MANAGING LARGE FORMAT ONLINE COURSES: AN INSTRUCTOR’S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL
Managing large format online courses can be challenging for even seasoned instructors. When well organized and planned, these courses can run smoothly, although they will nevertheless require significant thought, effort and instructor time. However, these courses can also turn into an instructor’s nightmare, becoming a bottomless drain of instructor time and effort, all the while leaving a trail of disengaged, confused and dissatisfied students—not to mention a discouraged and exhausted instructor (or instructional team). Since instructors have multiple other demands on their time, it is important that they are able to manage large courses with a reasonable investment of time and effort, and not be swamped with endless requests for the same information, have to deal with a litany of complaints from disgruntled students, or have to keep making adjustments to the course once it is in progress.
There are many considerations in planning, organizing and delivering large format online course that will provide a positive learning experience for students and, at the same time, keep the instructor’s workload reasonable. Good practices in online teaching such as creating a strong instructor presence, providing ample opportunities for interaction among students and building a learning community are, of course, as important in large format courses as they are in any instructional situation. We have described how to implement these strategies in an earlier paper . While briefly touching on these issues as they apply to large format courses, in this presentation we will look at the logistics of delivering effective large format courses. We will consider things like planning, course design, communication strategies, a well thought out syllabus, grading and rubrics, and maintaining personalization without overburdening the instructional team. When carefully and thoughtfully done, these can ensure that students can engage with the course and content, understand the sequence and nature of course activities and are clear about assignments and expectations. As well, it ensures that students have all information they need in a timely manner and that they receive consistent communications and feedback from the instructor or instructional team. When students are engaged and clear about what is required of them, instructors can manage the course with a reasonable effort.
There is little doubt that presenting effective large format online courses requires considerable time, effort and skill. It is the contention of the authors that the time and effort invested into planning and logistics, will actually save time later in the course by reducing the need for troubleshooting, thereby allowing everyone to focus on more productive instructional activities.
 P. Gabor, C. Ing (2018). Enhancing Student Engagement in Online and Blended Learning, ICERI2018 Proceedings, pp. 4180-4186. Sevilla, 2018.