Online courses have become a must for students that need to have work, life, and school balance along with convenience and access. Online courses have also provided instructors the ability to reach a larger audience, give time to reflect on a question from a student before answering, and give all course content on the first day of class. Online courses provide convenience for students, but dedicated preparation from the instructors is needed, and it’s no easy task. Here are three essential elements an instructor needs for their online course.
Have a welcome message
A detailed welcome message explaining expectations, email response time, an outline of the course, directions for textbook access, a brief overview of assignments, what students can expect from the course, and classroom rules can set the direction of the course for students.
There are two ways of setting up your welcome message. You can either write out the welcome message or create a video. In my experience, it’s more convenient to write out the welcome message. A welcome message is easy to edit. When you create a video, you have to take into consideration audio, lighting, writing out the script for the video, and closed captioning. Questions to think about if you decide to film is who is going to shoot the video? Where will you upload the video? Will students even take the time to watch the video?
The goal of the welcome message is to be as detailed as possible without overloading the student and making sure the students understand the course. If done correctly, the welcome message may prevent an overload of student email questions about the course.
Upload course material including the syllabus
Before starting the course, assure that all documents have been uploaded to the course learning management system (LMS). Some departments upload content, and all you have to do is upload your updated syllabus. However, this may not be the case for everyone. Take the time to upload classroom material into the LMS, adjust the due dates for each assignment, quiz, and/or exam in the LMS. Uploaded content before the start of the course makes it convenient for students to access content, and the instructor can focus on teaching, grading, and answering questions. Don’t forget to adjust due dates because if you don’t, students will send you a panic email as to why the exam is not opening.
Establish an email response policy
In a digital society where Google can provide answers in less than a second, students may expect the same from instructors in regards to their questions. As the instructor, I suggest you set up an email response policy to let students know that you don’t respond quickly to emails and that students shouldn’t wait until the last minute to ask a question believing that they will get a quick response.
A good email response policy should read something like this, “emails will be responded promptly only from university emails, not personal emails, and with a subject heading that includes the course name and section number. Average response time on weekdays will be 24 hours and on weekends and holidays 48 hours.” You don’t have to use the response that I provided, but having something similar is better than having nothing.
Online courses can be engaging, fun, and interactive. Of all my years of teaching online, setting up a welcome message, uploading course materials, and having an email response policy has saved me headaches and provided for a smooth start for my students. What will you do for a smooth start to your online course?
Dr. J Real Talk
Discussing business, ed tech, and life. Follow me on social media @DrJRealTalk