Last revised on 5/6/2022 by kek
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 four roles of an online facilitator.
These steps are also documented in our Course Facilitation Plan (CFP). Copy the Google Doc or download a Word file to create your own customized version.
Note: This post and the Course Facilitation Plan assume your online course was designed and developed according to best practices and meets Quality Matters standards.
Within the various time-frames presented above, recognize the following four roles of an online facilitator.
Before the Course Begins
Four Months or More Before the Course Begins
|Confirm that the course has been listed correctly in Student Admin and include any special information in the notes field (e.g., link to syllabus, proctored exams, synchronous requirement). If not listed, schedule the course in Student Admin by following your department or program’s processes.
|Make enhancements to course designas necessary, based on Quality Matters review results, instructor notes from previous iterations, and past course evaluations. Contact eCampus to work with an Instructional Designer for guidance.
|Review or create an authentication plan to verify student identities.
|Adopt textbook(s) through the UConn Bookstore.
Note: In order to comply with the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA), the University must list required materials for each course in the registration schedule. Therefore, faculty must adopt textbooks through the UConn Bookstore before registration begins. Additionally, students with certain types of financial aid or scholarships (e.g., athletic scholarships) must purchase textbooks through the UConn Bookstore.
|Participate in faculty development opportunities from eCampus as well as other CETL Workshops and Seminars related to online pedagogy and educational technology (e.g., Kaltura, Blackboard Collaborate, HuskyCT workshops). Look for notifications via email and the Daily Digest or check FINS.
Several Weeks (or More) Before the Course Begins
|Review Best Practices and Expectations for Online Teaching at UConn.
|Request your HuskyCT course site early. (HuskyCT sites are automatically created for all lecture and discussion course sections listed in Student Admin, but you can request your site be created earlier).
|Review all of your course content for issues and make needed updates to hyperlinks, images, videos, course navigation, spelling/grammar, and copyright permissions.
|Ensure each tool used in HuskyCT (e.g., assignments, discussions, journals, etc.) has detailed use instructions or links to tutorials to help the students feel comfortable with the technology.
|Address your UConn Library needs (if applicable). Creating links within HuskyCT to online resources rather than uploading PDFs is one way to ensure compliance with copyright law and provide accessible materials. Direct linking to library resources through a UConn EZproxy link also helps the library justify continuing paid subscriptions (i.e. data on the number of hits for an item).
|Update your syllabus with the latest changes, including textbook, course modality, instructor contact information, preferred communication method, expected response times to messages and assignments, authentication method, and other policies specific to this course or instructor.
|Update your course schedule (or HuskyCT Calendar), due dates, and content availability dates in HuskyCT. Consider using the Date Management tool in HuskyCT.
|Update the Grade Center in HuskyCT. Confirm grade visibility settings. Check your Total column(s). See Blackboard Help or Educational Technologies for support.
|Arrange online proctoring (if applicable) with ProctorU or remote in-person proctoring. You may also consider Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor as an alternative to live proctoring.
|Ensure your course orientation materials are available and up to date to help your students practice using course tools and get used to your class environment.
Example: eCampus online courses include a standard Course Orientation module that students complete before beginning the class. Use this Course Orientation Module as a starting point and tailor the contents based on your expectations.
|Email your students a welcome letter that includes:
Note: eCampus also sends a welcome letter; review this letter to enrolled students to see what information is already provided.
|Conduct a final review of your HuskyCT course site in Student Preview Mode, and make corrections as needed.
One Week Before the Course Begins (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.
|Make your HuskyCT course site available early. By default, your class is set to open to students on the first official day of class. Adjust the course availability dates to open your class (one week) early and provide students with an “Orientation Week” to practice using course tools, resolve technical issues, and reduce anxiety prior to the first day of class.
|Post a “Course is Open for Viewing” announcement using the HuskyCT Announcements tool on the date the course becomes available. By default, students are notified when you post an announcement and can see your message in the Announcements area of your course or the “Courses” tab on HuskyCT landing page. You can select the “Email Announcement” option to email students the full text of your message as well. The full title of your course will be in the email subject line; you merely need to give the announcement a meaningful title like “Course is Open for Viewing.” Schedule the announcement to post automatically by setting the “Display After Date” to 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.
Note: There are a few things we recommend that you mention in your “Course is Open for Viewing” announcement:
Refer to the communication templates for a sample announcement.
During the First Week of the Course
During the First Week of the Course
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.
|Post your self-introduction and invite students to introduce themselves using the discussion forum or another tool. Consider including an ice breaker activity. Begin forming a personal presence and get the ball rolling. Additionally, you can include this in your welcome letter and/or add an introduction video to the Course Orientation.
|Review students’ personal introductions posted to the “Introductions” discussion forum.
|Create and make students aware of the social forum for non-class related topics.
|Establish expectations regarding communication, feedback, and availability. Let students know when you’re available and what response time they can expect.
|Communicate with students as appropriate to maintain a positive rapport (e.g., Announcements, Discussions, Grade Center).
|Invite and encourage students to use online office hours and/or to make appointments. Remain accessible.
|Minimize delays for students adding the course late to gain access to course materials.
|Redistribute student groups promptly when students add or drop, if applicable. Or, wait until after the add/drop period to establish groups.
|Refer students to support information when needed (e.g., how to access course or publisher’s materials, access library materials remotely, find help resources for HuskyCT/Blackboard, convert the course to pass/fail, drop the course).
|Contact “missing” students to encourage their participation. In HuskyCT, you can see who has and hasn't 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 missing students via their UConn email address; they won’t see a HuskyCT message if they haven’t logged in yet!
Throughout the Course
On Any Given Day Throughout the Course
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 email and discussion forums from piling too high!
|Be present and visible in your course per the expectations that you established in the first week of class.
|Participate in discussion activities with a balanced approach. Try to steer the conversation to keep it on task and clarify misconceptions, yet not stifle it too early with authoritative or definitive posts that end the activity. Challenge the students by asking questions that apply to the instructional materials and communicating high expectations.
|Enforce guidelines for learner behaviors such as netiquette and due dates. Immediately address any students with inappropriate posts/behavior.
|Grade assignments and provide individual feedback promptly—with designed rubrics and within the feedback timeframe stated in the syllabus. Provide regular and responsive feedback on an ongoing basis, but especially early in the class, so under-performing students have the opportunity to incorporate your suggestions and improve their work in the next graded assignment.
|Respect and facilitate diverse talents and ways of learning, and consistently address universal accessibility.
|Ensure any on-the-fly materials are posted in easy-to-use, accessible formats, providing details for successfully downloading, if necessary.
|Demonstrate competency with HuskyCT, and use tools appropriately. Seek help when needed.
|Make reasonable accommodations due to technical difficulties beyond the students’ control consistent with policies in the syllabus and of the University.
|Direct students to technical support resources, as needed.
On a Weekly Basis Throughout the Course
Once a week (preferably on the same day each week) we recommend that you:
|Ensure course materials and activities are available to students by using Student Preview.
|Hold 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:
|Use the Announcements tool to do any of the following:
Refer to the communication templates for a sample weekly announcement.
|Post a ‘Summarizing Our Discussion’ thread or Announcement 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.
|Monitor student participation. Follow up with individual students through email to encourage participation, as needed.
|Monitor group work activity in provided group work space to achieve strong social interaction.
During Weeks 3 through 7 of the Course (or 25-50% into the course for non-standard offerings)
Gather mid-class feedback from your students by encouraging your students to complete a formative survey (Initial Course Survey). This is a good opportunity to see how your course is going from the students’ perspective.
|Encourage students to complete an “Initial Course Survey,” after 25–33% of the course. Review student feedback, respond to any problems identified, and adjust the course as necessary.
|Provide midterm grades to students. While midterm grades are not required for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses, it is an important retention strategy to notify students who are not performing well in your class. Send them a private email letting them know their current grade and suggest strategies for improvement.
Note: Midterm grades are required by the end of the sixth week of the semester for students in 1000- and 2000-level courses who have earned a D, F, U, or N grade up to that point.
During the Last Week of the Course
Before the Course Ends
|Provide general information concerning the nature and format of the final assessment(s).
|Encourage students to complete the course evaluations, both:
Explain that this is their opportunity to help improve the course. Prompting students will help get a better response rate. Refer to the communication templates for a sample announcement.
|Record any notes and changes for future course iterations in the Instructor Resources course menu area.
On the Last Day of the Course (and Soon After)
|Encourage students to share their class experience and say goodbye in a closing forum.
|Send students a closing personal message to wrap up the class (e.g., announcement, discussion post). Include a final reminder to complete both course evaluations (eCampus Summative Evaluation and SET). Tell students how long course materials will continue to be available after the end of class, and remind students to download/print their work, if they desire. Refer to the communication templates for a sample announcement.
|Provide feedback on the final assessment and make it available to students, even after the class is over.
|Post final grades to Student Admin promptly, which are officially “due 72 hours after completion of the scheduled final exam.”