If you’ve taught an online course, you know the importance of ensuring that your students know and understand the Learning Management System (LMS) you’ll be using. Being proactive about preparing students to use this critical resource helps them become more comfortable with their online surroundings, and also reduces the number of questions you’ll field about the LMS’s basic functionality.

Within the CourseMate for Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner, author Joel English includes a “Technology Boot Camp” designed to help students become familiar with the critical aspects of your school’s LMS, as well as the content that is specifically connected to your course. Here are some of the steps English suggests that students take when they first start the term:

  • Record the LMS’s URL, as well as your username and password, in a place you can easily find it.
  • Explore the public side of the LMS, which is accessible to anyone with the URL. Learn what information can be found on that side of the site.
  • Find the login, and enter your information.
  • Then, begin to review the private side of the URL. Notice what is personalized to you, and see what types of activities, announcements, course-related content, and other information are available on the main page. Also be sure to check for any messages that the school administrators or your instructors may have sent.
  • All your classes should also be listed for you; if not, verify when that information will be available. Consider how you will balance your time among your courses and ensure that you will arrange your schedule to complete all assignments and responsibilities.
  • Choose one course to explore. Observe the features in the navigation bars, and see what information appears as you navigate through those items.
  • Use the “PASS Method” to information about the course. “PASS” stands for Professor, Announcements, Syllabus, and Structure.
    • Professor: Gather the instructor’s e-mail address, telephone number, and any other vital information.
    • Announcements: Here, your instructor will post relevant and timely updates about the course. Check for new announcements on a regular basis.
    • Syllabus: You’ll learn about the content of the course, including required and recommended course materials, assignments, tests, grading policies, and other important details.
    • Structure: Learn how the course is structured (Weeks? Units?) and determine whether you can work ahead or not.
  • Take a closer look at how the course materials are presented. Note if you have any material to review, read, or watch prior to a class session; learn how you’ll take in the lecture material; make note of the frequency and due dates for tests, assignments, and other activities; and find out how class discussion will take place. Learn about grading and point system for all the assignments.
  • Discover how you’ll communicate with your instructor and fellow students. Become familiar with all forms of messaging, including chat, asynchronous discussion, live lecture or discussion sessions, and e-mail. Also, be sure you’re also know and understand how discussion is graded. [Technology Bootcamp 6, “Exploring Your Learning Management System (LMS)”]

For or additional start-of-term suggestions for helping students become familiar with your LMS, read our previous post “Getting Students Up To Speed on Your Online Course — Quickly.”

Want additional tips? Register today for our timely, relevant professional development webinars. Gather ideas for breaking the ice, increasing student motivation, and boosting engagement! 

How do you get students started in your online course? Share your suggestions below. 

Reference: English, Joel A. 2014. CourseMate for Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.