Friday, August 8, 2014

Get Your Online Course Off to a Great Start

The first few weeks of an online course are a critical time for establishing instructor expectations, setting the tone for interaction, and showing students how to navigate the course. Below are some tips to help you get your course off to a great start:

  • Contact your students via email a week before class starts to welcome them, pass on textbook requirements and introduce yourself. This is a good time to encourage students to test their browser settings and to make sure they can get logged in to Moodle. A welcome email sets the tone for instructor to student interaction.
  • During the first week of class, direct students to resources that will help them be successful in the course. These resources might include the Student Success Center, the IT help desk, the Student Support menu located at the top of the Moodle window, and your course syllabus. The ITRC has many helpful resources for students on their website including a Student Guide to Moodle ISU, the survey "Are You Ready for Online Learning?", and a handout on software, browser and plugin requirements for Moodle. Feel free to incorporate links to any of these items into your course.
  • Establish expectations for participation in the course during the first two weeks of class. Use the News Forum to send announcements to students letting them know what the activities are for the week; explain to students how to use the communication tools; designate where to post questions about the course; and establish a connection with the students.
  • Begin with a few low-stakes activities. It helps to have some ungraded or low scoring practice activities during the first week of class to give students the chance to try out the course tools such as the forums and quizzes and to establish a routine for logging in to the course. For example, give a short quiz or design a scavenger hunt over the content of the course syllabus.
  • Have students introduce them in a discussion forum during the first week of class. The introductions help to establish a community of learners, breaks down some of the barriers to getting started, and gets them used to using the discussion tool. Start by introducing yourself first to set the tone. Provide specific criteria of what you want the students to talk about in the introduction such as their major, why they took the class, and something interesting like a favorite book or movie. Require students to make an initial post and then respond to at least two of their peers.
  • Add a question and answer forum to the first block of your course and designate it as the place for students to go to post general questions about the course. Some instructors call this the Cybercafe' or Water Cooler. 
Biro, S. C. (2010, May). Get your online course off to a good start. Online Cl@ssroom.

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