Slice the Pie

In Minds Online, Michelle Miller writes about the “third shift” problem in online learning. The first and second priorities are work and family, in either order. Schoolwork is the third shift. It’s often relegated to the night or whenever the first two “shifts” are completed. It means school work is getting done when the student is tired. I like the analogy. It’s pertinent in other learning contexts, not just online.

At this point in the term, I’m experiencing increasing demands on my time, just like my students. In particular, writing for my blog sometimes falls to the third shift. I enjoy writing. I love what I learn from writing about teaching and learning. Yet, because blogging is important, but not urgent, it gets pushed down the priority list.

That got me thinking about my students’ time management, academic pressures, distractions, and priorities. I added office hours this week, a couple days before a test, and no one dropped by. Emails suggest students have questions, but couldn’t find the time to see me.

What can teachers do to shift their course to first or second shift?

Use the learning management system’s data to gain insight about when, how often and how long students are working in your course. Recently, I noticed more students are waiting to the last minute to submit assignments. Deadlines are increasingly being missed.

Miller suggests assigning small stakes work early in the term to get students into the habit of working in your course regularly. She also recommends scheduling synchronous work (interactions) if you suspect students are slipping in bits of work at odd times and aren’t devoting sufficient chunks and frequency to foster learning. These strategies work in online and resident environments.

After the break, I’ll add mid-week deadlines to reduce procrastination. This is particularly important because our course meets once per week. I will consider offering a small bonus for “early” submissions on the remaining assignments.

Attention, like time, is a finite resource. It’s like a (pizza) pie. How are your students dividing the attention pie? Is your course getting a wedge or a sliver?

Slice of shole pepperoni pizza on wooden background.Selective focus in the middle of slice

What strategies do you use to promote student interest and timely effort throughout the term?

Reference: Miller, M. 2014. Minds Online, Teaching Effectively with Technology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


About Lolita Paff

Educator. Wife. Mother. Amateur chef. Wine lover.

Posted on November 17, 2015, in Learning, Students, Teaching and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Interesting observations. My time is allocated in those same three shifts.

  1. Pingback: Resources, Strategies & Advice | Guide on the Side

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