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Co-Teaching as a Strategy for Balancing Workload

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Lauri considers co-teaching to be a time-saving strategy for her heavy-content courses. In her language translation courses, in which learners can focus on different languages, dividing learners between instructors facilitates the teaching-learning process 



The posting below looks at some ways that co-teaching a course can help with managing your workload. It is from Chapter Two, Instructors' Stories for Balancing Workload, in the book, Managing Online Instructor Workload: Strategies for Finding Balance and Success, by Simone C.O. Conceição, and Rosemary M. Lehman. Published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint. 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA Copyright © 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.


Rick Reis

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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Co-Teaching as a Strategy for Balancing Workload


Lauri, an associate professor at a four-year institution, teaches three-credit online linguistics courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her course load is the equivalent of 2.5 courses per semester. She teaches during the regular 15 - or 16 -week semester with an enrollment of 10 to 25 participants per course. Lauri's online courses are content-focused, and she co-teaches them with a colleague. In addition to teaching, she also has administrative duties as a coordinator of a certificate program. Lauri dedicates one day a week for her research. In order to balance her research and service responsibilities, she is not involved with teaching during the summer term. She uses design, support, teaching, and time allocation strategies to balance her workload.

Design Strategies

When creating her online courses, Lauri uses a number of design strategies to balance her workload. She spends 20 to 30 hours a week for one online course, versus 5 to 10 hours a week for a face-to-face course, and uses the following strategies to reduce her workload: having another instructor teach the online course with her, structuring the course in an organized way, reducing required readings, providing clear guidelines for discussions, and dividing learners into groups.

Having a co-instructor work with her in an online course can be a time-saver when they assign each other tasks during the design phase. By designing a well-organized online course that is easy to follow, instructors avoid numerous questions from their learners at the outset of the semester. This can considerably reduce their workload.

Another design strategy that has been effective for Lauri is reducing required readings per learner. To do this, she divides the learners into two groups and assigns specific readings for each group. Each group can go into more depth with the assigned readings, and then share what they have learned with the whole class. This way of dividing the readings reduces workload without missing any of the content. An essential part of this design strategy is to develop clear guidelines for discussions when dividing learners into groups. Having learners form groups as a strategy for other aspects of the course, such as research projects and presentations, can also be an efficient way to save time.

Support Strategies

Lauri and her co-instructor also make use of support strategies before and during a given course, such as obtaining technical support through the institution's help desk during preparation stages, offering orientation activities as part of learner support in the beginning of the course, and sharing other learners' stories about their online experiences in previous courses.

Teaching Strategies

Lauri considers co-teaching to be a time-saving strategy for her heavy-content courses. In her language translation courses, in which learners can focus on different languages, dividing learners between instructors facilitates the teaching-learning process. Each instructor carries the teaching load for a specific language. Lauri accomplishes this by setting specific guidelines for each instructor's role. Also, she considers it very important to get to know the co-instructor well during the design phase. Some teaching strategies that she uses during course delivery are assigning group activities and giving rapid responses to learners via e-mail.

Time Allocation Strategies

Lauri and her co-instructor believe that it is essential to create instructor presence in their online courses. To do this in an efficient way, they have a light presence during the week by answering general questions in the discussion area, and a heavier presence at the end of the week when they wrap up the discussion. Another strategy they use is asking learners to summarize and lead discussions.

Lauri reduces her time on each online course by reading learners' work on two monitors, with one screen containing the source text and the other screen showing the target text to be graded. With this strategy, she avoids having to tab between files. Because her courses are content-intensive, she also sets up blocks of time for teaching during the week (three to four days per week) and tells her learners that she is not available on weekends. Because she uses this time allocation strategy, learners know what to expect from her.

Summary of Main Strategies

In Lauri's case, co-teaching seems to work as part of her design strategy for the type of online course she teaches. Setting up clear guidelines for co-teaching is essential for efficient and effective online course delivery. This strategy may not work for everyone, but it is an option. It is important that instructors check their institution's policies and procedures regarding co-teaching. The best strategies are the ones that fit with the individual instructor's teaching style and lifestyle.

Focusing on a course during the week and avoiding weekend teaching works well for Lauri as a way to distinguish between her work and personal life. Balancing between light and heavy instructor presence during the week is an efficient way to manage the teaching workload. Selecting one day a week to work on her research prevents distractions from other responsibilities and keeps her organized with her research tasks. Finally, leaving the summer term for service responsibilities and research helps Lauri balance her other academic responsibilities.