Want a wedge or just a slice?

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.

For example, writing for this blog sometimes falls to the third shift. I enjoy writing. I love what writing reflectively teaches me about learning. But because blogging is important, but not urgent, it gets pushed down the priority list.

I suspect our courses are often treated similarly by students. Emails suggests students have questions, but can’t always find the time to see me in my office.

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 on your course. Are students waiting to the last minute to submit assignments? Are deadlines being missed?  Have a conversation with the class about punctuality and deadlines.  Seek their input and feedback and adjust if appropriate.

Miller suggests assigning small stakes work early in the term to get students into the habit of working on your course regularly and often. 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.

Consider mid-week deadlines to reduce procrastination. This is particularly important in a course that meets weekly. Offer a small bonus for “early” submissions, to encourage timely effort.

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