- List every absorb, do and connect activity/assignment, both graded and not graded, (i.e. Readings, Discussions, Quizzes, Papers, Projects, etc.) in the appropriate week(s).
- List the points for each activity/assignment that have points.
from Tip One: Getting Your Online Course Ready, Judith V. Boettcher, Ph.D.
The Weekly Schedule is an overall course calendar that summarizes the course activities. The course calendar usually needs fine-tuning to ensure a balanced course design. A balanced course design builds in balanced dialogue, a range of individual and group activities, and synchronous and asynchronous events. Learners use this course calendar to integrate their life events over the term of a course. We recommend structuring the course as weeks following your topics. This provides a clear timetable. When you create your weekly schedule make sure learners have enough weekly online activities.
When you schedule your learning activities/assessments for your online course, you need to consider how you can help students learn as quickly and efficiently as possible, but also minimize their forgetting. In 1885 Hermann Ebbinghaus found we have not only a “learning curve” (where people take time to learn in the first place), but also a “forgetting curve” (where we lose what we learn if we don’t use it regularly).
Space your activities by breaking them up into a number of short sessions – over a longer period of time. Humans and animals learn items more effectively when they are studied in several sessions spread out over a long period of time, rather than studied repeatedly in a short period of time, a phenomenon called the spacing effect.
Spacing your activities is more effective than doing them in long concentrated blocks. Spacing is often overlooked since students and teachers commonly over-estimate how much has been learned, after a concentrated blocks of learning.
Predictable Weekly Schedule
The weekly schedule for on campus classes revolves around scheduled classes. These classes serve well as “pacing events” and accountability reminders for students. Regular weekly assignments and activities keep students engaged with the course content. Students find that a weekly rhythm for an online course provides similar benefits in keeping learners engaged without a physical gathering place. Is there an “ideal weekly rhythm?” Not really, but a predictable weekly plan guides the learning experience and communicates expectations for both faculty and students.
For example, an online discussion opens with a problem, question, or challenge on Monday, requiring an initial posting or response by Thursday and comments on other students’ posting by Saturday or Sunday. The faculty member then commits to commenting, summarizing on the posts by the following Monday.
Online students have busy schedules with competing responsibilities, such as parenting, working, and other life events. So, it’s critical to design your online course with a predictable weekly schedule. This will make you and your students lives easier.
Table 2 below is a sample weekly schedule for students in an online class based on a six day schedule. This schedule anticipates that most online learners will be using one of the two weekend days for their learning. It also assumes about 5 to 7 hours a week for one online course. Learners should plan on logging in to their online course at least two-three times a week at a minimum. The sample schedule below encourages this level of participation.
This schedule may change in the second half of the course when project and team work gets going. When group work is required, it is useful in the very first phase of a team project for learners to identify a time that works for a synchronous collaborative activity.
A weekly schedule makes expectations clear and helps students plan their daily personal and work life. It also helps to set those clear expectations that an online course requires regular commitments and interaction. Note the schedule categorizes activities into individual and group activities and also suggests weekly collaborative times when the instructor might be available by phone, IM, or live classroom time.
You determine the days/times for your monitoring and scanning of students’ work, responding to students’ questions, and providing feedback . Note the insertion on Tuesday of “special availability hours.” This might be a time for you to schedule an audio/ or audio and video question and answer time. Remember that these can be recorded and archived for other students who are not able to participate in a synchronous event. Faculty using synchronous events will often schedule these events on different days alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example, or even offering them twice a week, but always in consideration of their own schedule and the perhaps special considerations of students’ working lives.
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Step 3 – Predictable Weekly Schedule
Follow the steps below to create a Predictable Weekly Schedule.