Online course management

Orienting Students to Your Online Course

A photo of a person typing on a laptop at a table with a cup of tea and pieces of paper with notes.

Usually during the first-class meeting of a face-to-face class, the instructor will go over the syllabus and course policies and expectations with students. It is equally important to do this in an online course where the lack of face-to-face interaction can create uncertainty. In this in-depth article, we overview how to design and orient students to your online course at the beginning of the semester.

Organizing Your Online Course

A photograph of a desk with two monitors, a keyboard, a coffee mug, and papers.

Clear and consistent organization will allow you and your students to focus more on learning the actual content of your course, not only from the beginning of the semester but throughout the remainder of the course. The beginning information in a course along with the course syllabus are both areas where you can answer initial questions up front, prevent some questions from needing to be asked, and/or prevent other problems from coming up. There is no fool-proof perfect way to put a course together – but there are a lot of things that you can do that will make it easier for everyone involved and make it more enjoyable.

Designing a Start Here Section for Your Online Course

A photo of a start line on a running track.

In a face-to-face course, instructors often spend part of the first-class meeting going over the syllabus and class policies with students. Creating a designated Start Here area in your online course is like this. This is a place where you can include the most important information that students need to know to get off to a good start in your course. A Start Here area also allows you to emphasize things that are important for this course or expectations that you have for how students will interact with the content, each other, and you.

Beginning Online Course Design

A photo of a person typing on their laptop at a table with an open textbook and cup of tea.

A quality online course begins with the design, and that design involves time and planning. There are multiple design approaches and techniques to choose from, as well as a variety of different organization schemes to consider. In this article, we identify beginning considerations and recommendations for designing an online course, whether this is your first time or twentieth time designing an online course.