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Teaching Tips | August 17, 2015

Giving students a warm welcome

welcomeHow do you introduce your course to your students and help them get ready for a new semester? The first day and week of a course can set the tone for the whole semester. Conveying expectations early can reduce misunderstandings and doing ice-breaker activities can help group projects move along more smoothly. For professors teaching hybrid or online courses, there is an extra layer of challenge because you can’t convey your enthusiasm in person or help students make eye contact with each other. Below are some ideas that I’ve recommended to professors. Get more ideas from your Hunter colleagues and share your way of welcoming students at ACERT’s first Lunchtime Seminar on September 29.

Welcome students with a video or slideshow.

A short video or slideshow where students can see you addressing them or hear your voice can go a long way to reducing the impersonal feel of an online class. Students enjoy seeing materials created by their professors even if those are not as polished as materials produced professionally. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of presenting yourself in a video, try putting together a few slides and talking over them using VoiceThread.

A video or slideshow is a good opportunity to introduce yourself and explain how your class will work. Many students don’t know what it means to take a hybrid or an online class or may have expectations that are different from yours. Don’t stop after telling students about course deadlines and policies – add a few tips for success and suggestions on how to keep up with the class.

wisdom-wall

Share advice from former students

Your former students can be an even better source of tips about how to succeed in the class – share some nuggets of their wisdom. Linta Varghese of Asian-American Studies asks students from her online class to post their advice for future students on a Padlet “wisdom wall” and then shares the wall with her new students.

 

Give students a tour of your course site.

Professors customize their courses in different ways, so it’s possible that the clear navigation scheme you designed is not so intuitive to your students. Giving students a quick video walk-through of your course can help them understand how you have organized the course site. “Showing” students where to find course materials and how to submit assignments rather than “telling” them with written instructions can reduce confusion and help students delve into class content right away. Consider using screencasting software, such as Screencast-O-Matic or Jing, to create a short tour of the key areas of your course and the location where students can find help online.

Connect students to the course and to each other.

connectAn engaging ice-breaker activity can be the cornerstone of building a community of learners who support each other academically, technically, and even emotionally throughout the semester. Online learners, especially, commonly report a sense of isolation. A required meet-and-greet activity done early in the semester can help students connect with each other and with the course.

Kristen Hodnett of Special Education connects students by asking them to respond to comics that poke fun at inclusive education. Kristen posts the comics on separate slides in VoiceThread. Students select one comic that they feel a connection to and introduce themselves by responding to a choice of questions related to their current classroom placement, or their thoughts on inclusion.

Another idea is to create a wiki page with a table in which students insert their names, a recent photo or an image that represents them, and a word that they associate with the class. Once students have completed this activity, you can take the words that students wrote and create a word cloud using Wordle. That image represents the collective thoughts of the class and can be used as the banner for the course site.

more-1Additional ideas for ice-breaker activities that go beyond writing self-introductions in discussion boards can be found on this blog post on teachbytes and in First Day of Class Activity: The Interest Inventory on Faculty Focus.If you would like help implementing any of these ideas in your course, feel free to email the Technology Teaching and Learning Group. We can help you design or adapt activities, choose tools, and show you how they work.
Image Credits:

Welcome by chrisinplymouth. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Connect! by Philip Marks. Used under a Creative Commons license.

More (cropped) by FontFont. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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