In your face-to-face teaching, when students arrive on the first day of class, you greet them warmly, smile, and generally make them feel welcome. In addition, usually students learn who else is in the class, and start getting to know each other. How can we accomplish this in an online class?
One easy way to welcome students as a class is to create a forum for Introductions. I usually put this forum in the first block in Moodle, right below my welcoming note. Here are some suggestions for creative introductions:
- Include some basics: i.e. name, location, degree sought, interest in the class, etc.
- Ask students to describe the space where they are studying online and describe what they see out the window or on the walls of the room
Use an ice-breaker activity or question. Have students include their answer in their introduction post. Here are some ideas such as:
- If you could change one event in history, what would it be?
- What would you do with one hundred dollars?
- Have students make a 3 slide PowerPoint introduction and then narrate it with video. Knovio is a cool tool for this. Students then share the link to their Knovio presentation in the introductions forum.
Ensure that conversation happens in the Introductions Forum. Online students feel unsure, wondering if anyone else is “out there” who cares!
- Invite students to respond to each other, and let them just talk as they get acquainted.
- In the forum, reply to EVERY student, preferably within 12 hours. Say something welcoming, i.e. “glad you’ve joined us” or “looking forward to learning with you”. If possible share something personal as well: i.e. “I visited your town…” or “do you know so & so who lives in your town or went to your school”. Help the students feel connected to each other and you as the instructor.
Monitoring Student Logins
Another way to welcome students is to monitor their progress in the first few days.
- Track logins. I like to make a spreadsheet for my online courses. It holds grades as well as notes on student progress. I have a column to mark whether they have logged in and posted their introduction. You could track this on paper, or you may think of another way that matches your preferences.
- Contact students personally. I try hard to have students logged in with at least their introduction done by the third day of class. You’ll have a much easier time later in the course if you can prod them into functioning well in the first week. So consider this time an investment in your sanity throughout the rest of the course!
- I email students who haven’t logged in by the 2nd day of class.
- I call students on the phone if they haven’t logged in by the 3rd day.
- Then I give them a few days till I contact them again if they still aren’t functioning.
PROCESS CHECK: Did you send your students a week 1 email? Did you give them instructions on what to do first and a suggested schedule for the week? These steps will ensure greater success in the first week of your online course.
Reflect. How do you make students feel welcome in your face-to-face classes? What other ideas do you have for welcoming students? Feel free to disagree/comment/discuss using the comment link below.