Instructional Design

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Course Design

Instructional Design Unit

Office of Faculty Support and Development


Principle 5

Emphasize Time on Task

Learning requires not only energy but also time. Students must allocate the proper amount of time for each task in order to go beyond just a shallow understanding of the material. Students should have a good idea of how much time to spend on each task and on the course in general by the guidelines that you set out in the beginning.

In the traditional setting, a syllabus is provided with a general schedule of activities and deadlines or a verbal explanation of estimated time to produce quality work. Many faculty meet with students who are falling behind or give reminders close to the deadlines: “Remember, the Mid-term is in one week, you might want to start scheduling study groups now…”
“Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike”

Ultimately, it is the students’ responsibility to stay on track and make sure they complete their tasks on time. But there are some really easy ways for instructors to provide assistance in this area. This is even more necessary because learning online is a very different experience. In the face to face setting, students are usually responding to some external guidance, while online there is more of a need for self-initiated activity. Students might not know what to expect or where to start.

Best Practices

It is important to set out the deadlines in theSyllabus and emphasize what your policies are for late and missed work. The Calendar tool can be used to help students organize their time and see upcoming deadlines at a glance. Sending Announcements to the class is another way to emphasize upcoming deadlines.


While flexibility can be provided by allowing students to sequence assignments the way they wish, it has been found that allowing students to turn in all assignments at the end of the semester encourages them to procrastinate and spend time off task because of other commitments in their busy lives. Therefore, it is recommended to spread deadlines throughout the semester.

Collaborative assignments can often be time-consuming as students must “meet” together in creative ways. For example: if a term is fifteen weeks long, then a maximum of three collaborative assignments might be all there is time for. It is a good practice to allow some “breathing room” between these assignments for independent work.



Word is a great tool for editing and creating your syllabus. However, it is a good idea to publish it in another format to prevent your syllabus from being easily altered and reproduced.
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