Tag Archives: #20DayTIOC

Day 10: Providing Feedback to Students

Timely and useful feedback to students is another way that you establish “faculty presence” in your online courses. Students will not know how they are doing in the class and will feel lost and alone in the course without this communication and feedback. Here are some tips:


So how can you handle students’ needs in online courses to gain quick feedback? You can still do the majority of your grading once a week, but build in some other methods of quick feedback.

  • Photo by Microsoft
    Photo by Microsoft

    Grade Within a Week. We highly recommend that you grade all assignments within one week of receipt; longer papers or projects may take two weeks. Be sure students know when to expect feedback.

  • Answer emails within 12-24 hours. Answer students quickly. If a student stopped by your office (and you were available right then), you would assist them immediately. Online students can’t stop by your office. Try to get back to them quickly. For more involved questions, write back quickly and tell them when to expect a longer answer. Or schedule a Skype or phone call with them. Talking is usually faster than typing!
  • Autograded quizzes. Using low stakes, more frequent assessment can assist students in monitoring their learning. Auto-graded quizzes can provide frequent feedback to students. Read more about low-stakes assessments:

Personalizing Feedback

  • Write constructive comments on assignments. Remember your students are studying alone and are waiting early to hear back from you.
  • Encourage. Be friendly. Share with students information that has been helpful for other students. Add a few words of encouragement. Begin your remarks on an upbeat note and make certain that your criticism is constructive.
  • Write personal emails. It’s nice in the first few weeks of class to write a personal note to each student on how they are doing in the class, particularly for undergraduate students. At least write a personal note to struggling students to help them see exactly how to organize their time, what to do next, and what assignments are missing.


  • Be sure that students know how to look for the feedback if you are entering comments within Moodle (gradebook, quizzes, assignment tool, etc.).
  • Inform students of the importance of reading feedback, particularly when assignments build on each other.

Your Turn

Reflect. What are your favorite methods of providing feedback to students? How do those translate online? What tips would you add to today’s list?

This post is Day 10 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

Day 9: Students with Inadequate Participation

By now, most of your students should be participating successfully in your course. However, you may have some students who aren’t functioning, or may not even be responding to you.

Withdrawal Options

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Now is the time to give them some reminders of withdrawal policies. For Andrews University, here are the important dates for withdrawing from the class:

  • Drop/Add: The 10th calendar day of the term (Fall/Spring) is the last day to drop or add a course. This is the last day registration can occur. Students may withdraw up to this day without an entry on their permanent academic record.
  • Credit to Audit: The 9th calendar day prior to the last day of classes is the last day to change from credit to audit or withdraw from a course with a “W” on the permanent record.

Remember, you can look up these dates online. Here’s a reminder of how. You might want to make a note on your calendar for the Monday before the Credit to Audit date so that you can remind any students who look like they may not successfully complete the course.


For now, it’s a good idea to remind students in writing (email) of the deadline to withdraw without an entry on their transcript. If they haven’t been responding to your emails, you may wish to call in addition to emailing. Taking care of this now will make life easier for you when the course is ending. It can reduce petitions, begging, incomplete forms, etc.

Your Turn

Reflect. How do you handle missing students in a face-to-face class? Is it different online? What suggestions would you add to this list?

This post is Day 9 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

Day 8: Tips for Grading Moodle Forums

The forums in your online course are the main place where you facilitate the learning community and exhibit your “presence” in the course. You may have a rubric for your online discussion, or you may require a certain number of participant posts, or a combination of both. When it comes to grading, however, how to do this easily?

Viewing Students’ Posts

First, you probably wish to view all of an individual student’s posts at the same time to either compare it to your rubric and/or to count the number of posts. Here’s how to do this quickly:

  1. Navigate to one of the forums from the past week.
  2. Click Search Forums. (Don’t put anything in the box to get the advanced search options.)
  3. Select the specific forum to analyze and enter a student’s name.
  4. Now you’ll see the results of everything that student posted.
  5. To quickly search for the next student, this time, edit the search box. It will show something like this:
    Move the cursor past “user:” and change the name to the next student. Then click Search.
  6. Now you can analyze the next student’s posts.

Grading Posts

Here are a couple of ways you could grade the posts. You may think of other options.

Option 1: Enter grade directly to gradebook. You can set up a grade item in the gradebook and enter it directly there.

Option 2: Rate one or more posts. Moodle allows you to use ratings on posts. This is my preferred method. For this to work, the forum has to have ratings enabled. Here are the settings I use. Since I only allow the teacher level role(s) to rate, I choose maximum rating, in case I want to change a grade later. Then I enter the number of points for that forum.

Then, when I am grading and viewing a student’s posts from the previous week, I look for number of posts and the quality of writing/thinking.

After I’ve decided on a score, I click the pull down menu for rating on the student’s initial post. (Since that is usually the post with the most “meat”, I always put the grade on that post.)

Then the grade automatically is entered in the gradebook as well!

Your Turn

Reflect. How do you grade your online discussion forums? What works best for you? What other ideas do you have for ensuring quality participation in your online learning environment?

This post is Day 8 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

Day 7: Setting Up Your Grading System

Now that your course is up and running, and hopefully all of your students/participants are functioning, it’s time to think about grading. Grading in an online course can be challenging on several levels. Students expect quick feedback in online courses. It is challenging to find time to grading. Grading online assignments may be initially difficult if you are used to grading paper assignments.

Managing Student Expectations

The first thing you should do is communicate clearly on what students can expect. When will you grade? How often will you grade? What is your late work policy? What should students do if there is a technical problem in submitting their assignment?

  • Timing of Grading. I like to grade weekly on a Sunday or Monday. I set aside a couple hours to carefully work through all the assignments from the past week, providing feedback, nudging students, updating grades. This works well for 8 week or semester long courses. For shorter courses, it may be better to grade twice a week. Find a pattern that works for you. Carve out the time needed.

    Image from Microsoft Clipart
  • Communicate. Tell students your grading pattern. Include it in the syllabus. Mention it in your first few weekly emails. Sometimes, if when grading I find a problem that several students encountered, I will send a separate email informing students that I just finished grading, and addressing the issue or problem.
  • Late Work. It is very easy for students to forget they are taking an online course and stop turning in work. Students can easily slip into procrastination. Nip this in the bud right away! We highly recommend that you do not accept late work (except in extreme life/death/health situations). Be sure to email or call students who aren’t functioning to nudge them into participation and let them know consequences.

Set Up Your Grading Documents

  • Do you like to grade on paper? Create and print a chart/checklist for grading.
  • Do you like Excel? I always keep an identical copy of my gradebook on Excel (backup habits!). Once a week I update the grades online for the students.
  • What other ways do you prefer to grade? How can you make that work in an online environment? Make a system that works for your style.

Technology Tips

We use Moodle at Andrews University, but you can use Google to search for tutorials on your LMS. Search tip: “task LMS tutorial” i.e. “grading in Moodle video tutorial” if you want to see a video of how to do it.

Weekly Routine

I recommend that you build these activities into your weekly routine to supplement your daily routine.

  • Review and grade all new work.
  • Send your weekly email.
    • Give an overview of the upcoming topics.
    • Address any issues you discovered in grading / reviewing discussion forums.
    • Include a suggested schedule for the week.
    • Include an invitation to ask for help with at least two methods to contact you (i.e. Skype, email, phone).
  • Be sure all student emails from the previous week have been addressed and answered.

Your Turn

Reflect. What tips do you have for grading online courses? What strategies work for you? What do you include in your weekly routine?

This post is Day 7 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

Day 6: Setting Up Student Success in Online Discussions

Class Discussion by Chicago Art Department

Your online discussion forums are a major part of the learning community in your online course. This is where students interact, engage in the content, and share with each other; just as they would in a face-to-face class session. In the first week of your course, you want to ensure students understand your expectations and are functioning at the level you expect. Here are some tips for nudging them to engage as you wish.

  1. Ask Questions. Nudge Students. As you read the discussion posts, watch for students who write too briefly, too vaguely, or just not quite on. Reply to that student’s post and graciously ask some questions. Probe. Nudge them to expound. Invite further thought.  This lets the students know you are reading the posts, and also publicly encourages all students to think more deeply.
  2. Email Students Individually. If a student is way off track in their discussion posts, sometimes it is best to address the issue individually. Recently in one of my classes, I had a student who couldn’t seem to follow directions. Sometimes her answers were posted in the wrong forum; sometimes she only had part of the required response. It took a few specific, directive emails to help her get back on track and find the directions. Sometimes one student dominates the discussion, replying to every single post. You may wish to encourage them to step back a bit and let others comment. These types of corrections may be best done individually.
  3. Model. There is a delicate balance between dominating the discussion and being “present” in the discussion. But often it helps students to see you model appropriate discussion. Show by example with thoughtful replies.

For Further Reading:

Your Turn

Reflect. What works for you in online discussions? What ideas would you add to this list?

This post is Day 6 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

Day 5: Setting Up Your Online Teaching Space

Now that your students are logged in and happily functioning (hopefully); let’s think about your online teaching patterns and routines. Just as you want students to settle into a routine of participating and engaging with your content, you may want to have some structure and schedule to your online teaching. If you set aside specific times for teaching online, you will feel less like it is taking all of your time and causing constant interruptions.

Daily Routine

First, set up a daily routine for yourself. Over time, as you get accustomed to teaching online, you should be able to take care of your course in under an hour daily, with the exception of your grading sessions.

  • Login to your class.
  • Check who has logged in (until everyone is functioning)
  • Check the forums. Reply to students.
  • Send any tech issues to your online tech support.
  • Filter through your email and answer course related questions. Here are some options for managing course-related email:

Fend Off Interruptions

Your colleagues and family probably wouldn’t dream of interrupting you during a face-to-face class. However, it’s highly likely they will while you are teaching online. Here are some tips for fending off interruptions:

  • Make a sign for your office door: Do Not Disturb: I’m Teaching Online.
  • Teach your colleagues and family that this time is off-limits except for major emergencies.
  • Discipline yourself to do only online teaching work during this time. Ignore other emails.

Make a Space

Adjunct faculty in particular may wish to carve out a special space (as well as time) for teaching online. Maybe you’ll have a favorite tea handy, a special mug, a comfy chair. Make the space friendly and inviting for yourself as well!

Your Turn

Reflect. How do you protect your face-to-face teaching time? How do you protect your online teaching time? What ideas would you add to this list?

This post is Day 5 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

Day 4: Initiating Communication: Phone Calls

frustrated computer user
Photo by Microsoft Clipart & iStockPhoto

One aspect of online teaching that feels different than face-to-face teaching is teacher-initiated communication with the student. In a face-to-face class, generally faculty appropriately expect students to be responsible: to show up to class, to ask if they need help. In a face-to-face class, it’s reasonable to assume that students can figure out where to find their class, how to open the door and come in, where to sit to participate in class, and how to find their instructor’s office to ask for additional help if needed.

However, students in online courses may not already know how to login, how to contact their teacher, how to get started. Even “tech-savvy” students may not be familiar with the university’s practices and learning management system (i.e. Moodle).

My philosophy is to spend the first two weeks of my online courses working hard to ensure all students understand expectations and are functioning well. This means initiating more communication than may be comfortable for faculty who teach mostly face-to-face. But in my opinion, it’s worth the extra effort, because students are more successful in the class. I have less trouble with incompletes or late work during the rest of the course.

Phone Students Who Haven’t Logged In

Therefore, I highly recommended calling students who haven’t logged in by the third day of class. I usually keep trying every other day or so until they are either functioning or have dropped the class.

  • Find Phone Numbers. Login to the Andrews University Vault
    • Choose iVue
    • Choose View Class Rosters and look up your course.
    • Click Profile next to the name of the student you need to contact. Their phone number should be in the top right.
  • Tips for the Phone Call
    • Be friendly and welcoming.
    • Ask questions. Find out why they haven’t logged in yet and what their plans are.
    • If they have any technical difficulties, transfer them or have them call tech support.
    • Be specific on what they need to do next to catch up.

Usually this is the only time I need to use the phone with my online students. I always offer the option to call me if they need a live conversation, but after everyone is functioning, they usually don’t need it.

Your Turn

Reflect. What do you think about this level of support to your students? What tips or suggestions would you add to this list?

This post is Day 4 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

Day 3: Dealing with Late Registrations

Late registration in online courses can be extra challenging for both online students and their teacher. So how can we reduce the challenges? Today’s tips will be most useful for adjunct faculty; however full time faculty may find these tips helpful also.

Know the Deadlines

First, know when your university deadlines are and what the ramifications are for each deadline. At Andrews University, we have these registration dates:

  • Late Registration. A late registration fee goes into effect on the second day of the term (Fall/Spring). Students can still register but must pay the fee.
  • Drop/Add: The 10th calendar day of the term (Fall/Spring) is the last day to drop or add a course. This is the last day registration can occur. Students may withdraw up to this day without an entry on their permanent academic record.
  • Credit to Audit: The 9th calendar day prior to the last day of classes is the last day to change from credit to audit or withdraw from a course with a “W” on the permanent record.

So how do you look up the dates for these? Navigate to the Andrews University Course Schedule, and click Show Detail (as shown). Make a note of these dates to assist you in communicating with students.

Keep an Eye on Late Registrations

Watch for late registrations, so that you can send them welcome information as soon as possible. You could check once or twice a day. Here’s how for Andrews University:

  • Login to the Vault
  • Choose iVue
  • Choose View Class Rosters and look up your course.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

As soon as a late registration comes in, send them your welcome email and week 1 email (if they are two different emails). I like to keep all my emails related to a course in one folder so I can easily and quickly reuse them.
Other information you may wish you communicate to late registrants includes:

  • A reminder of looming deadlines
  • If any course deadlines are past, how are you handling that? Do they get a 0? Do they have another deadline?
  • If you are giving grace for the student to catch up with the rest of the class, when does the grace run out?

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on their logins as well to ensure they are functioning in the class within a day or two of registration.

Your Turn

Reflect. How do you handle late registrations in your face-to-face classes? What other tips do you have?

This post is Day 3 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

Day 2: Introductions and Welcoming Students

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?

Introductions Forum

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
  • ice breaker
    Icebreaker by pellesten

    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.
    • 2013-01-06moodleusersHow to: In Moodle, on the left, find the Settings block. Make sure the Course administration section is open (click the title if needed). Open up the Users section by clicking Users. Click Enrolled users. Note when they last logged in.
  • 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.

Your Turn

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.

This post is Day 2 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

Day 1: Countdown to the Start of Your Interactive Online Course

Welcome to this 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses. Each week day for the next few weeks, you will receive in your inbox tips and tricks for teaching online. The tips will be organized to guide you through the first few critical weeks of your course, providing support to ensure the success of you and your students in this online journey.

Last Minute Checkup

We start today with a check-up. Your course starts in just a couple days. Let’s do a last minute review to ensure everything is in order.

1. Your Introduction

Is your course home page welcoming to students? Have you included your picture and some welcoming, friendly text? Can students see easily how to contact you? Here’s an example of how I like to put the intro in my classes:

2. First Email to Students

Have you emailed your students a welcome yet? Here are some details you may wish to include:

      • Some tantalizing information to motivate them to get started learning
      • How to login to the class (web address, login info, and tech help)
      • How to order textbook(s), if applicable
      • What to do first when they login (i.e. post an introduction in the first forum)
      • A suggested schedule for the first week
      • How to contact you (email & phone)

3. Your Home Page

Take a critical look at your course home page. Imagine yourself in the student’s shoes. Or get some feedback from a non-techie / non-academic person. Ask yourself some questions from the student’s point of view. Are the answers easy to find?

    • What should I do first?
    • Where is the schedule of assignments?
    • How do I contact my instructor?
    • Who else is in the class?
    • What are the requirements of this course?
    • When is the first assignment due?

Make any desired adjustments. Now, take a deep breath. Relax. You’re ready to go! Congratulations on starting this learning journey!

Your Turn

Reflect. What do you check the week before a face-to-face class? What else would you include in a last-minute check-up list? Do you agree with this list? Feel free to disagree/comment/discuss using the comment link below.