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1.1 Create a schedule

In a face-to-face teaching environment, educators are not available to learners at all times of the day and night, every day of the week. When moving to an asynchronous online learning environment, it is tempting for learners to expect that educators should always be available. Therefore, educators should be supported to establish a set schedule of when they are, and are not, available to learners.

If students need synchronous support, you can schedule drop-in tutorials. Otherwise, educators, managers and collaborators/support staff need to establish expectations across the department (or across the institution) that messages and emails will be responded to within a specific time period. For example, if students contact an educator after a certain hour, they should be aware they will not receive a response until the following morning.

Similarly, educators should provide students with a schedule of expectations – giving them dates for each milestone in the course and following up when students miss core deadlines. Developing this schedule and issuing reminders is work that can be done together with collaborators/support staff, including those who are advising on learning design. Establishing expectations in this way will help to keep on track students who are less able to motivate themselves so they can progress through the course.

Information about core deadlines should be repeated often. Educators can do this, but the information can also be built into the learning environment. If there are to be synchronous learning events where participants are required to engage at the same time (such as webinars and group tutorials), students should be reminded of the event several times in the weeks and days leading up to each event. If there is to be a change to planned activities, for example if an educator will be away and unable to respond to messages for a few days, students should be informed well in advance, and an alternative person should be identified for them to contact if they need assistance urgently.

Educators will need to check at regular intervals how students are doing, evaluate their progression through the course materials, and ensure they are being supported. Collaborators/support staff can help with these checks, using data generated by the learning management system (LMS) or virtual learning environment (VLE) (see Section 3.1 later in this week). Students who respond negatively, and those who do not respond at all, will need an educator’s attention to help them develop study strategies to get them back on track.