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Provide Orientation & Welcome Students

As online student success is of utmost importance, helping students get started and off on the right foot is very important!

What can you do in advance to prepare your students for the optimal learning environment? Support is all about providing information when needed. At the beginning of the term, you can utilize a number of strategies to help the students get off to a good start. Creating a course FAQ is a great way to prevent questions from coming in while providing answers to the commonly asked questions!

Notify Students & Actively Communicate

Sending an advance notification to students is a best practice. Advance notifications can:

  • Welcome your students
  • Introduce yourself to the students through announcements and email
  • Advise students of class meetings
  • Advise students of skill prerequisites
  • Indicate the required textbook and materials
  • Direct students to the Online Learning website to ensure they are aware of the many student support services available
  • Direct students to the online Blackboard Orientation Course (available on their course list) for students
  • Let students know that in-person help for Blackboard is available at the ATC Tutorial and Open Computer Lab and the Sneden Lab
  • Provide a course orientation for students and tell them what they will be accountable for and how to succeed in your online course

Get Students Engaged & Establish Your Online Presence

You can use the following techniques to get your students engaged in the course right away.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Ensure you are highly visible to your students through multiple channels (announcements, emails, active in discussions, participating in an opening introductory blog post and actively comment) so students do not feel like they are on their own.
  • Broadcast your virtual presence for ONLINE office hours on a regular schedule through asynchronous and live communications such as Blackboard IM.
  • Engage your students so they sense your online presence and that you are their instructor for the course.
  • Use the Blackboard Performance Dashboard to discover which students haven't yet logged into your course and email them.
  • Start building community right away by having students introduce themselves in a discussion forum or blog. You can also post your introduction in this forum to give students an example as well as to introduce yourself to your students. 
  • Have students send you an email with information about themselves such as the best way to contact them during the semester.
  • If you want to ensure your students are reading the syllabus, create a quiz on the information in your syllabus. You could even set-up adaptive release to require that your students obtain a perfect score on the syllabus quiz before they can access the content for the course.

Monitor the “Virtual Office” Discussion Forums

Create a specific forum in the discussion board such as the "Virtual Office" and subscribe to the forum. Then, you will receive an email notification when any student posts to the forum so you can answer those critical questions quickly. If you get students used to checking this forum first when they are having issues, they may find an answer to their problem and also help each other! Refer technical issues the IT Help Desk, or (616) 234-4357.

Monitor the Performance Dashboard

The Performance Dashboard (Control Panel > Evaluation > Performance Dashboard) allows you to monitor what students are doing. Check to be sure students have accessed your course. If not, try contacting them by e-mail or phone.