UNF Center for Instruction and Research Technology

Cirt Blog Post

Tick-Tock: Harness Tools to Save Time Teaching


When I was an undergraduate student, I had a wise economics instructor who asked our class, “What is the most precious resource?” We responded with ideas like oil, money, power, natural resources, labor, etc. He smiled at our remarks and replied that time was the most valuable and nonrenewable resource, and we should use it wisely. This comment has remained in my memory for decades.

With only twenty-four hours in each day, we are constantly pressed for time to support our teaching, research, and service obligations let alone our personal commitments! In this article we will review four fundamental ideas you can harness to support your teaching preparation and to utilize your resources as wisely as possible.

Reading note: If you are wary of implementing any of the following ideas, please reach out to your instructional designer. We are happy to support your exploration of these tools.

#1 Plan for the Semester

Consider using templates to ease the burden of creating similar items in multiple courses. 

  • Use a syllabus template to ensure you are communicating consistently to students across courses. Consider using the syllabus template from the Office of Faculty Excellence. Clearly state your late assignment policy and your communication policy to inform students of your expectations. Have you thought of creating a syllabus review activity to highlight important information? Creating a syllabus quiz, a video review, or a shared Google Doc in which students are asked to comment may reduce the number of syllabus questions.
  • Apply the CIRT Online Course Templates which are available in five different formats. Follow the link to see previews. Using these templates will help keep your course content organized thereby helping students easily find important course information.
  • Utilize a Course Map document to develop weekly plans or develop a Course Facilitation Plan to think through how the semester will progress.
  • To quickly change your assignment dates check out the Bulk Update Due Dates in your Assignment tool. This will allow you to quickly update assignment due dates at one time. We are so happy they added this feature!
  • Review your Canvas calendar to identify the due dates for multiple courses. This will help you block your personal calendar when you need to grade those time-intensive assignments. You may also decide to shift due dates after you see what you are up against. For this to be effective you will need to add all of your course assignments with the due dates to each of your courses.
  • Set up the Canvas Scheduler in the Calendar tool to allow students to sign up for office hour or semester appointments. This is helpful if you normally use sign-up sheets for appointments.
  • You can also set a late policy in Canvas Grades to eliminate the need to calculate this grade for each late submission. Important Note: if you set this prior to changing your due dates, Canvas will think all the assignments are already late! Therefore, update your assignment due dates before setting your late policy.
  • Include a detailed rubric with your assignments and discussions. This may save you time when grading student submissions. A rubric can also provide students with performance indicators and important feedback.

#2 Harness Canvas

Learning the fundamentals of the following tools may help you save time while you are teaching during the semester.

  • Easily contact students who are struggling or who are doing well to offer support or share kudos. “Message Students Who” is a feature of Canvas Grades which allows you to send an aggregate message to students who have not submitted assignments, who have scored within a certain range, or who have not been graded.
  • Look at your course Analytics to review specific student access information or weekly online activity for the entire class. Analytics can be informative to review overall course participation.
  • Try using Canvas Speedgrader, it will change your life. Speedgrader connects to your rubrics, allows you to add annotations to student work, and has options for audio, video, text, and speech-to-text comments. Speedrader has also added a Comment Library you can build to easily access your common feedback text.
  • Utilize CIRT for exam creation support. Our amazing CIRT team can connect publisher exams and upload exam documents to help you prepare for the semester.

#3 Connect with Your Community

How can your community support you? If implementing any of these ideas takes more than 15 minutes of your time, I heartily encourage you to reach out to your instructional designer or the fantastic support team at CIRT to guide you through the process.

  • Talk with your colleagues about how they are using Canvas. Some of the most valuable tips you will find are right “next door.”
  • Speaking of your peers perhaps develop a teaching buddy with whom you can try out new concepts and share ideas.
  • Don’t forget about the Help button in the dark blue global navigation ribbon. This Help button provides access to CIRT, Library, Canvas Guides, and support networks.
  • Enroll in virtual CIRT Events to continue your learning and share your experiences with others. We would love to see you there.

#4: Take Care of Yourself

I considered making this my number one point: Take care of yourself. Find ways to bring balance and joy to your teaching tasks. Consider keeping a teaching journal to log your pedagogical reflections. A reflective practice may not only benefit you, but may also benefit your students (Virtue, 2021).

Remember at the end of the day there are only 24 hours. We cannot make more time; we can only carefully choose how to use the time we have. Hopefully, these ideas have inspired you to harness the tools you are using, find the tools you need, seek help when you need it, and take time for yourself. Reach out to your instructional designer or to cirtlab@unf.edu for support to implement these ideas.


Canvas instructor guide table of contents. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from Instructure Community Web site: https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Instructor-Guide/tkb-p/Instructor

Dejoohnghed07 Community Champion. (2020, July 11). Time-saving tips for teaching online in Canvas. Message posted to https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Canvas-Instructional-Designer/Time-Saving-Tips-for-Teaching-Online-in-Canvas/td-p/272447

Oyarzun, B., Martin, F., & Moore, R. L. (2020). Time management matters: Online faculty perceptions of helpfulness of time management strategies. Distance Education, 41(1), 106-127. doi:10.1080/01587919.2020.1724773

Virtue, E. (2020). Pedagogical reflection: Demonstrating the value of introspection. Journal of Effective Teaching in Higher Education, 4(1), 128-142. https://doi.org/10.36021/jethe.v4i1.213

Wolf, K. & Stevens, E. (2007). The role of rubrics in advancing and assessing student learning. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 7(1), 3-14.

Brought to You By
Jann Sutton
Jann Sutton
CIRT | Senior Instructional Designer