Staffing Online Courses

My district is going to start offering locally developed and taught online courses in the fall. We realize that course design must be different, but are there other pitfalls we need to anticipate?

There are several, but staffing is a critical issue that is catching many districts by surprise. Teaching online can become a 24/7 proposition. In addition to the regular work volume generated from planning and assignments, students and parents often come to expect that teachers will be available on demand via chat, email, and discussion boards. Many K-12 courses also require that teachers have at least one voice contact with students and parents each month.

It's no surprise then that recent research is showing that the time required to teach an online course far exceeds the amount of time spent teaching the same course face-to-face. This is an important issue to consider when staffing online courses. In order for these classes to be successful, it is imperative that the district establish realistic class size limits and identify the number of online classes a teacher can reasonably be assigned. However, K-12 districts currently tend to use face-to-face numbers as a basis for enrollment and for staffing online classes. There are even instances where online classes are packed with 40 or more students!

Avoid teacher burn-out and dissatisfied students by taking steps now to set realistic staffing goals for these courses.

Submitted by: Susan Brooks-Young

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