By Kristen Stevenson

We are reminded everywhere we turn that these are not, well, normal times. It’s broadcast from the rooftops, on media and social media, in journal articles, and in conversations. We don’t need reminders to know that education is rapidly evolving, and that faculty are learning how to navigate technology on the fly. They are telling us the obvious.  

The good news is that we don’t need to return to the way that things were. This is an opportunity to rethink how we do things, from optimizing technology to help us be more efficient to learn how to unplug to nurture ourselves.  For many of us, it took a pandemic to realize the importance of self-care in the face of uncertainty, upheaval, and strife.

In her book Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes (2019), Flower Darby suggests that you consider your own scheduling preferences before you create assignment/project/quiz due dates. If you wish to spend time with your family or do activities on Sunday rather than answering questions about an assignment that is due that evening, consider changing the due date to Monday instead. 

Terada (2021) offers several suggestions on how to implement a healthier relationship with technology in the article Defending a teacher’s right to disconnect:

  • Give “permission to disconnect.” Be transparent with your students with the days and times that you will check your email. For example, you may tell your students that you check email between 9 am – 7 pm and to expect longer wait times on the weekend. Other faculty say that emails will receive a response within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on the weekend.
  • Be transparent about your obligations. Consider adding unstructured time such as responding to emails, grading, and class preparation to your calendar, just like you do with meetings and office hours.
tools to aid teaching

Here are some tools available through USC Upstate to further help you take back some of your time:

  • Use Blackboard to your advantage.
    • Require students to submit assignments in Blackboard rather than through email. The work will be in one location, you won’t accidentally miss an assignment within email, the rubrics are already built-in, and you significantly reduce the size of your inbox.
  • Acknowledge student presence in alternate ways.
    • Use Microsoft Forms to create surveys, polls, and quizzes.
    • Embed interactive third-party tools, such as VoiceThread or Perusall, in which the students may collaborate.
    • Try gamifying content.
    • Incorporate self-grading quizzes.
  • Schedule student appointments using Bookings or Starfish rather than email. Emailing back-and-forth is the worst way to schedule!

Make small steps to make your academic life more manageable, including using the technology available to you!

If you would like to learn more about how to use educational technology in your classes, teaching strategies, or course design, contact or book an appointment with a CAIFS team member.