Tips for Success
- Provide a link and contact information to the technical support group, ideally in the course syllabus. The campus learning management system (LMS), Ted, includes this information on the login screen. Instruct students to save a copy and to not rely on getting the syllabus from the course. Faculty using Ted should not feel they need field login questions. Should the student have difficulty logging into the course website, they have defined paths for seeking help.
- Direct questions to forum.
- Create topic in discussion board called "Ask & Answer." Ask students to post to the discussion board before emailing the instructor.
- Encourage peer help.
- Encourage students to monitor the topic.
- Make your presence known. It's especially important in asynchronous courses for students to see regular instructor participation in the discussion forums and/or to see regular emails or announcements from the instructor.
- Log into your course at least once per day.
- Set student expectations. Include your Anticipated Response Time (ART) on your syllabus.
- Practice patience. Students can become easily frustrated by technical issues as well as what they perceive to be unclear instructions. In most cases if the student knows you are attempting to help them, the number of frustrated emails and discussion posts will lessen.
- Take care of easily correctable errors as you encounter them (bad weblinks, unclear instructions). For more in depth fixes, keep a running list of what you plan to change before the course is taught again. Keeping the document open on the primary computer you'll use to teach will make it easier to keep track of ideas.
- Require an early writing assignment such as an introductory/ice breaker discussion post. This writing sample can be used later to gauge student work later in the term, in concert with anti-plagiarism detection software, such as TurnItIn.
- Be "natural" with students. Online instruction need not be sterile or impersonal. Even though instructors and faculty don't interact in person, many find the interaction to be more personal in an online course. While it is imperative to remain professional at all times, communicating with students in a way that evokes an instructor's personality can be very engaging for the online student.
- Unmonitored forums
- If students don't see an instructor response to questions on a forum and discussion veers into explosive territory, the instructor's absence enhances the chaos and lends to a degraded tone. If an instructor isn't able to effectively monitor a forum, they should be sure to identify a backup, such as a teaching assistant or co-instructor.
- Slow response to email. It's important to set student expectations for responses early in the course, ideally included in the course syllabus near contact information. Faculty should consider including their Anticipated Response Time (ART). Ideally faculty or a person in a backup or supporting role should be emailing students back within 24 hours, unless specified otherwise in the syllabus.
- Student-generated email threads with many recipients
- Be wary of the method used to message students. Some modes allow students to 'reply-all' and include the entire class. Even if the technology does not have a way to limit this feature, setting expectations appropriately early in the course that students should never reply to the entire class can be equally effective.
- Managing time investment of teaching assistants (TAs). While academic departments set student to TA ratio, TAs are capped at x number of hours per quarter. Because online courses can be more time consuming than traditional courses, it is crucial to stay abreast of how much time TAs are spending moderating forums and responding to student email. Otherwise it is possible that a TA would max out on hours available before final grades are submitted.