This is a good time to double-check the availability readings, video clips, etc. that students will need to access this semester. I am also a fan of the suggestion to visit the classroom(s) in advance. The visit will provide an opportunity to see the physical layout of the room, whether or not the tables and chairs are able to be moved, and to try out the technology (at the teacher station, for example) to make sure it is working as expected. The advance visit can be important even for those of us who are scheduled for the same classrooms every term because room details can change. One of my go-to classrooms, for example, received an upgrade this summer, and I will be making a trip over to see the new setup this afternoon.
|A welcome message greeting students in D2L.|
Welcoming Students to the Course
A welcome message of some kind can help to set the stage for the upcoming semester. The welcome message can be posted as an announcement in D2L (or whatever your LMS or online course environment happens to be) or sent via email. A friendly tone goes a long way, and if you have any expectations for how things should happen at the start of the semester, this is an opportunity to communicate those expectations with students. If D2L or the online environment will be used throughout the semester, setting up a discussion area, for example, and prompt that encourages students to introduce themselves is also an option. According to Boettcher and Conrad (2010):
"Social presence, that is, getting to know each other as three-dimensional people, is the foundation of building trust and presence for the teaching and learning experiences. Getting acquainted at the social level creates a trusting and understanding environment for reaching out and risking beliefs in the content discussions" (p.51).Even though the authors are speaking explicitly to the beginning of an online course, I tend to agree with this outlook for teaching and learning in any course whether it is online, face-to-face, or hybrid. Building this social presence and foundation of trust is one of the things I am constantly working on as an instructor; it requires balancing a variety of things, but I keep working at it because I believe that it adds a great deal of value to the learning environment.
McKeachie, W. J., & Svinicki, M. (2011). McKeachie's teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (13th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.