Anitre Bell is a college success facilitator and instructor at Community College of Beaver County
The last few years of teaching have been challenging for everyone. Education as we know it has forever changed. I often asked myself, how will I connect with students in this climate? The word simplicity came to mind. When your environment has turned inside out, and processes flipped upside down, returning to basic principles is key. So here are four basic time-saving teaching hacks I have found myself returning to in order to make teaching in these transitional times a little easier.
Hack 1: Break up big projects to lighten your grading load
Grading can be very time-consuming, and if there’s not a plan in place, you could find yourself with 14 different projects, multiple-choice quizzes, essays and other assignments that need to be graded at the end of the work week—or over the weekend. If students are working on big projects, try chunking the project into different components that must be completed at given dates. This way you can grade as they work instead of waiting until the very end.
Hack 2: Use online grading tools for ease and instant feedback
I recently began using an online learning tool to help provide effective instruction for my students. The grading assistance functionality has been a lifesaver. It helps reduce the stress and time of grading multiple assignments in class, giving me back more time in my week for planning. But more importantly, it allows my students to receive immediate feedback on assignments and overall class progress, as they have the ability to see their grades in real time.
Hack 3: Organize class materials online for clarity and consistency
Organization is critical in a fluid online environment. Making sure everything has a place, and is thoroughly explained, is critical for your students’ success. Online tools, like Blackboard, allow you to create specific tabs for students to access such as weekly folders—which can contain assignments due that week and any relevant reading materials. The folders automatically open and close on certain days (e.g., Sunday to Sunday), so you can “set it and forget it.” This online structure provides clear assignment deadlines for students and helps create class consistency.
Hack 4: Set limits for checking your inbox
A constant stream of emails can be intrusive at times. Continuously checking your email requires a great deal of attention and can quickly take over your day. Every educator must execute a responsible plan for navigating the flow of emails from students, faculty, administrators and clients. I’ve found the most effective method for myself is to check email only three times a day; it provides a different touch point throughout the day, helps establish what is urgent or not and allows me time to address each email thoroughly.
Time is precious, and by sharing tips we can help each other manage our time more efficiently and effectively, while also providing a sense of stability in today’s often unstable teaching environment. I hope implementing one or more of these time-saving teaching hacks in your course will give you back a little time in your day.
Still feeling short on time and stressed to the max? Check out our eBook, How to Combat Burnout: A Guide for Instructors, for more time-saving tips and research-backed strategies.