17 April 2012
When I was online with Twitter and Facebook I found I did nothing during student semesters…. The more I was available, the less work they [students] did too. It just became unbearable and created stress and set an expectation that I couldn’t possibly meet.
For my public journal: topics in computer science education, ubiquitous computing – and bookbinding, mainly binding structure, some thing of bookarts.
You can see some early codex book bindings in the header picture, from the tomb of Gallia Placidia in Ravenna.