5 First Week Strategies for the New Year

1. Connect your students to the Blackboard App

I hope that you will have a wonderful holiday and are looking forward to a prosperous new year.  In the spirit of looking forward, here are some strategies that you can look forward to implementing to provide your students with a firm footing and a good start in your online course(s) during the first week.

Blackboard App IconYour students spend a large amount of their time with their faces pointed toward a mobile device.  Why not have them spend some of that time looking at push notifications from your course?  Connect your students to the Blackboard App and increase student engagement. Students will be updated when they have a test coming up, an assignment is due as well as when new grades are posted.  The push notifications can engage your students and drive them to your course. The Blackboard App provides your students with:

  • Activity Stream
  • Course Timeline
  • Collaborate Ultra
  • Course Outline
  • Assignments and Tests
  • Grades
  • Connecting Cloud Content (Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive)
  • Discussions
  • Push Notifications

You can place this link in your and it will direct them to where they can download the Blackboard App for iOSAndroid and Windows devices.

2. Record a video introduction

Video IconVideo Introduction performs an important function in any online course.  One of the drawbacks to digital communication is that it divorces the person from the medium.  An e-mail, discussion post or instant message cannot convey meaning or tone of voice.  A Video Introduction allows you to speak to the student as you would speak to them in your office or in class.  They get to hear as well as see “you” rather than just a paragraph or two of text welcoming them to the course.

Here are some suggestions for content of your introductory video:

  • Introduce Yourself
  • Brief Description of Course
  • Virtual “Tour” of the Course/How it will work
  • Expectations can be Relayed

Giving yourself a social “presence” in the course with a video introduction is an important first step in getting your students engaged and ready to contribute.  The good news is that it is easier than ever for you to provide this feature in your course.  You can use tools like YouTube, Kaltura or Blackboard Collaborate to upload or directly record and upload your introductory video yourself.

3. Create an introductory activity

Figure holding a sign with the words "introductory activity (20 minutes) on itResearch shows that students who feel they have contributed to a course, or have “co-ownership” of their learning, report a higher level of satisfaction with the course and instructor. One way to start your students contributing early on, is to have them participate in an introductory activity.  The activity serves multiple purposes. First it does what it says it does and allows your students to get to know you and each other.  Doing this helps them break the ice and feel less wary about reaching out to each other as the semester progresses. Secondly it shows them how to use the tools in the course and gets them in the habit of interacting with each other in the manner set by your instructions.  Finally, it gets them started and active in the course.  Student who feel like they are not just sitting around, report a higher level of satisfaction and are more likely to finish the course.

Note:  Since this is the “first” activity in the course, it might be a good idea to model the behavior you want your students to display.  Go ahead and be the first person to submit the activity or link to previously used example.

4. Establish student and instructor expectations

A great way to cut down on cut down on student confusion about course expectations and activities is to create an Expectations content item in your course.  This part of your course should contain 2 sets of expectations.  What you expect of your students and what your students should expect from you.  You can even have your students post that they have read and understood the course expectations. Here are some examples of course expectations:

ExpectationsExpectations of Students

  • Use the virtual office to ask general course questions
  • Check the course homepage, discussions and their e-mail several times a week
  • keep up with reading assignments, activities, assignments and quizzes
  • Participate actively in class discussions, responding to at least 2 colleagues for each forum
  • Practice Netiquette in the course.  No flaming (negative hurtful comments); use correct grammar and spelling; don’t yell (write in all caps)

Expectations of Instructor *These will vary depending upon your comfort level

  • I will read and respond to discussion posts directed at me, e-mails and other forms of communication daily (not on weekends)
  • I will post grades for your assignments and exams quizzes within a week of submission
  • I will have office hours at these days/times: (insert times here) via Skype (Skype address here) or via phone (phone number here)

Letting your students know what to expect from you and what you expect from them will go a long way toward ensuring a successful experience for them and you in your online course(s).

5. Create and utilze a syllabus quiz

Syllabus QuizIn a brick and mortar class the first day is usually spent covering course expectations, policies and yes the syllabus.  You have a captive audience at least for the hour or hour and a half that you have your students in the classroom.  Even if the students didn’t seem excited about being there, you know they at least heard you go over the information.  In online courses it can be difficult knowing if the students have even looked at your syllabus even though it may be prominently displayed in your course.

A great tool to employ to ensure that your students have looked at your syllabus (at least once) is the Syllabus quiz.  You can offer questions that point to what you think might be important parts of your grading policy and or course schedule and whatever else you think might be important.    The syllabus quiz can have two other benefits besides ensuring your students are least familiar with the Syllabus.  It gives your students a first look at the testing mechanism in your online course, and if you employ adaptive release, it can become a gatekeeper for the rest of your course.  You can set a point threshold for them to reach in order for them to be able to access the rest of the course.

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