Online Education Programs
Six Tips as You Start Your Course
As you begin your semester, consider these six tips that can help you and your students have a successful educational experience.
Post a brief welcome and introduction video.
Many students like to attach a face with your name. By recording a short “Welcome to our class!” video, you can establish an inviting tone while explaining key features of the class (including the course theme and objectives, as well as where students can find syllabus, reading, and assignment information in the online space). The Office of Online Education (OOE) can assist you with shooting and uploading your welcome video.
Post a BIOs thread in the class discussion forum.
Some students and faculty find it initially challenging to “get to know” the students in the class. Posting a BIO thread where the students post a 200-300 word autobiographical statement about their backgrounds and interests can be a useful tool. As the professor, be sure to post your BIO as well.
Make your contact information clear and accessible.
Online students may not have the luxury of stopping by your office on-campus, but they do have the convenience of getting in touch with you by email, teleconference, or phone. Be sure to post your contact information and “online office hours” in an easy-to-find location in your online space. Consider including this information on your class syllabus as well as in a separate “Contact Information” document that students can save or print.
Email your students before the class starts.
Using an online space like Blackboard, a Drupal site, or a WordPress blog can provide you with great tools for online learning management. Many students, though, may be new to these platforms, and may not know where you have stored information for the class. Emailing your students a “Welcome!” email and a “Basic Instructions” email can help each student hit the ground running by pointing out key deadlines and features of the online platform.
Post your documents in PDF format.
When your students access the files you post, they will be using diverse machines with varying font packages, margin defaults, and other idiosyncratic settings that can alter the appearance of a highly-editable document (such as a .docx file). Posting documents in .pdf format allows your students to all view the same stable image when looking at your documents. Contact the OOE for help with making your .pdf documents partially-editable and small enough for upload.
Make good use of subject lines.
As an online facilitator, subject lines can be one of your best resources. By strategically writing the subject lines/titles of discussion topics, emails, and posted documents, your students can more quickly navigate, find, and respond to items you post online. Encourage your students to do the same.
In discussion threads, for example, encourage students to change the subject line from “RE: Sam’s Comment RE: Discussion Question 1” to “Legality of the International Criminal Court” or “The Data Conversion Formula.” This will keep your discussion threads organized, avoiding duplication and missed opportunities for in-depth discussion.
In an email, for example, change your subject line from “RE: BUSI 200” to “Revised Due Date for Week 4 Tax Assignment.” Students will be able to search their Inbox more easily, and will be more inclined to open your emails promptly.