Being prepared is a must for teaching online. In addition to using better practices for online teaching you should be thinking about how to deliver your online course for maximum success while avoiding the 7 deadly sins of online course design.
In an IDDblog blog post, Alex Joppie listed a few tips for keeping your online course running smoothly. I’ve combined his tips with a few of my own to provide you with suggestions to help your online course run smoothly. Those suggestions are as follows:
Before the semester starts—touch base with your students
Send an email to your students before the first day of class. In your email,
- Make sure students know they’re enrolled in an online class. Some students take online classes because they think it will be easy. When in fact, some students struggle in online courses because they do not have the skills to be self-directed learners. You should let the students know that online classes take time and self-discipline.
- Inform them of technology requirements, textbooks, and other required materials. This will help them hit the ground running.
- Let the students know when your Brightspace course will be available.
- Let the students know you’re there. This email can also serve to ensure to students that even though the entire course is going to facilitated by computers and networks, that there is a human being involved who cares about their success.
- Make sure they got the email (and read it). Ask students to respond to the email. You may need to pursue other means of communication if a student doesn’t seem to be getting your email.
Additionally, take advantage of intelligent agents to automate sending email.
The first week—setting the tone
Follow these steps to set a healthy culture for the course and make sure everyone gets off to a good start.
- Make sure students log in to your course. Use the Class Progress Tool to check to make sure everyone has logged in sometime within the first few days of class.
- Create a welcome video for your course. Using a short video clip of yourself helps the students to have a picture of you in their mind. This video will help you to become a “real” person to your students.
- Add a profile picture to humanize your course. Humanized learning increases the relevance of course content and improves students’ motivation to log-in to your course week-after-week. Your profile picture will create an inviting space for your students.
- Create a more personalized learning environment in your course by using Replace Strings. Replace Strings allow you to create personalized messages for your students. A personalized welcome message, for example, will make your course feel more inviting to your students.
- Be active in introductory discussions. Your introductory discussions will set the tone for the entire course. Make sure there’s a positive culture in your discussions by being engaging in the first one.
- Encourage students to select their Brightspace personal preferences by configuring their account settings and notifications. Also encourage students to use the Brightspace Pulse app to keep up with critical and timely course related information and assignments.
- Utilize the Brightspace Class Progress, Completion Tracking, and Checklists tools to help students stay on track. Students are more likely to be successful in an online course when they check-in regularly and keep up with their coursework. If a student falls behind early, they may never catch up.
- Give your students an anonymous survey to get feedback from them on how the course is going. Do this sometime after you feel your students should have gotten a sense of the rhythm of the course but you still have time to make meaningful course corrections based on the feedback. This is especially important the first time you teach a new course.
Every week—the routine
Provide students with weekly communications that recap the previous week’s activities and prime students for the following week:
- Highlight insightful discussion posts – Draw students’ attention to important points made by their classmates. It’s positive reinforcement for students and shows that you’re engaged.
- Respond to gaps in student learning – Did everyone miss a question on the quiz, or skip over an important point in a discussion? If so, address it.
- Contextualize the week’s main topics – Tie the week’s activities back to the learning goals of the course. Why is what we did this week important?
- Prime the students for the next week’s main topic – Give some context about why they should care about what’s coming up next.
Consider presenting your weekly communications in the form of video announcements. Doing so will give your students more exposure to you as a "real" person speaking to them while giving them a presentation of material or virtual tour of the week's lesson.
Here are a few more ideas to keep your online course interesting.
End-of-semester evaluation—develop your teaching persona
- An end-of-semester evaluation is a good opportunity to get feedback from your students to help you develop your teaching persona. Getting a “learner-sighted” view of the course-experience can add to your understanding of the learning environment, including aspects of your teaching persona that have framed it.
Studies show that students withdraw from online courses at a higher rate than in face-to-face courses. There are many reasons for students withdrawing from an online course. Some reasons are beyond the instructor’s control. Educators do not like to see students withdraw from courses for the wrong reasons. The suggestions in this blog post will help you to improve retention and reduce attrition by making sure that your students are prepared, that they get off to a good start, and that they’re engaged.