Online engagement can be modelled early in the quarter to help students build habits that lead to better persistence, digital supports and student success. Here are a few from the iTech Fellows and the literature. Come visit us in the Faculty Resource Center if you'd like help building them into your course, or are looking for further ideas in your discipline.
- Introductory Videos: Interacting with faculty can be a daunting task for some first-year students. A video introduction permits us to use media to create connection. Reaching out early helps frame for the students an understanding of what they can expect to experience in your course. Providing a personalized introduction can establish rapport with your students, address questions about how to address you in conversations and email, and set expectations for the work ahead. Video is a media with immediacy that can show your enthusiasm and build excitement about what they’ll experience in your course. This is also a great opportunity for you to express your willingness to help them be successful in class in a way that translates as 1:1 communication.
In return, ask them to do an introductory post using the video/webcam option in the Canvas Discussion Board. You can provide guidelines on topics to cover: hobbies, career ambitions, something that excites them about the class and perhaps even something that they are feeling apprehensive about. You could also ask the students to reply to a few peers to get full credit for the assignment. This permits students to creatively connect 1:1 with others in ways not possible in constricted class time.
- Syllabus Quiz: A great way to start off the quarter and ensure your students are familiar with what is expected is to have them take a syllabus quiz. Creating a low-stakes quiz that allows for multiple attempts is a great way to get your students used to taking online quizzes in Canvas and ensures that they are knowledgeable about key course information needed for success!
- Introductory Discussion Post: Early on, create scholarly expectations (grammar, spelling, netiquette) by having students submit an assignment in the discussion board format. Use of a rubric allows them to understand your expectations in concrete terms before they submit. You can also encourage/require the students to reply to their peers with supporting or refuting evidence to get full credit for the assignment. Remember to use Speed Grader to be able to use your rubric and to see all of a student's submissions for grading.
- Initial Self-Reflection Assignment: Have students engage with the Submit Assignment feature in Canvas within the first few weeks of class. One idea is to ask them to submit to you a personal reflection on their expectations for the course, their personal goals for engaging with the course materials, commitment to staying on task and what challenges they will have to overcome to meet their goals. This can then be revisited at mid-term so they can re-assess how they feel they've done at staying on task.
- Establish a sense of community: Have students collaboratively build a Google Doc, perhaps understanding of the course topics and goals or one that outlines their course Netiquette expectation. Every successful online community needs to be in agreement on a set of guidelines. Often these guidelines are "unwritten rules" that evolve over time and are enforced by the members of the community. Having students in the class work together to develop the guidelines for the class community may enhance digital and in-class behavior later in the course.
- Peer to Peer Frequent Asked Questions (FAQ): Use a discussion board forum to create a sense of community and promote active engagement within the course. Encourage your students to ask questions there, rather than in an email to you. Recognize students who respond proactively to peers. Some instructors also create a second forum for "Hallway Conversations" not directly related to the course content.
- Online Scavenger Hunt: One way to help students get acclimated to a new learning environment is to have them complete a scavenger hunt via the Quiz tool in Canvas. You can have them answer simple questions about academic resources like the TLC and Library, their advisor, the location of resources on campus, etc. Web resources they need to hunt for could also include important sites related to your content/discipline that they need to find, for which you've given them clues. This assignment could also be used as the beginning of teaching scholarly vs popular resources and allows them to practice searching for meaningful sites that will help them succeed.