Does teaching online require quick responses?

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.


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