Managing Your Online Class

Last revised: 02/10/2017 by dsm

Overview:
This post explains key steps to take before, during, and after your course implementation, presented in the recurring course life-cycle, as well as recognizing the 4 roles of an online facilitator.


Quick links

Time-frames


Before Class Begins

4 Months or More Before the Course Begins
Several Weeks (or more!) Before the Course Begins
One Week Before the Course Starts (a.k.a. “Orientation Week”)

During the First Week

During the First Week of the Course

Throughout the Course

During Weeks 3 through 6
On a Daily Basis Throughout the Class
On a Weekly Basis Throughout the Class

At Mid-Semester

During the Last Week

Before the Class Ends
On the Last Day of the Class (and soon after!)


Roles

Within the various time-frames presented above, recognize the following 4 roles of an online facilitator.

Pedagogical Icon Pedagogical: Guiding student learning with a focus on concepts, principles, and skills.
Social Icon Social: Creating a welcoming online community in which learning is promoted.
Managerial Icon Managerial: Handling organizational, procedural, and administrative tasks.
Technical Icon Technical: Assisting participants to become comfortable with the technologies used to deliver the course.

 

 

Before Class Begins

4 Months or More Before the Course Begins

1. Schedule the course by following your department or program’s processes to list and offer the course during the appropriate semester or session. Managerial Icon
2. Confirm that the course has been listed correctly in Peoplesoft (e.g., correct session, instruction mode = WWW). Managerial Icon
3. Alert the Registrar’s Office to any special information you want listed in Peoplesoft notes field (proctored exams, synchronous requirement, syllabi links). Managerial Icon
4. Contact eCampus (ecampus@uconn.edu) regarding potential pedagogical and/or technical updates with which you may need or want guidance. Pedagogical IconTechnical Icon
5. Contact CETL’s Educational Technology Group  to receive training and support for the use of HuskyCT tools Technical Icon
6. Look for notifications regarding faculty development opportunities eCampus offers as well as  CETL Seminars related to online pedagogy. Pedagogical Icon Technical Icon

 


 

Several Weeks (or more!) Before the Course Begins

1. Review Best Practices and Expectations for Online Teaching at UConn. Pedagogical IconTechnical IconManagerial Icon
2. Request your HuskyCT online course site AND request HuskyCT content be restored from a prior semester . Follow the steps outlined by the Educational Technologies Group, “Request HuskyCT Site (help file)”. Managerial Icon
3. Review ALL pages of your course content and fix any broken hyperlinks, images, instructions, etc. Managerial IconTechnical Icon
4. Update your syllabus* and any other instructor-specific course materials. (Send the link to your syllabus or a copy of the syllabus to eCampus@uconn.edu to be placed on the eCampus Courses page)

* See the eCampus Syllabus Template


NOTE: Students on athletic scholarship must purchase textbooks through the UConn Co-op. We recommend that you always notify the Co-op of your required textbooks.
An excerpt from the August 25, 2014 UConn Daily Digest:

Requirements Regarding Textbooks
In order for the University to receive student financial aid from the federal government, we must comply with the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA). One provision of the law deals with access to affordable course materials for students, and requires that the University provide the list of prices and ISBN codes of the required and recommended textbooks for each course listed on our online registration schedule.To comply with the law, it is very important that faculty make course textbook information available before registration begins for each semester. To do this, faculty simply need to provide the information to the UConn Co-op, which then takes responsibility for making the information available as the law requires. The registration deadlines are published on the Registrar’s website.  Please note that registration for the fall 2015 semester begins on March 23.  Information about how to submit textbook adoption information to the UConn Co-op is available on its website.

Pedagogical IconTechnical Icon
5. Update your course calendar/schedule. Some faculty use the HuskyCT “Calendar” tool to help students see important due dates. Others prefer to include that information on their syllabus or on a stand-alone course menu item. Regardless of location, busy students appreciate having this information.  – Need help? See How to Edit the Course Schedule in Blackboard in the eCampus Knowledge Base. Managerial Icon
6. Look for notifications regarding faculty development opportunities eCampus offers as well as  CETL Seminars related to online pedagogy. Pedagogical Icon Technical Icon
7. **Address  your Library Resources / Course Reserves / Readings (if applicable). 

**NOTE: Electronics Course Reserves has been phased out.  See the UConn Library website for up to date information on these changes.  

Managerial IconTechnical Icon
8. Update any content open/close dates. Some faculty like to set certain course items to automatically open or close on certain dates/times. Managerial Icon
9. Set up your HuskyCT Grade Center. Your Grade Center Columns have visibility options

Pedagogical Icon Technical Icon
10. Merge your course sections, if applicable. Need help? See “Combining HuskyCT Sites – Why and How” at http://irc.uconn.edu/huskyct-basics/. Managerial Icon
11. Send your students a welcome letter (via uconn.edu email*) that tells them:

  • To login at http://huskyct.uconn.edu (using their UConn NetID and password)
  • The URL/location of the syllabus
  • What materials they need to purchase and where they can get them
  • Who to contact if they need technical assistance (Students should click the “Student Help” tab while in HuskyCT or contact  the UITS Help Center for login issues)

NOTE:  If you would like to also send a copy of your welcome letter to your students’  UConn email addresses, use the “Notify” feature in PeopleSoft, or the Mail feature in your HuskyCT course to send an email to your students. Here is a sample welcome letter template you may want to use as a starting point.

Managerial Icon

NOTE: eCampus sends out a “welcome letter” to students upon registration. Review this sample welcome letter to see the information they already provide to students.

 


One Week Before the Course Starts (a.k.a. “Orientation Week”)

A standard practice for online courses is to give students an “orientation week”—access to the class one week before it officially begins. This practice enables online students to log into HuskyCT early and familiarize themselves with the class environment and the expectations for the course so that they will be comfortable and ready to hit the ground running on the first day of class.

1. “Open” your class early By default, a new class section is set to “open” on the first official day of class.  In order to provide students with an “Orientation Week” prior to the first day of class, you must change the start date.  See the following instructions from the Instructional Resource Center to open your class early for orientation http://irc.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/77/2014/03/StudentAccessDate.pdf Managerial Icon
2.

Ensure your course orientation materials are available and up to date to help your students get used to your class and the class environment.

EXAMPLE: eCampus online courses include a standard Course Orientation module that students complete before beginning the class. Use this orientation module as a starting point and tailor the contents based on your expectations.

Managerial Icon
3.

Hide certain class materials from student view (Optional)

If there are materials that you are not ready to have students see, it is possible to “hide” them in HuskyCT.  All content areas contain “Edit” options allowing you to set items to be unavailable and/or to set  specific availability for student access.

Managerial Icon
4.

Post a “Course is Open for Viewing” announcement for your students. Use the HuskyCT Announcements tool to send an automatic announcement to your class on the date the course is open for viewing.  By default, Announcements are pushed to your students’ uconn.edu email addresses and include the full title of your course in the email subject line.  You merely need to give the announcement a meaningful title like “Course is Open for Viewing”.

  • Set Display After Date for the announcement to release on the course open date.
  • If you imported your course content from a previous HuskyCT section, your announcements will have automatically been imported as well. See how to edit/delete and reuse your old announcements
  • Locations: All announcements will show up in the Announcements area of your course; on your students’ “My Courses” page on HuskyCT; and in their uconn.edu email. For this reason, please remember to include a meaningful title.

NOTE: There are a few things we recommend that you mention in your “Course is Open for Viewing” announcement:

  • Tell your students to begin the course by reviewing the syllabus, schedule/calendar and the course orientation materials (provide your students with quick directions for accessing those materials).
  • Remind them of the official class start date.


SAMPLE:


Hello and Welcome to NURS 5300!

This class will officially begin on Monday, June 2, 2017.

Meanwhile, feel free to familiarize yourself with our HuskyCT course space and the material in our Course Orientation. To get to our course space and the Course Orientation area follow the steps below:

Step 1: Access HuskyCT by navigating to http://huskyct.uconn.edu and log in with your NetID and password;

Step 2: Select our NURS 5300 course from the “My HuskyCT Classes” area to enter our space.

Step 3: Click on the “Course Orientation” link on the left course menu and away you’ll go!

Again, the course is opened early for your benefit.  I will not be available until the official first day of classes.  If you have any technical issues navigating HuskyCT, see the “Student Help” tab in HuskyCT for help contacts and resources or contact the UConn Help Center.

See you soon!

– Mary Smith


Managerial Icon

During the First Week

To establish a sense of community and “break the ice”, you should create and facilitate a “Class Introductions” Discussion Forum in HuskyCT. This is also a great way for you to get a feel for who the students are and what experience they bring to the class.

1. Make your own “introduction” post to the class to get the ball rolling. social
2. Review the personal introductions that your students post to the class discussion forum and respond to each student personally to ensure students feel welcomed. social
3. Summarize the postings for your class sharing what you’ve learned about the class make-up and addressing their class expectations (e.g., “Several of you stated that you hoped to learn more about XYZ in this class. While we won’t be covering XYZ specifically, we will address the more general issue of…”) Pedagogical Iconsocial
4. Minimize delays for students adding the course late to gain access to course materials. Managerial Icon
5. Redistribute student groups promptly when students drop or add. Managerial Icon
6. Point students to support information when needed, e.g., how to access course materials, drop the course, use publisher’s materials, or find help resources for HuskyCT/Blackboard. Managerial Icon
7. Contact students who have not yet accessed the HuskyCT site. In HuskyCT, you can easily see who has, and has not, accessed your class (see “Generating Course Reports” for instructions).  If a student hasn’t accessed the class yet, there may be a problem that needs your attention.

NOTE: You need to contact your missing student via an email to their uconn.edu e-mail address (since they won’t see a HuskyCT message if they haven’t logged in yet!)

Managerial Icon

 


Throughout the Course

 

During Weeks 3 through 6 (or 25-50% into the class for non-standard offerings)

1. Be present and visible in your course per the expectations that you established in the first week of class. social
2. Provide regular and responsive feedback to students.  Do this on an ongoing basis, but especially early in the class so that under-performing students have the opportunity to improve their work. For example, grades and feedback should be provided to students as soon as possible so students can incorporate your suggestions into their next graded assignment to improve the result. Pedagogical Icon
3. Participate in discussion activities with a balanced approach.  Try to steer the conversation to keep it on task, yet not stifle it too early with authoritative or definitive posts that end the activity. Consider posting a ‘Summarizing Our Discussion’ thread at the conclusion of each discussion forum to highlight the connections students are making and to point out other connections the students may have missed. Pedagogical Icon
4. Review student feedback on your “Initial Course Survey” and adjusts as necessary (see Evaluating Teaching and Course Design using Surveys). Pedagogical Icon
5a. Undergraduate Courses – Provide a mid-term progress report to all students.  Note: This is REQUIRED by the end of the sixth week of class per university policy for students who appear to be in danger of earning D, F, N, or U grades. The Registrar’s academic calendar lists the due dates of such reports. Managerial Icon
5b. Graduate Classes – While the mid-term progress report policy is not required for graduate students, it is an important retention strategy to notify students who are off to a bad start in your class.  Send them a private e-mail letting them know their current grade and suggest strategies for improvement.  If a student appears not to be active in the course, send them a course message within HuskyCT but also contact them via their regular UConn email (you can find students’ email in the student admin system or use the Mail tool, if it is active in your HuskyCT course). Managerial Icon

On a Daily Basis Throughout the Class

How often you check the class is an individual decision, but you should let your students know, up front, how often they can expect to hear from you. Checking in at least once each class day and once over the weekend is a good way to keep in touch and to keep the e-mail and discussion forums from piling too high!

1.

Monitor the Class Discussion Forums If you choose, you can subscribe to discussion forums.  “Subscribe” allows users to “subscribe” to either the forum or individual threads. Subscribe sends emails whenever a new post has been created. If Subscribe is enabled, you and your students have the option of having either the entire post or a link to the post emailed.

See how to “Subscribe to a Discussion Forum.”

Subscribe screenshot

(Click image to expand)

NOTE: You will NOT be able to reply to the post via email but it is a way to be notified of class activity without actually logging into the class.

Managerial IconPedagogical Icon
2. Monitor the class Messages tool for new messages and responds promptly Managerial Icon
3. Grade all assignments.  Students appreciate timely feedback on their assignments…and they will let you know if they feel they are waiting too long! Managerial Icon
4. Use the Announcements tool to notify student of important due dates, assignments, activities, or for basic feedback. But use it judiciously so that it doesn’t lose its effectiveness.  For more extensive detailed feedback, use the discussion board. Managerial Icon

On a Weekly Basis Throughout the Class

Once a week (preferably on the same day each week) we recommend that you:

1. Use the various tools to be sure that the weekly plan is clear (course schedule, discussion board, announcements) and that students understand all readings, activities, and any due dates. Managerial Icon
2. Update your class schedule with any new or revised due dates.  Send an announcement to inform the students of the update(s) if a date is revised. Managerial Icon
3. Summarize discussion forum conversations, since it can be hard to bring a close to those discussions and/or cull out the important points before moving on to other discussions! Pedagogical Icon
4.

Consider holding online office hours Giving your students a chance to communicate with you in real-time can help build strong relationships and motivate students to fully engage in the class. Some popular options for conducting live office hours with geographically dispersed students are:

  • Google Hangouts
  • Chat rooms in HuskyCT
  • WebEx (web conferencing)
Managerial IconsocialPedagogical Icon
5. Consider monitoring student participation and communicate to individuals through email if needed to encourage participation. socialManagerial Icon

At Mid-Semester

Gather mid-class feedback from your students by encouraging your students to complete a formative survey. This is a good opportunity to see how your course is going from the students’ perspective:

1. Send an email to all students or create a short survey and ask specific questions about progress, understanding, need help, etc. (see Evaluating Teaching and Course Design using Surveys). Pedagogical Icon
2. Remind students who are late or haven’t been active Managerial Icon

 


During the Last Week

 

Before the Class Ends

1. Encourage your students to complete the eCampus Summative Course Survey.  Explain that this is their opportunity to help improve the online course. Managerial Icon
2. Encourage your students to complete the official Student Evaluation of Teaching.   This will help get better response rates from students.

EXAMPLE: “I hope that you will be able to find about 15 minutes to complete the Student Evaluation of Teaching Survey and also the internal course final survey. We rely upon your anonymous feedback to guide our continuing efforts to make this class worth the time and money you (and in many cases, your employers) invest. Whether your feelings about the class are positive, negative, or mixed, please take a few minutes to let us know.

 Managerial Icon
3. Add your notes/reminders about future course iterations edits/changes using the Instructor Resources menu item.  Use it throughout the course to keep track of important items that you might not remember when t comes time for the course to run again. Managerial Icon

 


On the Last Day of the Class (and soon after!)

1. Post an end-of-class announcement and/or discussion message to wrap-up to the class. Include a final request to complete the SET and the eCampus Summative Evaluation course survey. socialManagerial Icon
2. Remind students to download/print their work, if they desire. Managerial Icon
3.

Post final grades in PeopleSoft within 2 days of the end of the class.

You can get additional support from Educational Technologies, HuskyCT support to extract student grades, export grade book, download assignment files, compile discussions

Managerial Icon
4. Review and revise your course materials while everything is still fresh in your mind.  Will there be a different instructor next time the course is offered? It would also be good to meet with that individual now to share your experiences.  Add notes in Instructor Resources for edits to future iterations of your course while the course is still fresh in your mind Managerial Icon

 


Note:  Along with UConn eCampus information, this page has been adapted and integrated bases on resources from  Managing Your Online Class: ANGEL from PennState and Assessing Online Facilitation by Humboldt State University. 

 


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