For faculty who teach online, the days leading up to the first week of class are critical for both you and your students. By using this time to prepare your students for what is to come, you can help alleviate student fears and anxieties, as well as limit the number of emails you receive. For example, sending students a few introductory announcements and welcoming them into the classroom can help establish a stronger student-teacher relationship.
See below for five simple actions you can take before the first day of class to help prepare yourself to teach online and to make your students feel more comfortable about the upcoming course:
Create a Welcome Video
Connecting with online students can improve student retention and academic performance. A video, rather than a written welcome statement, allows students to connect your face, voice, photo, and instruction, while encouraging the formation of a community of learners.
Populate the Course Calendar
The calendar provides students with a quick snapshot of due dates for graded and non-graded activities and assignments. Consider including other types of calendar entries such as holidays, the first and last day class, and relevant events occurring on campus, such as commencement. Including relevant events may help the online student understand and connect better to campus culture. Tip: don’t forget to use the repeat function within the LMS for events occurring weekly.
Describe How You Manage Course Activities and Grading
Providing clear expectations along with a detailed online course syllabus for students helps to reduce online student obstacles. To reduce student anxiety and increase accountability, be explicit about:
- Your expectations
- Forms of communication
- How you manage and grade discussion forums
- Timelines for answering questions and returning graded work
Set Office Hours
Faculty availability is a support service that can be helpful for at-risk students. Suggest video meetings (Skype, FaceTime, or Adobe Connect) as a preferred means of meeting versus the telephone. If possible, set aside a weekly block of time devoted to meeting with students.
Ask Students to Introduce Themselves
Introductions help to replicate on-campus learning experience online. Encourage students to be creative and use word clouds, photo montages, or video introductions. Doing this in place of written introductions adds interest and builds stronger connections between students and faculty members. If class size permits, respond to each student with a personal welcome.
Authored by Alison Ridge
Assistant Professor and MSN Program Director at Benedictine University & Wiley Faculty Fellow