By David Dos Santos
One of the most common misconceptions for first-time students taking an online course is that it is easier and requires less time. The reality is that the only time saved is the commuting time as students should be prepared to spend the same time and effort on an online class as an in-person class. In addition, online classes require more demanding time management and technology skills for both students and professors. As a professor, you should be well versed in time management, online teaching technology, and online teaching pedagogy by the time you have completed the Online Learning Initiative. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Before your course begins:
• Make sure your syllabus is up to date including the course schedule and all due dates.
• Check due dates and settings on tests, assignments, discussion boards, etc.
• Check that all graded assessments are linked to Grade Center columns.
• Check for broken links to attached documents and external links.
• Make your course available.
• Send a welcome email to all students through Blackboard Announcements.
• Verify the start date by looking up the academic calendar and start your final preparations for your course at least two weeks in advance.
It is a good idea to utilize the student preview function in Blackboard to see your course through the eyes of a student. Most importantly, make your course available. This is the #1 cause of Blackboard issues when the professor does not make their Blackboard course available. If you are teaching in the Hybrid modality, you will have a chance to introduce yourself to students in person but any online teaching modality should include an online introduction.
The initial week of class:
• Introduce your course through a Panopto video.
• Assign the ‘Are You Ready?’ online learning workshop.
• Have students try out assessment tools by creating an ice-breaker exercise.
• Verify attendance through activity or small assignments.
• Respond to questions or feedback from students.
• Set the rhythm of the course by utilizing the Announcements tool and sending students reminders.
• Respond to emails of any issues/ problems and be sure students know what other online resources are available to them.
Typically, the first day of class is when you introduce yourself and go around the room asking students to introduce themselves. You may even speak about the textbook you will be using this semester. If you are teaching online in the asynchronous modality, you can replicate this through a Panopto video where you introduce yourself and provide an overview of the course. An ice-breaker exercise through an interactive tool such as the Discussion board allows students to introduce themselves to each other as well as learn how to use the new tool. All students should be required to complete the ‘Are You Ready?’ online workshop which will provide a comprehensive introduction to Blackboard and all of its tools. Be sure to monitor and respond to student questions and concerns during the initial weeks and start a strong online presence.
Throughout the semester:
• Check emails at least once a day.
• Moderate graded discussion boards at least once a day.
• Provide timely grading on online as- assessments.
• Maintain the rhythm of the course with clearly stated due dates and frequent reminders.
• Maintain a strong online presence in your course.
Teaching online means that you will be required to dedicate enough screen time throughout the week. Check emails daily and be an active moderator in the discussion board and similar tools. Stick to your grading schedule and make it clear that students must keep up with the rhythm of the course by utilizing- announcements to send reminders.
Whether it is your first time teaching online or you are a long-time veteran of online teaching, there is always room for improvement. Revise your course every semester accordingly. Online teaching is a rewarding experience, you will reach students who are otherwise unable to attend a traditional class and better pre- pare students for their future careers where online training is becoming the dominant modality for preparing tomorrow’s professionals.