Course Management Tips

General Strategies

  • Prepare a one-page technical help sheet to distribute to your students. Include things like the course URL, your email address, where to get an email account, operating hours of the computing labs, location of campus labs, support numbers, etc.
  • Set rules and standards for good "netiquette" within the discussion forums. Encourage communication among the participants of the class about the online learning experience.
  • Establish clear norms for participation and procedures for grading online work, which give credit for good participation.
  • Set clear expectations for the learners of the course in terms of participation, assignments, readings, and out-of-class work.

Facilitation Strategies

  • Not all students are comfortable with technology. Therefore, it becomes necessary to create assignments early in the course that will help facilitate a student's comfort level. For example: have learners edit their homepage, scan a photo and insert it into their homepage, send an email, post to a discussion forum, participate in a chat, etc. Get them actively involved in using the technology.
  • Create a discussion forum that allows students to openly discuss topics of interest to them. For example encourage them to discuss things like popular music, bands, and movies online. Allow them the freedom to participate and encourage them to do so. This has two side effects: one, it necessitates that they use the computer to participate and two, it encourages them to meet one another online.
  • Be an active facilitator of the discussion forum. Plan on adding one new topic to the discussion board each week. To achieve maximum participation, present topics that require responses from students that are concise, critical, and substantiated by facts. Monitor and respond to student threads and encourage students to do the same.
  • Create assignments, activities, or projects that permit students to "actively construct" knowledge when interacting with the information from the course. Create discussion threads that incorporate hypothetical scenarios, case studies, or theoretical conflicts to fuel discussions.
  • If you choose to hold "Virtual Office Hours" be sure to be online and available at the announced time. Not showing up for "Virtual Office Hours" is no different than not showing up for established office hours and/or class.
  • Develop a timeline for adding content to the course. You want to engage learners with one chapter at a time. If too much information is available, the students will not focus on the chapter, unit, or module at hand.
  • When using a computer to learn, learning itself becomes an active process of seeking out information and constructing that information into an internal representation of that information/knowledge. Try and balance the amount of guidance provided while permitting students the flexibility to explore and navigate your materials freely to construct their own meaningful knowledge.
  • Evaluation is an extremely important component of the development and delivery of any online course. It is important that you take the time to prepare thorough surveys or questionnaires to gauge students' reaction to learning in an online environment. Descriptions of their experiences will help you shape the next online course that you create.

Communication Strategies

  • Be responsive to questions posted online or in class. Especially at the beginning of an online course or activity, ensure that every comment has a response in a discussion forum or virtual chat. If no one else replies, either respond by message or by mentioning the author's comment in one of yours.
  • For the discussion forum component of the course, send email messages to those who are falling behind, or who are reading but not writing.
  • When student's log into their online course they can't help but see the announcements you post. Use the Announcements section of Blackboard to notify them of changes to the content, timelines, deadlines, and any item that was mentioned in class.
  • Encourage meta-communication about the process of online discussions and offer suggestions for improving the experience for all the participants.