Start the session with a great welcome message as an Announcement that not only introduces you to the students but outlines your expectations and is grounded in online pedagogy:
✔ Social presence (linked to improved retention rates in fully online and blended courses) by introducing yourself and encouraging students to upload a profile picture
✔ Set expectations – contrary to popular belief, because you are teaching an online unit, does not mean that you need to respond 24/7.
✔ Clearly outline expected engagement
✔ Guide students through your unit (why not make a screen capture to create an online orientation to the unit?)
✔ Remind students of their responsibility as an online student by linking to the Netiquette guide
Here’s an example…
Welcome to Basket Weaving 101. Please read through the following information carefully. You may need to refer back to it throughout the session
1. Unit guide
You can download a copy of the Basket Weaving 101 by clicking on the link at the top of the unit page in iLearn. This contains everything you need to know about the unit. Please familiarise yourself with the Unit Guide as all you need to know is in here.
To stay in touch with one another in our online classroom, we will use both ‘Forums’ and ‘Dialogues’. Dialogues are for discussing personal matters, between you and either your tutor or myself. Please note, that I will respond to unit queries and correspondence on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only.
a) Forums (public communications)
Forums are used to exchange general information between all participants in the unit including both students and instructors.
If you click on the Forums link in the Activities Block (on the right hand side of your screen), you will see that there are two types: General forums and Learning Forums.
The Learning Forums are where you will post your responses to the weekly discussion questions (see your Unit Guide for details). You are required to post a response each week as part of your assessment (worth x% of your final mark). You will be able to post your response to each weekly topic for up to two weeks. So, for example, you will have until the end of Week 2 to post a response to the Week 1 topic, and so on.
The General forums include Announcements and the General Discussion forum. Announcements are self-explanatory, but the General Discussion forum is the place where your tutor may post important information from time to time, and where you can ask the tutor and one another general questions about the unit, such as, “How do I submit my assignment?”, “I don’t understand how to use footnotes”, or “Does anyone know where I can find information about [dogs, Aristotle, how to use the Macquarie Library, etc]”. Treat is as a frequently asked questions area (FAQ’s). Don’t be afraid to bring up a general issue, as many of your fellow students may be wondering about the same thing and will be glad that you asked! Also, don’t be afraid to answer someone’s question, if you know the answer.
b) Dialogue (private/personal communications)
If you wish to discuss a personal matter that you do not want others to view (e.g., if you’re concerned about your progress, want to query a grade, have a personal problem, etc), please use the Dialogue tool, which is also located in the Activities box. Always use Dialogue to contact the tutor or myself privately. Please do not email us directly.
3. Assessment Tasks
You will find all information relating to Assessment Tasks for this unit either in the Assessment topic at the top of the iLearn unit or in the Unit Guide itself. Please check these avenues before asking questions.
4. Your engagement and participation
With online learning time management is the key. You need to be disciplined and schedule study time into your weekly schedule. To get the most out of this unit, you are expected to log in at least three times a week. The discussion forums work best if everyone contributes. Don’t be afraid to jump in and give your thoughtful responses and replies to other people’s posts.
4. We are a community!
We are all in this together and your learning experience will be what you choose to put into it. To help establish our Basket Weaving 101 community, your first piece of homework is to update your profile with a picture that represents you.
Be respectful – know your online responsibilities
I hope that you enjoy Basket Weaving 101 and I look forward to meeting you all online in the coming weeks!