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?