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Assignments in the Online Course: How Much Is Too Much?

Guest Contributor: Robert Onorato
You may find it tempting to create a reading list or resource list, given the seemingly endless, media-rich learning opportunities that an asynchronous online course offers. But when does the saturation point occur? Robert Onorato is an instructor at Fordham University (NY), and a Senior Faculty Programmes Consultant for Cengage. He shares his experiences that have led to his own conclusions about the question “How much is too many?”
Since I was twenty years old, I have taught college courses. I also taught my first online course eight years ago. Since then, I have taught courses in a variety of mixed and blended formats. These included online classes that were part of traditional degree programs and online classes that were fully online.
I have also taken a variety of online and hybrid courses. These classes have been extremely informative, not only because of the content, but also because of the structure and the processes. It’s been much more beneficial to “see what the students see” than to view courses from the instructor’s point of view.
Online Courses: How Much Content is Too Much?
I have seen professors include, require or “pile up” large amounts of content, in addition to traditional textbook chapters, required assignments, and testing. Professors who move content from the classroom to the online classroom in a hybrid format often make it harder for students to contact them. This is why professors tend to increase the number of required articles and videos.
I have taken at most three online courses.
The first course was approximately four weeks long and required several articles and research studies. Each article was forty- to eighty pages in length.
Another was that, in addition to the textbook chapters there were approximately a dozen articles to be read in each module.
Recently, I took part in an online course with ten to twelve videos each. Each video was between four and eight minutes long. This is an hour of video-watching, plus all the work required for each unit. All of this was not supplemental.
Instructors: Ask These Questions
Is all this content really necessary?
Do I need ten videos, a dozen articles or both to get the point across?
Are three to four of each sufficient?
Digital technology offers what seems like an endless amount of content and resources for hybrid and online classes. Sometimes, our tendency is to overfill this space. It is easy to forget that students have limited time and may take multiple courses at once. It is one thing to offer supplementary material that students can read or view if they need more information. My experience is that professors are often able to provide the wealth of resources needed.
Students often feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or discouraged. This was my reaction. I thought, “Why did I have to watch this seventh, eighteenth video?” Students may become less connected and engaged with the content and coursework, and less inclined either to take these courses again or to continue to hybrid and online formats.
This is what you should think about when creating your next online course. Be sure to include only the essentials and not everything.
Robert Onorato is a Senior Consultant with Cengage in Peer to-Peer Faculty development. He teaches Marketing, Leadership and Operations Management at Fordham University, New York. He also founded Candlewood Consulting and has written numerous instructors’ resources. Robert holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and a MBA from the University of Connecticut.