5. Emphasize time on task

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"Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time on task." -- Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson

Some assignments and course activities produce wonderful learning experiences for students Some are viewed as drudge work and don't produce the desired results. We think our subjects are important and interesting. Getting students to spend the time is a challenge.

For promoting student Time on task there are a number of technology-facilitated learning activities. These include web-based research, collaboration and presentation.


Time on task alone is not enough. There has to be real energy put in, as well.

Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time on task. Learning to use one's time well is critical for students and professionals alike.

Students need help in learning effective time management. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty.

--Seven Principles - Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson

There is no question that working independently on assignments - problem sets, essays that demonstrate analysis and critical thinking are important. However, the technologies are available to provide activities that encourage students to work on subject content in other ways - research, collaboration, presentation, share, analyze.

Students say...

  • Personally, I think that it is great that there is online group work in this class because I have another online class without group work and it is so boring.
  • I really liked that group that I ended up with [students pick a group using Choice to limit group size to 5 students]. We had lots in common and were able to voice our opinion on the topic at hand freely. Everyone was accommodating and worked well together.
  • I like how webcasted lectures enable students to be more flexible with their schedules. It was also very useful when I was studying for the midterms and final because I could go back and review any of the lectures to understand better what the professor was saying.
  • It became quite fun as well--I could sit on my bed with my laptop in my lap, comfortably listening to the lectures and learning about...

Enhancing Instruction

Interactive technologies greatly extend the level of resources that can be offered to students. The internet provides world-class lectures, videos, audio in addition to images and text. Encouraging students to avail themselves of these resources is much easier than getting them to go to campus libraries.

Media in Course Work

Many students enjoy watching and listening to their learning. For many students, being able to rewind and review lectures is invaluable.

There are plenty of well-respected instructors who have recorded their lectures and make these available. Even if their views and content isn't exactly in line with your course, these differences provide a wonderful opportunity for asking students to compare and contrast your course point of view or facts with those in the external content. Students spend time on task watching the video AND on the critical thinking assignments that you create to bring the students back into your focus.

Web-based Research

There are lots of different web search activities. For the module on research and trusting sources, I ask students to find a wikipedia article of interest to them and look at the history and discussion as well as the text of the article. I have them report their findings in a discussion so everyone can see their selections and analysis. The results are wonderful. For the most part Wikipedia is a good resource, but it is clear to students after this assignment, that they really need to find other sources as well - which was the learning objective.

Student Presentations

Using new skill or knowledge to create a product or deliverable is an important milestone in learning. Having students create presentations of their work reinforces their learning. Presentations can be PowerPoint slides, web pages, wiki entries - all can be shared with other class members who benefit from the work as well.

Top 100 tools

Share content with others. Make use of existing engaging content by using these three tools. You can use them to host and share your own content too.

Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms Digitally

Evaluating: Checking, hypothesising, critiquing, experimenting, judging, testing, detecting, monitoring, (Blog/vlog) commenting, reviewing, posting, moderating, collaborating, networking, reflecting, (Alpha & beta) testing. Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms Digitally http://www.techlearning.com/story/showArticle.php?articleID=196605124

Teaching and Learning

If the objective is to encourage students to spend more time and energy learning, using technology can facilitate the process by providing access to resources and guiding students to direct their own learning.

Course Organization

In-person classes tend to very linear. Presentation of material processes throughout the semester as directed by the instructor. Instruction that is enhanced with technology is not limited to linear, step-wise presentation - it can be but it doesn't have to be.

Depending on the subject, it may be desirable to have students direct their own learning and address lessons, or assignments in a sequence of their own choosing. This sounds somewhat chaotic, but it isn't using the course management tools provided. Allowing students to select among assignments, or even topics can encourage students to learn much more on all topics.


For the simple model used in the TSL workshop, each course module has a Notes and Assignment page. Everything for the module starts there. If you are in a big hurry, all the activities for the module are listed at the bottom of the Notes ans Assignments page.

Open Source Content

Rather than having to create everything from scratch, consider adding pre-made materials to your course. Many creative and computer literate instructors have gone ahead and made their work available to any faculty or students who wish to make use of it. One such example of a library of college-level course materials is the Sofia project made available through Hewlett Foundation funded project at Foothill. Sofia initiative includes courses in language arts, art, geography, music and computer programming. http://sofia.fhda.edu/

Other sources of open source content are maintained by MIT, Harvard, Rice University, UC Berkeley and many others. All the materials are available under the Creative Commons licensing that permits any use of the material.

Changing Discussion Posts

You have 30 minutes to edit a posting in the discussion forums. During that time, there will be a link "Edit" next to "reply" at the bottom of your post. It goes away after 30 minutes.

Students can "amend" their posts by Replying to it and adding a note there - the second post will then appear in the "thread" from the original post. It doesn't change the original post, but the additional information is recorded.

Faculty can delete posts. If you want to make a significant change, post the "correct" information. Delete the original, incorrect post.

There are a number of discussion management tools available - move, split. See the faculty guide for more information.

Learn more...

  • Rice University Connexions - view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc.
  • Harvard @home Program List - provides access to special lectures, talks, and public addresses. Topics include the current affairs, arts, social science, events, history, math, and more. You can choose between 3 different media players: Quicktime, Windows Media, or Real player. The clips can be quite long so plan ahead and test. Can be used in class or for personal development.

..return to Technology Supported Learning#5. Emphasize time on task and complete the activities - Explore, Learn and Apply