About Dr. Boettcher

Recent Activities

Home page

January 09 2009

E-Coaching Tip 62 (#1 Spring 2009)

Course Beginnings— Launch with Confidence and a Holiday Picture!

All courses have a natural cycle of beginnings, middles and endings. Beginning times are filled with excitement, anticipation, hope and sometime, a little anxiety. You and your students wonder about how the group of learners will work together and what the learners’ hopes for the course are.

Below is a six-item checklist about what it is good to do in course beginnings. (A longer version is Tip 21 - Five Simple Reminders about Course Beginnings)

Using these practices helps to ensure student satisfaction and effective learning and to make teaching more enjoyable as well! These practices lay the groundwork for an effective and fun course launch and a step forward in accomplishing your performance goals for your students!

See if you can check “yes” to each of these reminders. If you are all set on these six items, don’t miss the additional ideas on refreshing your course in the second half of this note!

Six-Item Checklist

1. Let students get to know you! Do you have a “rich” faculty bio?  ____

Have you incorporated ways to “make yourself known” to your students? Students love stories about their faculty, especially those that show what you do as a friend or family person.  Sharing a picture of what you did or didn’t do over the holidays can encourage them to do the same! Of course, be sure to have a standard faculty photo in your Faculty Information section.

2. Use the Announcement section. Have you welcomed your students here?  ____

This is the content area in course management systems that students will see first and is a great place to post a welcome and remind them of the “first” actions for them. Some of these first actions will be to review schedule and syllabus and post a response to your “getting acquainted” postings.

Also, check out the possibility of posting an announcement with an audio greeting. Hearing your voice creates a sense of real presence! A tip sheet on how to create a Voice Announcement is here.

3. Did you create a new “Getting Acquainted” thread in your “Pre-Week and Introductions” forum?  ____

Not only do students want to know you; they also want to know something about their fellow students and to share a little about themselves. Getting acquainted posts can be an opportunity for you as well — to create spaces in your own head and on paper by having them share something personal or memorable about themselves. Suggest that they share something simple, such as a “personal favorite” type of technology, place, or beverage, or a “personal best” or personal worst. I find something as simple as a picture invaluable!

4. Do you have plans to “be” at your course every day for the first two weeks?  ____

Your teaching and social presence is always important and it is doubly critical in the first few days of a course! In real estate it is location, location, location. In online learning it is presence, presence and more presence.

5. Do you have your syllabus complete with schedule, assignments and required resources?  ____

As you know, online students are super-sensitive to requirements, schedules and communication processes. Be sure that your course requirements are clear as to how many hours a week that you expect the course to take. A range of hours such as 4 to 6 or 6 – 8 is fine! If you plan on holding synchronous sessions, a backup plan for time conflicts is a must. Archiving sessions, holding duplicate sessions, or making synchronous sessions optional are ways to handle the likelihood of schedule conflicts.

Also, be sure to have your requirements and readings clearly laid out for each week of your course.

6. Do you have a discussion forum or an assignment focusing on the course performance goals?  ____

As you know from other tips, adults who are juggling work and learning like to personalize and customize a course to their professional needs and goals. Yet students don’t always “process” the intended performance goals and knowledge objectives of a course. Here are two strategies that can help students “connect” more personally to the stated course performance goals.

  • Include a short assignment in the first week that asks the learners to review the performance goals for the course, and then apply these performance goals to their own professional and personal goals. Doing this encourages your student to actually process the goals for their own purposes; and their statements shed light on what the learner’s purpose might be and what the learner already knows.
  • Another approach is to identify an important news item relevant to the course content and create a discussion forum where students comment on that news item. This immediately creates a shared content experience where students connect with the relevancy of the course content. More about this technique of “story referencing” is in the tip from last fall about personalizing learning: Tip 60 (#2 Fall 2008) Personalizing Learning Content so that Students Grow with the Course Experiences

Refreshing Your Course

One of the webinars from last fall was Refreshing Your Course from the Inside Out!

Here are a couple of reminder links to pursue if you missed the webinar. There is a link for checking your course components with the recommended Duquesne template, a link to a new super-easy, super-cool free audio/video tool, and a good online teaching refresher summary.

  • Duquesne’s Faculty Resources - “Customizing the Course Template” is a resource specifically designed for Duquesne faculty. This links to a 22-point checklist of specific tasks for you to customize your course template. The checklist provides the specific Control Panel link for performing each task to get your course site ready to be made available to students.
  • Try something super-cool! Check out this demo on teaching art history using “voice thread” — a new tool for incorporating mixed media, such as video, graphics, pictures, voice and text into student projects and discussions.
  • Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online  This 8-page document provides a quick summary of great online teaching practices.


E-Coaching Tip 21 (Fall 2006) Five Simple Reminders about Course Beginnings http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip21.html

E-Coaching Tip 61 (Fall 2008) Steps in Memory-Making: What Teaching Behaviors Make a Difference! http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip61.html

Duquesne Webinar (November 18, 2008) Refreshing Your Course from the Inside Out! In Blackboard, go to your “Courses & Communities” tab; enter the SLPA Faculty Webinars organization site, then follow the “Information” link.

Course Beginnings— Launch with Confidence and a Holiday Picture!



Ecoaching Table of Contents



Revised May 20 2013
Copyright Judith V. Boettcher, 1997-2013