First Day Announcements (I post two weeks before the term begins)
Write students a short opening letter including
1) abbreviated version of main course information and date of policies quiz. (Many students don’t read if not accountable for a response—make them accountable in some written form for each assignment).
2) List text and where to purchase it. Give due date of first reading.
3) Give post date and due date of first assignment (Policy quiz or Icebreaker-see next slide).
4) Require students post all work in Word or rtf format.
5) Brief guidelines for online etiquette (full guidelines in course policy).
6) The posting schedule (window of time students have to post or to complete a discussion).
7) Number of weekly posts required (Four is average for my courses).
8) Define absence, and number of absences allowed. State consequences if applicable to your course.
9) Clarify student responsibility for understanding all class policies and warmly invite email questions
10) Inform students that course access and full information is through myasu
11) Require a phone number for each student.
During the first week, give a simple introduction exercise to acquaint students with each other and with Discussion Board. They like it. I give some prompts—“what’s your favorite music/band? Where do you live? Where do you wish you lived? What are your hobbies, favorite movies, sports? Why did you take an online course? Who are you really? Tell us a lot, and tell us one lie.” I give directions. “Post this to discussion board (Yourlastname/Intro). Reply to at least two other people or to as many as you want. Think of this as “in class” discussion.
I keep out of this. At the end of the board, I write, (Van reply), “I have read your posts and am happy to have a better idea of who you are. I look forward to coming to know you all through your writing”—or something like that. If they all are musical or engineers or conversely a very diverse group, I comment on this. Usually, I make a general comment on “us” as a community of learners . . . These posts come in handy if later you want/need to refer to them for some reason. p.s. last year I updated this approach by contributing something about myself—my hobbies, interests, etc. and encouraged students to look at my academic website.
3) Give Concise Clear Directions:
Give concise, clear directions stating exactly what students need to do, step by step, for full credit in each assignment. Keep directions short.
If you need to write a longer/longish communication, post it under course documents and suggest that if they have trouble reading many screens of typewritten material they print them. Call them study notes, or something. This provides an alternative use or access to material.
4) Create Q & A Discussion Board for each unit/assignment
I check the Q & A board twice a week and post replies. This cuts down on emails and acts like a classroom discussion in that students can go there for information and discussions.
5) Let students do the work:
Set up each learning sequence so that small groups of students are responsible for presenting certain main points of the reading or of summarizing certain online discussions, etc.
Design assignments so that students interact to generate concepts and specifics for and among themselves. For Agency.
You/Me as facilitators:
My contribution in online boards and discussions is to monitor, cheerlead, and move the conversation. I bring up points students may have missed or propose connections that students may not yet have made.
For example, “That’s a good point, Joe and it seems appropriate to the audience that you have described, but where/how do you see Cynthia’s point fitting with your conclusion? And what do you all think about Rick’s point about X?” Or, “Jeannie, which point or section of the text helped you expand on this concept? If not the text/s, which group member led you to change/modify your stance? Can you pinpoint specifically what persuaded you?”
I find myself making the above types of contributions. The facilitator needs to model these moves for students in the beginning. Soon, students initiate these conversations themselves.
We adopt a variety of roles: Announcer Referee
Conductor Evaluator Mentor/Teacher
If this is your first online class, find a system and stick to it for the semester. If you choose one day to post assignments, one day to reply, or what ever you do, establish it from the beginning and stay with it. This goes for changing due dates too. Many changes to the syllabus or procedures will cause student angst that may negatively influence student learning and your evaluations.
The course can still move with fluidity and respond to the exigencies of student learning, but this basic structure is reassuring and helps students remember if for example they know you will post to blackboard on Monday morning, and that their work is due on Thursday night—whatever you choose.
8) Subtract rather than add:
If you have to change the syllabus, it’s better to subtract work than add. Students, especially those who have looked ahead and prepared for the course, will feel that they have wasted time and can’t count on consistency. Less advanced or invested students can become confused.
9) Sensitivity & Assumptions:
Online, there are no facial or bodily guides to tell us when students are annoyed, bored, or confused--to tell us much. There is only language. If a student is submitting slap-dash posts, is borderline rude to you or another student or exhibits other behavior that I perceive as disruptive, I may contact him/her privately, via email or phone, and try to discover their thinking. Or if this conversation takes place online it can be a wonderful opportunity to expand on rhetorical issues of audience, appeals, etc.
I’m SO sensitive; I went through half the semester thinking a student was female. When he came to my office, he stood outside for fifteen minutes because he didn’t know what I looked like, and I wasn’t expecting a male.
So make NO assumptions—even about that student you are sure is a flake and is taking advantage of you or hir classmates. A few are taking advantage but most are not. They simply may not understand your expectations and/or directions. Especially in the beginning, give the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes it takes a while for a student to become comfortable in the online environment. Others are completely at ease.
10) Responding to student work:
Copy and paste is your friend. I use two monitors now but used to do this by minimizing one screen. On one monitor/screen is a student file, on the other, a file of previously prepared comments about issues that often come up at this stage/week in the assignment—for one example MLA form.
Using the reviewing feature of Word, copy and paste these into the appropriate spot in the essay. It saves time as students often encounter similar issues. This is especially helpful with invention work on initial drafts, and for returning review drafts in a timely manner. I have prepared comments on various MLA issues, strategies to deepen research, on finding specific types of sources, aspects of invention, on audience analysis, etc, etc, etc.
Save student emails until the end of the term. If a conflict or misunderstanding occurs, you may need a record of your mutual conversation. You may also want to refer to student emails for other reasons. I don’t delete until the grades are in and a week or two has passed.
Trust yourself. You are prepared to teach the course material. You likely have an interest in technology. Jump in and things will become clear. If something doesn’t work, make a note and use something different next time.
These moments when things don’t work as you plan often become great learning/teaching opportunities. When you begin, it will take more time as you are establishing materials and procedures. As you continue to teach online, it becomes much easier since you already have routines and material.
Don’t hesitate to email other online teachers for advice. Please let me know how I can help. email@example.com