Strategies for managing time online


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Online courses can feel overwhelming as they are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Without a regular face-to-face class, it can feel like you should be on the course site at all times. Some faculty find themselves spending more than 40 hours a week facilitating online courses (Mandernach et al., 2013). Consider using the following strategies for successful online teaching, organized into four categories of managerial, pedagogical, technical, and social strategies (Berge, 1995), to keep your online course manageable for both you and your students.

Managerial strategies are the procedural or administrative tasks related to planning a course, clarity of expectations, and instructional leadership.

  • Set designated online and offline times: Your course site may be open 24-7, but instructors cannot be constantly available. It’s important to set boundaries. Set aside a consistent time every day for course-related work such as responding to emails/discussions and grading assignments. Create specific online “office hours” (e.g. in a Zoom session), where students know when they can reach you.
  • Establish rules and regulations: Communicate your expectations to students early in the course through a welcome announcement or a video introduction. Explain how they should begin the course and what they can expect from you as their instructor (when they can expect an e-mail response, a grade on their assignment, etc.).
  • Save frequently used comments: Save and organize your frequently used grading comments as well as responses to commonly asked questions in a Word document. This way you can copy and paste comments instead of retyping them each time. Commonly asked questions can also be compiled and posted in the FAQ sections of your course. 

Pedagogical strategies are tasks related to the design or delivery phases of an online course that are grounded in certain pedagogies (e.g., setting learning objectives and aligning them with activities and assessments, and creating opportunities for student engagement).

  • Create a roadmap for students: Be clear with your expectations for students each week. Provide short weekly introductory posts to communicate what is happening for the week, any deadlines, activities, and anticipate student questions. At the end of the week post a summary or wrap up. If you prefer, write these in advance and schedule your posts.
  • Discuss strategically:  Do not try to respond to every discussion post. Choose teachable moments to jump in and move the discussion along. Consider assigning student roles such as “discussion facilitator” as part of their engagement in the course. Build-in opportunities for peer feedback in order to encourage interaction among your students.
  • Consider the text effect. Online courses tend to involve a lot of written communication (for both you and students). Factor the extra time this will take into your lesson plans and adjust accordingly. Try adopting different communication methods like video updates or voice feedback (while being mindful of accessibility).

Technical strategies aim to make the technology used for your online course transparent and user-friendly in order to support and promote existing learning opportunities.

  • Dedicate time for a technology orientation. Dedicate time in the first week to help students get to know the technology used in your course. Assign activities such as a Brightspace “Scavenger Hunt” and Zoom Tour for Students. It will save everyone time in the long run!
  • Highlight student supports. Let students know where to get support when needed (e.g. academic supports, technical supports). This will help students direct their questions to the right person at the right time.
  • Consider audio comments and other functions of Brightspace: Record audio comments directly into students’ assignments if you find it more time-efficient than typing them. Schedule weekly announcements and assignments in one sitting so that you do not have to remember to post them later in the course.

Social strategies help to create a friendly and safe online learning environment that promotes a better connection between peers, instructors, and course content. 

  • Create a community Q&A: Use the Q&A Forum to reduce the number of individual student emails that you’ll get during the course asking the same question. Besides, another student may be able to answer the question for you. This encourages students to post in the forum before emailing you and encourages them to help each other.
  • Provide opportunities for smaller-group interactions: In large courses put students into small groups for asynchronous discussions. Encourage them to collaborate, discuss, debate, interact, and provide feedback to one another within their groups. You can also create an open Zoom room for them to meet to discuss their work on assignments and projects.

Hear advice from experienced online instructors in the following five-minute clip from The University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia.


Berge, Z. L. (1995). Facilitating computer conferencing: Recommendations from the field. Educational Technology, 35(1), 22–30. Retrieved from

Mandernach, B. J., Hudson, S., & Wise, S. (2013). Where has the time gone? Faculty activities and time commitments in the online classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 10(2), 1–15. Retrieved from:

Northwestern University – Distance Learning. (2018). Time management strategies for teaching online. Retrieved from:

Oyarzun, B., Martin, F., & Moore, R. L. (2020). Time management matters: Online faculty perceptions of helpfulness of time management strategies, Distance Education, 41(1), 106-127. doi: 10.1080/01587919.2020.1724773

Raines, D. (2011). Be efficient, not busy: Time management strategies for online teaching. Retrieved from:

Stepp, S. (2020). Transitioning to teaching online: Time. Retrieved from

University of Wisconsin – Stout. (2018). Time management strategies for online instructors. Retrieved from

About this post

This post was last updated:

September 25, 2020

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