1. Course Introduction

1. Course Introduction

It’s especially important in an online course to begin with clear instructions; to welcome your students, tell them how to get started, provide an overview, and make clear the overall design of the course. Introductory material will help your students get to know a little about you and help make them feel comfortable in your class.

Syllabus Primer

The purpose of a syllabus is to clearly communicate the instructional road map for the entire course, including all assignments and requirements, how each student can be successful, and guidance on specific expectations and policies. Check out the Syllabus Checklist for examples and ideas on what to include in your Syllabus.

Your course syllabus should include the course purpose and identify any policies and etiquette expectations they should be aware of. Make it clear as to what is expected of each student at any given time by providing detailed lesson schedules.

Students need a clear map of disciplinary expectations along with a description of what a mastery of your course material looks like. Students learn by systematically comparing your expectations to their own work and the work of their peers.

Creating a Sense of Community…

We suggest you figure out some means of letting students create individualized spaces that can be shared with the class. This can be accomplished in a number of ways via wikis, forums, blog hubs, etc. It’s important to create questions that will guide the information students should include. Consider using questions that:

  • Get students to talk about themselves
  • Identify what they hope to get out of the class
  • Share any background knowledge they bring with them
  • Describe how the class fits into their future plans

We all learn more effectively in situations where we feel accepted and where we know:

  • We’ll be treated fairly
  • We’ll get help if we don’t understand something
  • We can admit ignorance without losing face
  • Other people care about whether or not we get it

Too often online courses are built with a dropbox mentality. Students produce work in isolation, deliver it up for the sole eyes of the instructor and receive a grade in return. By adding a sense of community, an instructor can leverage social responsibility and status. When students are able see each other’s work and are expected to give constructive feedback* about each other’s work, they naturally want to hold up their end and produce work they can be proud of. They become invested.

Start Actively…

In addition to community, activities motivate learners to participate and engage in the course. Especially in online environments, it’s important to start off with compelling content that creates anticipation and motivation to learn. Here is a list of ideas for your course introduction:

  • Include a short introduction video that describes the course and tells your story as an instructor (see the welcome example by Professor Karen Thompson below for ideas)
  • Describe upcoming activities and applicable takeaway skills
  • Talk about your instructional strategies so students understand the “why” behind the “what”
  • Start with a compelling problem, story, or example that illustrates the importance of what students will learn
  • Include a Week 1 icebreaker activity that drives interest in new topics or gives unexpected insights

Welcome Video Example