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Table of Contents for "Seven
Principles Collection of TLT Ideas"
The fifth principle is
increasing 'time on task.' " Time plus energy equals
learning," wrote Chickering and Gamson. Technology can play
several, very different roles:
creating materials and
processes that attract students to spend more time in their
reducing wasted time (e.g., commuting time, standing in
lines, waiting for books), and
helping communicate to
students how much time and energy you and your institution
expect them to invest in their work. In what ways has
technology been used in your courses or at your institution
that, directly or directly, results in students spending
more time and energy in their studies?
you or your students ever use technology to increase time on
task (or reduce wasted time) in ways you don't yet see on
these pages? Please share a description with us.
And let us know if we can include your name and email in the
posting, so people can ask you questions.
Send your idea to Steve Ehrmann..
Turning in homework by electronic files
to a file server, or e-mailing assignments from the
students home to the instructor has made it convenient
for students to complete assignments on time.
I post all assignments on the web and
students can download, answer the questions and then
return to me. This eliminates the time spent by some
students to retype the assignment. I also make use of
interactive spreadsheets supplied with the text so
students do not need to spend time hand-calculating
mathematical answers. I am unsure about this, some
students don't seem to understand the concept without
working through the math -- any suggestions?
I think the ability to store work and
work-in-process on the school's network and particularly
to be able to access those files and folders from any
internet-connected computer minimizes some of the low
value time in getting to campus to access files or
copying and carrying files around. These facilities also
appear to have had some positive effect on minimizing
lost or corrupted files on floppy disks and the time
spent in recreating lost or corrupted files. Finally,
the ability to send file attachments with email has made
it easy for students to send me a draft of their work
for feedback at any time.
With randomly generated homework
problems, immediate feedback, and the opportunity to try
again, students view the homework almost like a game
with the challenge of getting all the problems correct.
As a result, they seem to spend more time than with
paper and pencil homework.
The availability of many research
materials on-line and through electronic databases to
which libraries subscribe should enable students to
access what they need from their homes or their dorms at
time which are convenient to them. Theoretically, that
would seem like a time and resources savings
(transportation, subscriptions, etc.) but may also
encourage sloppy scholarship, procrastination, and other
problems. The same types of rigorous standards for print
sources can be applied to e-sources, but that does not
guarantee thorough work.
Engaging Assignments Can Attract Students to
Spend More Time Outside the Classroom
My students remark that they spend a lot
more time researching web quest topics because it is
"fun." They enjoy technology and many students are
amazed to discover how creative they can be when
presenting historical subjects in the form of web
quests. Editor’s Note: I first heard about
this phenomenon in the 1980s, when a faculty member I
interviewed called it “capturing students’ beer time.”
The Blackboard course management system
encourages students to spend more time on-line in
discussions or chats; web searches usually seduce the
user into following various serendipity paths to new
material that would otherwise not have surfaced.
We are moving the class towards an
"optional" web-based format. Currently, streaming video
versions of all lectures are available on the web, so
students can access the material remotely. By this
summer, we'll also support online assignment submission
and testing. By providing students the ability to
control their grades by completing assignments and
passing oral exams, our course simultaneously: a) takes
more time than just about any other course (according to
student reports), and b) has a higher percentage of
A-grades than any other large size undergraduate course
in the major. Part of the reason the course demands so
much time is technology-related: just watching the
lectures and the task-specific .AVI (video) files takes
about 50% more time than a normal lecture-based course
would demand. Add to that, the demands of interacting
with the online message board, and the level gets even
higher. All of these, however, are optional. From the
very first day of class, our approach to students is to
encourage students to do what works for them (but to be
sure to do it!) Editor's Note: Clearly this
course is attracting students to spend more time on
task. I can't tell, however, whether the author thinks
that students spend more time on the video lectures
because the medium is a weak way to watch a lecture, or
whether, perhaps because students can "rewind" the
professor to watch points again, it's helping them spend
more time in order to better understand the professor. A
good topic for a little assessment in a course like
Students use computers for word
processing. That goes much faster and provides more
manageable revision tools than pencil/pen on paper or
Access to the Internet has changed
research possibilities. Students have access to much
more information faster than in the past.
Hot links to articles and other readings
means less time searching for materials in the library.
[Editor's Note: These, and
electronic reserves, also
save students time, compared with the days when they
might have to wait for another student to finish using
In music courses, high tech ear training
, music sequencing, and keyboards allow much more time
experiencing the theoretical concepts being studied
about harmony, rhythm, etc. We just got our lab this
year - it's a sea change for us - but it will take us a
long time to make it work efficiently , as the faculty
learn the software, classroom management in a high tech
environment, and so on.
Editor’s Note: Ear training has been traditionally
done with a piano, and has required two students: one to
play the note and the learner who must name the note
that has been played. The use of computers for ear
training, which goes back at least 15 years, can speed
up this process, not least because a) the student does
not need to reserve a piano, and b) does not need to
find someone to play the notes.
E-mail seems to be a big factor. Students
no longer have to negotiate appointments during office
hours or other limited time slots. They can pose a
question--or even ask for an appointment--at their
convenience, and professors can respond in kind.
Some of our classes were held entirely
online, in a chat environment, requiring management of
time critical in order to cover the materials,
therefore, off-topic conversation was minimal.
Saving Commuting Time
Students who live off campus do not
always have to drive into campus, with limited parking
to talk to their professors. E-mail messages are quickly
replacing the live visit to professors and probably
encouraging more students to talk to professors since it
is less scary to them to write rather than face
professors face to face.
Blackboard, again, was my best example of
this - students were able to get in and discuss and find
jumping off points for research as well as download
assignments in ways that helped them save trips to
campus to do that (or to make better use of that time on
campus when they did).
Our students are pampered. We register
them on the night of their first class, so they don't
have to make a special commute. That means we have four
different registrations--one for each class night (Mon,
Tues, Thurs) as well as Saturday morning. The plans are
in the making for designing an online system of
registration which may be in use as early as next
semester. We also give them the books for their next
class on the last night of their previous class. Both my
office and the finance office remain open each class
night for their convenience. Editor’s Note:
I’m not a fan of calling students “customers,” any more
than I usually think of a doctor’s patients as
customers. But “pampering” seems an
odd phrase to use, too. Are we
pampered when our newspapers are delivered to our homes?
When the radio works every time it’s turned on?
Our ancestors might have thought so. We usually
just think that convenience is part of what we’re paying
One of the major contributions of the
library has been the redirection of funding into
electronic resources, which has considerably reduced
time needed to travel to the library, and locate and
photocopy materials. Students are also able to recall
items out on loan using the electronic library
catalogue. Searching for journal articles using
electronic bibliographic databases has been a major time
saver for students
We also use electronic reserves at the
library which has cut down on photocopying and has made
student access to reserve materials much more efficient.
Students have commented on how useful they felt that
access was. I have to say, since loading materials on
electronic reserve, I have noted an increase in the
quality and completeness of student response to reserve
assignments -- they are actually READING the assigned
essays! Access helps.
Use of the Calendar in WebCT to promote
planning by students. Can also use the Calendar to
highlight particular content or web resources to be
ready for in-class discussion.
Remind students in different media such as
in-class and on-line about the expected
completion dates for projects. (Virginia Arp, Gannon
Student participation has been required.
Students are strongly encouraged to log on to the course
3 times a week. The entire course is asynchronous so the
timing of these course visits is up to the individual.
Each student is required to answer weekly
discussion questions; therefore, each student has to be
in the material at least once a week. They have a week
to respond, so they can do it when they have the most
I divide the project in milestones, and
assign a new milestone each week. It works pretty much
like a novel: they don’t know how it will end, and as
the term progresses, they are so interested in
completing the milestone at hand, that they don’t’
realize how much they are learning about a specific
topic. At the end of the project, I make them look back
at how and what they have learned. Technology is key in
this aspect. Each milestone includes online research,
sharing current articles, reading them online,
participating in threaded discussions, and even testing
out the software
One excellent way our institution has
encouraged students to reduce time on task through the
use of technology is through a program where every
incoming student is equipped with a computer. This year,
we transition to providing students with laptop
computers rather than desktop (previous practice).
Students are often seen carrying their laptops with them
on campus, are checking email between classes, working
on assignments, taking notes in class with laptops. I
think this is a great demonstration of efficiency.
To reduce student "down time" our
institution [Monash University, Australia] has set up an
IT help desk service where students meet most - the main
university centre. IT self-help tools are also available
online so students don't need to wait to hear back on an
IT query. Kiosks are dotted around all campuses for
students to access all of their details and units, etc.
Student Time is Limited So…
When I assign more on-line lab exercises
for students to do, I allow them more "release time"
from class in order to do these things. Even with
technology, I shoot for a "2 hours outside to 1 hour in
All of my online students comment that
they are spending more time in the online learning
environment. Editor’s Note: They may be
spending more time. But it’s worth trying to using
surveys, interviews, or discussion to figure how they
are spending their time. Some may be spending more time
because they’re unfamiliar with the medium. Some may be
spending more time because instructions for assignments
are not well-written for online use Some may be spending
more time because they want to: the assignments are more
interesting. And so on. Depending on the reasons,
“spending more time” may be a) a triumph, b) a problem
to be fixed, c) a temporary situation to be endured.
tools such as Flashlight Online can be useful in
doing this kind of diagnostic work.
Without Data, It's Sometimes Hard to Know
Whether Students Are Spending Time Productively
I have heard from several distance
students that the course is much more time-consuming
than they ever imagined but that it's well worth it.
Online learning means accepting that
responsibility/challenge to stay on task and sometimes
that's hard when students are used to surfing the Web--
they might spend 4 hours reading, listening, being
entertained, and LEARNING, but not necessarily complete
whatever was assigned for the class and thus not "make
the grade." Yes, they spend less time commuting and
dealing w/ logistics of being on campus, and that allows
for some extra time to delve into their interests;
self-motivation is a great factor but even distance
students can be prompted to participate on a regular
basis through interaction w/ others via projects,
presentations, discussions, etc, which are all easily
facilitated via e-courseware.
Many students and faculty say that a
web-enhanced course takes additional time to a class
meeting--I'm not so sure this is helpful always, but may
just add to the stress
Going 'paperless" has saved me much time
on task. I no longer need to search through piles of
papers for those handed to me in the hall, or late, or
in my mailbox. They are all together--in a computer
file--providing I have kept up with e-mail and checking
the class website and filed them then. I ALWAYS file an
assignment the first time it is opened online. That was
not possible with paper versions.
I have used a database approach to
cataloging and utilizing the "teaching treasures" that
have been collected over the years. This database allows
me to have a much greater chance of utilizing these
teaching treasures whenever they apply
The publisher of one of our texts
provides a tutorial CD and website as well as online
course support. We encourage our students to access
these supplemental services.
With my advisees, I use our institution's
web page to check transcripts, registration
possibilities, and answer their questions.
Please send your suggestions, especially your TLT ideas,
to Steve Ehrmann (ehrmann @ tltgroup.org).
Return to Table
of Contents for "Seven Principles Collection of TLT Ideas
for Improving Teaching and Learning"