Get Your Online Class off to a Great Start
The 3G Guide for Getting Your Online Class Off to a Great Start
Whether you are teaching online for the first time or it’s “old hat,” the information on this page is intended to help you get your online class off to a great start for both you and your students.
At the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, we can provide you with the support you need to help insure that your online course is a quality learning experience for students and a rewarding instructional experience for you, as well.
Here are important steps for you to take as you approach the beginning of your online course, including the steps you will need to take if you are planning to use ReggieNet:
Make sure your course(s) appear(s) in ReggieNet. See your course listings. You will not have to make a request for your courses or student uploads since ReggieNet is tightly integrated with the University’s student information system. Course sites will be created automatically for all sections, and students will also be added to courses automatically. A course will not be visible to students until the instructor publishes the course. Consult the ReggieNet Start Your Semester page for more information.
Finish getting your online course ready to go live. You may want to review the Quality Matters Rubric, which provides guidance for designing the various elements of your online course. As members of Quality Matters, we have a full, annotated copy of the rubric available for Illinois State University faculty and staff.
The How-to Handouts & Videos page includes links to materials about ReggieNet tools and capabilities for those who are using ReggieNet. The For Your Students page contain resources for faculty to distribute to their students. This will be the time to also create an “Orientation Module” (containing “Getting Started Information” for your course – a “best practice” referenced in the Quality Matters Rubric.) More information about the orientation module can be found below. If you need technical support with ReggieNet, contact a member of the CTLT staff at CTLT@ilstu.edu or call 438-2542. At CTLT, we offer one-on-one consultations and a wide range of workshops. You’ll find a link to our full workshop schedule on the Workshops & Institutes page.
Provide a “Welcome Letter” (via email and via a web-accessible document) with basic course information for your students. We strongly recommend this step because we know from experience that it will save you a considerable amount of time and effort that would either be spent responding to students’ questions or handling distressed students who don’t “find” your online class until long after it has begun. Students in online classes may need to be provided with explicit information about courses that is either taken for granted or easily found in conventional face-to-face courses.
Create a Welcome Letter. Suggestions for information to include in your letter are available in the Welcome Letter Description and Welcome Letter Checklist, and you should feel free to download the Example Welcome Letter to use as a model. (This document can be modified to reflect your specific course expectations.)
Send your Welcome Letter to your registered students. Your class list and student e-mail addresses are available from the Academics tab once you log into My.IllinoisState.edu. Your letter should be sent as either an .RTF (Rich Text Format) or .PDF (Portable Document File) attachment or pasted into an email message at least a week or two before your class begins.
You may also want to take this opportunity to do a student “roll call”; ask your students to respond to you so you know that they have received the information. If you do not receive a reply, consider whether or not it might be beneficial to send your students a copy of the letter via “snail mail.”
Post your welcome letter (or course information sheet or syllabus) on the web so that students can access it via the university’s web-based Course Finder tool. This method reaches students who may not get the information via email. Though we expect that all students will be aware that they have email through ISU, during the summer new students may NOT know that they have ISU email or how to access it because orientation procedures are not the same during this time as in other semesters.
- Post the document (.HTML, .PDF or .RTF formats recommended) to your website share. Information about how to access your Illinois State University provided personal website space is available through the Technology Support Center, in the Overview of Datastore article.
- Send an email to AcademicScheduling@ilstu.edu with your name, the course and section number, and the directory comments you want to include (including the links to the file you have uploaded). Full directions on how to complete this process are available in the Providing Course Finder Directory Comments Instructions document. Then students who use Course Finder will be able to locate the link to your welcome letter and download it.
Publish your course(s) inside ReggieNet!
Note: Students will have IMMEDIATE access to your course once you have published (opened it up for use).
Release your “Orientation Module”! — Provide low-stakes orientation activities within your course either before or early in the session. Design an Orientation Module that provides students with the opportunity to practice the skills needed to use the tools required of them during the semester. For example, you might provide a “Getting to Know You” topic in your discussion board and ask students to share information about themselves so that they can learn how to use the discussion tool AND engage in some community building. Another suggestion is to collect information about your students by asking them to complete a survey or quiz using the quiz tool in Blackboard. You may want to have students submit an assignment, watch a video, download a podcast, use course-related software, visit the publisher textbook site, etc. — or ANYTHING that they might be asked to do that might have an associated “glitch.” It’s best to get those glitches resolved right away before students have something to “lose!”
If you’d like additional ideas or information about creating an orientation module within your course, please feel free to email a member of the CTLT staff at CTLT@ilstu.edu.