If you teach online in higher ed, then you are familiar with the effort, energy and involvement it takes to engage with your students in that environment. If you’ve taught online for more than a few semesters, then you know that you do need to put some thought into your transition of teaching a class from semester to semester. Thought goes into your course materials, learning objectives and how your class is setup in Blackboard or whatever flavor of LMS you use.
Ask any teacher, course builder or instructional designer and they can probably give you an extensive checklist of items to pay attention to before the semester starts. This blog post however will cover only our take on the Top 5.
- Copy/request copy of course.
In anticipation of the new semester, make copies or request copies be made of the courses you are transitioning. It is difficult to work on getting ready for a new semester if you do not have a place that you can do so without affecting your current students.
* For those of you who just use the same course and only the students change, it still might benefit you to have a “sandbox” or “working” course where you can develop outside of the production course.
- Check your syllabus.
Go through your syllabus and check for things like:
- Is the textbook correct?
- Is your contact information current?
- Do you have the same office hours?
- Change any due dates and scheduled activities (course schedule).
- Ensure learning objectives/activities match with their counterparts in the course (in case you’ve changed them).
- Check Blackboard (LMS) content availability and due dates.
Nothing can be more frustrating for students than to come to content in your course and find they don’t have access to or can’t see the item or activity that is supposed to be there. Go through your due dates and availability dates to be sure that they line up with the current semester. Blackboard provides the Date Management tool that does this all in one place.
- Update your welcome message.
Providing a contextually relevant and current welcome, video, audio and/or paragraph will not only go along way toward connecting you to your students, it will demonstrate that you are actively interested in your students.
- Update course announcements.
During the course of a regular semester, you will send out multiple updates or announcements to your students. Be sure to remove irrelevant course announcements and update/reschedule announcements so that they reflect the correct date or time of year.