Three Practices To Assist Learner Time Administration
Successful learning requires time management
“I barely managed to keep up. It definitely had an impact on my learning. I wish I had more time.”
“I fell behind. How long will the course be held open?”
“I’ve had a number of work emergencies and I’ve lost track of time. I can’t finish the course.”
If you’ve been involved in moderating one or more online courses, these comments are likely all too familiar. While there can be many things behind these statements, one important factor is time management.
As an online learning designer, developer, and facilitator, it is easy to focus all of your energy on helping your learners succeed by mastering the required knowledge and skills while ignoring the essential things that make it possible. In other words, when learners fail at time management, it doesn’t matter how good your content is or how engaging your activities are – the knowledge and skills are not acquired. So how can you help?
1. Know the time requirements and limitations of your learners
Different factors affect the time it takes a learner to attend the course. Here are 5 to consider:
- Digital competence
How familiar are your learners with the online platforms you will be using? In general, how comfortable are you with online learning? Provide guidance material on how to use the platforms in advance. Be aware that online learning tends to be more self-motivated and self-directed than face-to-face training. See “Deliberately Facilitating” below for ideas on how to help learners do this.
- Language skills, fluent
How fluent are the learners in the language of the training? Do you feel equally comfortable writing, speaking and listening? The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework suggests offering content and activities in multiple formats whenever possible. For example, this can help learners who find it easier to listen than to read. You may also consider giving additional time or other support to learners in need.
- Accessibility requirements
Do the learners need additional support such as screen readers, additional processing time or materials in a different format? Follow the accessibility requirements of your country and incorporate insights from the UDL framework.
- Familiarity with the concepts
Are your learners beginners? Experts? Somewhere inbetween? Beginners will likely need additional time to learn new concepts, but experts tend to act faster. Differentiate between “nice to know” and “need to know”. You can always offer additional resources for those who want to go deeper. Please see this article for more information.
- Complexity of the subject
Are there any aspects of the content that need more time to be fully processed? Allow extra time to work on complex topics and provide additional support to learners who need them.
Various factors also affect how much time a learner can devote to training. Regardless of how you met the above requirements, you need to be realistic about what you’re asking of learners, especially since learners typically only have 24 minutes a week to focus on learning and development [1 ]. Here are 6 considerations:
- working hours
Are you full-time, part-time or volunteer?
- Internet access, speed
Is your access consistent or are there interruptions? How fast is your connection?
- Device access
Do you have your own device or do you share it with others?
How interested are you in the topic? Is it compulsory or optional training?
- Supervisor support
Has your supervisor / manager released you to attend the training?
Do you work from home or from an office? Do they have their own work area or are there lots of distractions?
2. Use your tools
A course sketch is a simple tool that can provide information about the course content as well as clear guidelines on the time required for the training. How long does the education last? Are learners expected to register at certain times or on certain days? Are there any planned lessons? How much time can learners expect when they sign up? Do you need to plan tasks in advance, such as scheduling a meeting to practice a performance review?
In addition to the course outline, create a simple course checklist and schedule that lists the items to be done and their due dates. Give learners space to tick things off as they go. While most Learning Management Systems (LMS) have online tracking options, it can still be helpful to have a one-page list of requirements that can be saved and / or printed for easy reference. You can even use it to track progress throughout the course.
Tip: If you have asynchronous course discussions, encourage your learners to block the time they need to immerse themselves in the course material before posting. Also, encourage them to post early so that there is time to interact with the other attendees.
If you’re using an LMS, it likely has a number of features that help in good time management. For example, you can create automatic reminders of due dates or simple encouragement to keep going. You can also show / hide modules or activities according to your schedule to keep everyone at the same pace.
3. Deliberately facilitate
Not all learning experiences are facilitated, but for those who are, there are deliberate practices that you can use. Here are 4 ideas:
- Offer “office hours” for additional support or even schedule check-ins with individual learners. Not only do they help learners manage time, but they can also address questions, concerns, or misunderstandings.
- Form study partners or small groups who can provide social support and accountability.
- Schedule live classroom sessions to discuss what was done asynchronously. This will convey to the learners that asynchronous work is important and they will be responsible for it.
- Register with learners who have not logged in and / or have started the course (this must be done quickly for shorter courses). You can consider setting a deadline and letting learners know if they haven’t started by then, they have the option to take the course at another time.
In addition to the above, you can share specific practices with your learners that will help them manage their time well. Here are a few ideas:
- Find out the best times of the day to study and block that time.
- Remove or reduce distractions when possible. Put your phone on mute. Turn off notifications on your computer. Go to a separate room or area.
- Block time on your calendar like you might if you were taking a classroom course. Typically, shorter blocks of time work better than long periods of time.
- Activate your out-of-office replies. Communicate your availability with your executives / managers, employees who report directly and / or team members
- Set reminders on your phone for important due dates
- Think of learning as part of your work day and worth your time
You can help your learners manage their time well by:
- Know the time requirements and limitations of your learners
- Use your tools
- Deliberately facilitate
Putting these things into practice increases the likelihood that your learners will be well managing their time so that they can master the knowledge and skills in the education.
 Attention, corporate learning: this is where disruption comes in