Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Co-teaching as a workload reduction strategy

I receive a lot of email from colleagues regarding an article I wrote on workload reduction for online teachers. In reflection, I realize that there is a workload reduction strategy I frequently rely on, but failed to mention in the article -- co-teaching. It is true that it can take additional time to coordinate with a co-instructor, but having taught online as a solo instructor and a co-instructor, I find co-teaching enriching for the learners and for me. Besides the multiple perspectives and complimentary strengths, the shared responsibility makes a big difference in terms of workload...when it works well. I have been blessed in two of the online courses I teach to co-teach with a colleague who is an excellent teacher.

When you teach online you want to be connected all the time -- to make sure you maintain a strong teaching and social presence so learners never feel isolated or disconnected. Co-teaching allows you to share the responsibility for being online all the time. For example, when co-teaching an online course a couple of years ago, I experienced a personal tragedy that required my full attention and all of my energy. I saw that my co-instructor was online and available for questions, so I gave myself permission to disconnect and focus my attention on my needs and my family's needs. If my co-instructor hadn't been available, I would have had to make a difficult choice -- not allow myself to take the time to work through a difficult personal situation, or to try to juggle both the needs of my family and the needs of my online students...which would most assuredly lead do me doing a poor job in both arenas, and possibly doing damage to key stakeholders in both arenas.

Workload issues in online education are challenging. It is important to think about your own well-being as an online educator, as well as the well-being of your learners, and build in some "training" for learners on how to reduce and manage workload and related stress.

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