Slippery Fish – Jane Holbrook

fishI want to spend a little time … reflecting on time…How we spend or waste it, where we spend it and who we spend it with, is really the essence of who we are. We all have to make daily decisions on what we do with this very precious commodity. Our students make these decisions every day.

I googled the phrase “expect to spend” on the UW website and found many references to the amount of time our students are expected to spend on their studies. For instance, Distance and Continuing Education tells students that they will spend 10-12 hours per week on each distance course. Full-time students in the MTax program can expect to spend 50 hours a week on their studies, and Mechatronics students 30 hours a week in lectures, labs and tutorials and 30 hours a week on homework.

Of course there are many pursuits competing for our students’ time, and although they may include hanging with friends, checking out Facebook and playing games or watching TV online, our students are often working at jobs and commuting through heavy traffic to get here for classes and labs as well. Most instructors take great pains to make the time spent on campus full of valuable learning experiences. But this only covers about one third to a quarter of the time that we are expecting students to spend on their studies. Sometimes we are so involved with preparing those face-to-face experiences that we don’t take the same care to think about how our students will spend the rest of their course time. How can we make this time spent as valuable as the face–to-face time?

Here are a few ideas. Being creative is the key, I think.

Short podcasts that explain challenging concepts (these could even be excerpts from class) or that highlight what students should concentrate on to get the most out of assigned readings can be created quite easily, even if we are not particularly tech-savvy. Online spaces, where students can collaborate on anything from designing questions for an online practice test to exchanging photos of real life situations that illustrate concepts learned in the course, are also easy to set up in UW-ACE. Short online quizzes can help students gauge if they have grasped foundational concepts sufficiently to be prepared for the next class or lab. External learning objects, like animations or simulations, can be linked to assignments to help students “see” or interact with the problems they are grappling with. When we can give students access to these activities through mobile devices or the online environment, and link them to specific course outcomes, they are more likely to fit them into their outside-of-class, course-related time. Time invested by instructors to create these activities is indeed well spent.

As Sam Roberts (you can tell that I live with a teenaged girl) writes in his song Higher Learning, “Time is a slippery fish …”. Don’t let it get away.

If you would like help to introduce a new activity into your course, please contact your CTE Faculty Liaison .

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Jane Holbrook

As Senior Instructional Developer (Blended Learning), Jane Holbrook helps to develop faculty programming that promotes the effective use of the online environment in on-campus courses. Working closely with Faculty Liaisons, CEL (Centre for Extended Learning) and ITMS (Instruction Technologies and Multimedia Services), she helps manage initiatives related to “blended learning” courses. She received her BSc and MSc from Dalhousie University but has also studied Graphic Design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

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