Time-saving Tips for Teaching Online Part 1

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Commonly Used Software to Save Time

Teaching online courses is very time-consuming, especially if you have to build the course yourself.  Here are a  few tips to save time on various tasks. They include free or otherwise open education resources (OER) and premium software.

Assignments

Microsoft Word (premium software). Most educators know that MS Word provides the ability to give feedback on student papers through the Track Changes feature within its Review tool. However, most don’t realize that it also provides a way to automate common feedback through the AutoText tool.  To create your own automated personalized feedback, type word or abbreviation for common error and the corresponding corrective feedback and writing guidelines (i.e., APA or MLA) in a table. Then follow these steps:

  1. Highlight the text description.
  2. Select the Insert tab from the toolbar.
  3. Select Quick Parts in the Text section of the MS Office ribbon above.
  4. Then save the selection to Quick Part Gallery in Normal.dotm.
  5. Update name and description in the Gallery. If you make a mistake, edit the description provided by retracing your steps; it will ask if you want to redefine the Building Block entry when it detects similar content.

If the aforementioned directions don’t work for your version of Word, see their website. Not only will this save time grading, but it will help with consistency in feedback. I recommend providing the page number to the writing guidelines along with good examples as in Table 1. The more specific the better.

Table 1

Common Error with Corrective Feedback

doi Search for digital object identifiers (doi) at this site: www.crossref.org/simpletextquery. If you don’t find one for the article, provide the URL to its online location with the reference. See APA p. 49 for examples of references.

Google Classroom (free software). Google Docs also provides the option for corrective feedback on student writing. In this situation, you’ll need to be given access to the document and work within Google Drive or Google Classroom to use the tool. However, you’ll need to use Google Classroom to be able to save and reuse comments in their Comment Bank.

Content

Google Suite(free software). Google Suite of desktop publishing tools includes the following: Docs, Drawings, Slides, and Sheets. Because it’s cloud-based, after posting a link (or embedding them) in your online course or website, you can make updates from your Google Drive. This saves time when you encounter an error or need to make an update each term. You no longer need to remove it and upload a revised one as with MS Word or PDFs, which are static and based on your desktop.

Mobile Apps

To save time, install the mobile app for your learning management system (LMS) to readily access it on the go. This is helpful when you need to check something in the course that a student brings to your attention while you’re away from your computer. It’s also useful to see how responsive your course design is on a Mobile device.  Consider other mobile apps for commonly used ed tech tools for the online environment (e.g., Zoom for video conferencing, Google Drive for collaboration and storage, MS Word for publishing).

Quizzes

Respondus 4.0 (premium software) This is a Windows application that helps you upload your paper-based tests or surveys or that of your textbook publisher’s test bank to your online courses directly.  This will save you from having to create test questions one-by-one in the LMS if you already have it prepared. There’s only a little advance formatting of your paper-based test for it to be rendered by Respondus. See their website for tutorials.  Ask your instructional technologist to see if it’s available at your school. [Note: Respondus also makes test integrity software which is something altogether different.]

Blackboard Test Generator (OER). This software converts your electronic file tests (i.e., MS Word or Text) into LMS test questions. It’s hosted on this website where you copy-and-paste your test to convert it into a bbquiz zip file that can then be uploaded into your LMS when you create a new quiz. The directions on this website are fairly straightforward. After you convert the text, you’ll obtain a bbquiz zip file. This works much the same as Respondus. The limitation to this free software is that it doesn’t convert images; you’d need to add those afterward within the LMS. For a more robust conversion, see Respondus 4.0 above.


What are your time-saving tips? Please share those in the comment section! I’ll be updating this as I remember short-cuts in building and running online courses. Part II will cover some non-software tips such as Ctrl+Z to undo mistakes on the web or LMS platform when there is no undo button.

Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

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Author: teacherrogers

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