It’s critical to make sure that your students know the important administrative details associated with your course. However, it’s also imperative that you devote as much class time as possible to your course content. In the summer (or in any abbreviated course), it’s especially noticeable, as the number of course sessions and the time you have with your students is much more compact than it is during a standard term.
When you’re teaching online, students also must become accustomed to the setup of your your course’s Learning Management System (LMS). During these shorter summer sessions, you’re likely seeking ways to ensure that your students learn the ropes as swiftly as possible.
Though you may go about communicating this information via different means (such as an online lecture, screencast, or FAQ), there are a few basic principles and key points of information that can lead your students toward getting up to speed more efficiently. In the Instructor’s Manual to Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner, Joel English recommends that you make sure your students know and understand the following about your course and its LMS:
- The name of the LMS and a basic description of why your institution selected this environment
- What information is provided on the public side of the LMS
- The tools and features on the private side of the LMS
- The structure of a course view within a specific course, including where the professor information can be found, where announcements are posted, where the syllabus is listed, and how the course is organized (by the week, by the unit, etc.)
- Where a student can find a list of other participants
- Gradebook, messaging, and other important features of the course. (English, 13)
Of course, students also have a responsibility to keep on track. In E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success, 4th Edition, Ryan Watkins and Michael Corry stress that, in order to make the best use of their time in an online course, students need to plan for success. To facilitate the process of getting prepped for the start of the term, they should make sure they’re familiar with the following details:
- Instructor’s contact information (e.g. e-mail, phone number)
- Instructor’s office hours (which can include the hours you are available for telephone conversations, as well as those times you’re available for online chat)
- Due dates for all assignments (tests, papers, activities, exercises, homework problems, etc.)
- The process for submitting assignments
- Attendance and participation policies
- Any passwords, logins, or URLs needed to access course materials
- Due dates and processes for any group or team assignments
- Required course materials (textbooks/eBooks, online resources, solutions or lab manuals, etc.)
- Any special software needed for the course
- Where and how to reach technical support
- Where and how to access instructor feedback (Watkins and Corry, 58-59)
As you read this list, you may have noticed that this information is critical for any class. However, it’s especially helpful to establish these points as clearly as possible within a summer course. The more students know up front, the less time you’ll have to devote to discussing these details (either during class sessions or during your office hours), and the lower the likelihood that your students will slip behind in their coursework.
English, Joel A. Online Instructor’s Manual to accompany Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner. 2014. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Watkins, Ryan and Corry, Michael. E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success. 4th ed. 2014. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
What are your suggestions for getting students up to speed online? What steps have proven most effective as you teach? Share your ideas below.