Managing Your Online Course

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.

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

Before the Course Begins

Four Months or More Before the Course Begins

List of tasks to be completed four months or more before the course begins and their accompanying role(s).
Task Roles
1.1. 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. Managerial Role
1.2. 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. Pedagogical Role Managerial Role
1.3. Review or create an authentication plan to verify student identities.

See: Authentication of Students in Online and Distance Learning Courses

Managerial Role
1.4. 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.

Pedagogical Role Managerial Role
1.5. 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. Pedagogical Role Technological Role

Several Weeks (or More) Before the Course Begins

List of tasks to be completed several weeks before the course begins and their accompanying roles.
Task Roles
2.1. Review Best Practices and Expectations for Online Teaching at UConn. Pedagogical Role Technological Role Managerial Role
2.2. 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).

Then, request to restore HuskyCT content from prior semesters and combine your course sections, if applicable.

Managerial Role
2.3. Review all of your course content for issues and make needed updates to hyperlinks, images, videos, course navigation, spelling/grammar, and copyright permissions. Technological Role Managerial Role
2.4. 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. Technological Role Managerial Role
2.5. 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). Technological Role Managerial Role
2.6. 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.

Then, submit a link to your syllabus to have it listed on the eCampus Online Courses website.

Managerial Role
2.7. Update your course schedule (or HuskyCT Calendar), due dates, and content availability dates in HuskyCT. Consider using the Date Management tool in HuskyCT. Managerial Role
2.8. Update the Grade Center in HuskyCT. Confirm grade visibility settings. Check your Total column(s). See Blackboard Help or Educational Technologies for support. Managerial Role
2.9. 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. Managerial Role
2.10. 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.

Managerial Role
2.11. Email your students a welcome letter that includes:

  • Information for logging into using their NetID and password, and when the course will open.
  • Link to 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 menu item while in HuskyCT or contact the ITS Technology Support Center for login issues.)

Refer to the communication templates for a sample welcome letter. You can email your students from the Student Admin roster by using the notify feature, or from HuskyCT using the Send Email tool.

Note: eCampus also sends a welcome letter; review this letter to enrolled students to see what information is already provided.

Social Role Technological Role Managerial Role
2.12. Conduct a final review of your HuskyCT course site in Student Preview Mode, and make corrections as needed. Technological Role Managerial Role

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.

List of tasks to be completed one week before the course starts and their accompanying role(s).
Task Roles
3.1. 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. Technological Role Managerial Role
3.2. 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:

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

Refer to the communication templates for a sample announcement.

Social Role Managerial Role

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.

List of tasks to be completed during the first week of the course and their accompanying roles.
Task Roles
4.1. 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. Social Role
4.2. Review students’ personal introductions posted to the “Introductions” discussion forum.

  • Respond to everyone to ensure students feel welcomed. Use this as an opportunity to model discussion response behavior and tone. Use a conversational tone for responses that is inviting, personal, friendly, and encouraging. Use humor carefully, and use emoticons as appropriate.
  • Summarize the postings for the class, sharing what you’ve learned about the class, noting key themes, and addressing their class expectations. (e.g., “Several of you stated that you hoped to learn more about [blank] in this class. While we won’t be covering [blank] specifically, we will address the more general issue of…”)
Pedagogical Role Social Role
4.3. Create and make students aware of the social forum for non-class related topics. Social Role
4.4. Establish expectations regarding communication, feedback, and availability. Let students know when you’re available and what response time they can expect. Pedagogical Role Social Role
4.5. Communicate with students as appropriate to maintain a positive rapport (e.g., Announcements, Discussions, Grade Center). Pedagogical Role Social Role
4.6. Invite and encourage students to use online office hours and/or to make appointments. Remain accessible. Pedagogical Role Social Role
4.7. Minimize delays for students adding the course late to gain access to course materials. Managerial Role
4.8. Redistribute student groups promptly when students add or drop, if applicable. Or, wait until after the add/drop period to establish groups. Managerial Role
4.9. 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). Technological Role Managerial Role
4.10. 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!

Managerial Role

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!

List of tasks to be completed on any given day throughout the course and their accompanying roles.
Task Roles
5.1. Be present and visible in your course per the expectations that you established in the first week of class.

  • Monitor the discussion forums, particularly the “General Questions” or “Ask the Professor” forum. If you choose, you can subscribe to discussion forums or individual threads to receive an email notification whenever a new post has been created.
  • Respond to student questions promptly—consistent with the response timeframe stated in the syllabus. (Recommended: Within 24 hours, or within 48 hours on weekends.)
  • If using other tools, engage with students in a way that they know they are supported in the overall learning environment.
    Pedagogical Role Social Role Managerial Role
    5.2. 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. Pedagogical Role Social Role
    5.3. Enforce guidelines for learner behaviors such as netiquette and due dates. Immediately address any students with inappropriate posts/behavior. Social Role Managerial Role
    5.4. 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. Pedagogical Role
    5.5. Respect and facilitate diverse talents and ways of learning, and consistently address universal accessibility. Pedagogical Role Social Role Technological Role
    5.6. Ensure any on-the-fly materials are posted in easy-to-use, accessible formats, providing details for successfully downloading, if necessary. Pedagogical Role Technological Role
    5.7. Demonstrate competency with HuskyCT, and use tools appropriately. Seek help when needed. Pedagogical Role Technological Role
    5.8. Make reasonable accommodations due to technical difficulties beyond the students’ control consistent with policies in the syllabus and of the University. Technological Role
    5.9. Direct students to technical support resources, as needed. Technological Role

    On a Weekly Basis Throughout the Course

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

    List of tasks to be completed on a weekly basis throughout the course and their accompanying roles.
    Task Roles
    6.1. Ensure course materials and activities are available to students by using Student Preview. Technological Role Managerial Role
    6.2. 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:

    Pedagogical Role Social Role
    6.3. Use the Announcements tool to do any of the following:

    • Provide constructive feedback to help the class meet desired learning objectives and clarify or correct any misconceptions.
    • Connect class topics to current events and real world issues.
    • Facilitate transition from one topic to the next, wrapping up the previous module and introducing the next module.
    • Clarify the weekly plan (e.g., schedule, readings, activities, assessments). Notify students of any updates to the syllabus or course schedule.
    • Provide suggestions on how to approach assignments, discussion posts, and other learning activities.
    • Remind students of upcoming deadlines.
    • Create instructor presence and keep the class personal with informal social greetings.
    • Invite students to attend office hours.
    • Notify students of your absences (e.g., due to illness, travel, or personal emergency) with guidance on what to do during your absence.
    • Notify students in advance (when possible) of any interruptions to accessing course materials.

    Refer to the communication templates for a sample weekly announcement.

    Pedagogical Role Social Role Technological Role Managerial Role
    6.4. 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. Pedagogical Role Social Role
    6.5. Monitor student participation. Follow up with individual students through email to encourage participation, as needed. Social Role Managerial Role
    6.6. Monitor group work activity in provided group work space to achieve strong social interaction. Pedagogical Role Social Role Managerial Role

    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.

    List of tasks to be completed during weeks 3 through 7 of the course and their accompanying roles.
    Task Roles
    7.1. 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. Pedagogical Role Managerial Role
    7.2. 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.

    Pedagogical Role Managerial Role

    During the Last Week of the Course

    Before the Course Ends

    List of tasks to be completed before the course ends and their accompanying roles.
    Task Roles
    8.1. Provide general information concerning the nature and format of the final assessment(s). Pedagogical Role Technological Role Managerial Role
    8.2. Encourage students to complete the course evaluations, both:

    1. eCampus Summative Course Evaluation
    2. Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET)

    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.

    Managerial Role
    8.3. Record any notes and changes for future course iterations in the Instructor Resources course menu area.

    • Keep track of important items that you might not remember when it comes time for the course to run again. 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.
    • Make note of technical aspects that worked well and those that need improvement. Forward to or discuss with technical support staff.
    Pedagogical Role Technological Role Managerial Role

    On the Last Day of the Course (and Soon After)

    List of tasks to be completed on the last day of the course and their accompanying roles.
    Task Roles
    9.1. Encourage students to share their class experience and say goodbye in a closing forum. Social Role
    9.2. 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. Social Role Managerial Role
    9.3. Provide feedback on the final assessment and make it available to students, even after the class is over. Pedagogical Role
    9.4. Post final grades to Student Admin promptly, which are officially “due 72 hours after completion of the scheduled final exam.” Pedagogical Role Managerial Role

    Along with information from UConn eCampus, this post has been adapted and integrated based on resources from PennState’s Managing Your Online Class: ANGEL and Humboldt State University’s Assessing Online Facilitation Instrument, a 2007 TIGERS Project Sponsored by CSU.