Mar 3, 2016

What is it like to be a student in your online class?

Even though we have the best of intentions, sometimes we could make a few tweaks to our online courses that would be appreciated by our students, more than we may know.
confused student
Untitled by Jazbecky (CC-BY-2.0)

Invisible Teachers and Missing Course Descriptions:

  • Shy Teachers: Your Home page has lots of great info, but there's nothing about your name, title, or contact information. Please share, your students want to know you!
  • Enigmatic Courses: Your Home page is very light in color, as it is all blank. Give your students and fellow instructors a hint: What are you teaching? Who are you?
  • How do I fix this? Here are the steps to update your home page as well as examples of how other faculty have updated their courses. 

Scavenger Hunts and Tricky Due Dates:

  • Hidden Due Dates: Some of us like to hide our due dates at the end of our Syllabus. Why don't we put it at the top of our syllabus? Or create a separate document for it? Or add due dates at the top of our weekly Lesson? Or all of the above?
  • Due Sunday at Midnight: Some of us love to use Sundays and midnight as a due date/time. But what does midnight mean-is it due Saturday at midnight or Sunday at midnight or is it Monday? Let's use 11:30, 11:45 or 11:55  pm instead.
  • Also, why Sunday? Don't you want to enjoy your weekend? How about Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, so you're available to help your students?

Math Impaired Gradebooks:

  • Creative Accounting: Why get lots of emails about mid-term and/or final grades? If you're not good at math, like myself, why create an overly complicated grading scheme?  Keep your Gradebook simple! Then it will be easy to make Sakai calculate your grades for you-and it will be easier for your students to understand their course grades too. 
  • Math Instructor Want-to-Be's: If you think you're good at math, please save your masterful math equations for your friends and family. Just let the Sakai Gradebook do your calculations for you: set up Gradebook categories and weighting. Your students will thank you when they can easily understand their grades and I will thank you. Oh, and make sure your Gradebook matches your Syllabus, many others in high places will thank you too.

Hide-and-Seek with Content and Assessments:

  • Where is that darn content and assignment? Is it in the Syllabus, Resources, Announcements, personal Email; or in Forums, Assignments or Test and Quizzes? Please use Lessons to organize your weekly content, and use Lessons to link to your assessments. Use the Rule of Three's: Students should click a maximum of three times to get to their activities.
  • Is this all there is? A Syllabus,  PowerPoints and Tests alone is a self-study course, not a learning environment. Mix it up: Add a video, a diagram, or an overview convincing your students why this info is important to them and their career (and to you).
  • Isn't there more than just Tests and Forums? Again, Mix it up: Add Chat Rooms, Blogs, Lessons Student Pages, Assignments (students can submit videos or mindmaps or projects), or interview someone in your field and share it in writing, by audio or by video.

 Feedback: Missing in Action:

  • Discussions/Assignments: A blank space for feedback or "Good job" is not constructive feedback; "referred to multiple examples in the text, correctly referenced an appropriate article" are better.  Time constrained? Provide feedback every two or three weeks, as long as it is effective. Here are dozens of examples of feedback for all types of learners.  Or limit discussions, replace them with reports, research or projects.
  • Quizzes: Check out creating tests and publishing tests step-by- step instructions and videos to find out how to add Feedback for both incorrect and correct answers. Help your students build their skills in your quizzes before their major exams.
  • Weekly Course Feedback: Make your presence known. Post a weekly announcement or email (send to email archive so they can review it if they miss it) or post something new on your Home page each week: what can your students look forward to in your course? How did they perform last week as a group on a discussion, activity or project? What happened in the news that relates to your course?

Want More Ideas? 

Make sure you review the Curriculum Online Course Guidelines with Resources. Plus here are other ideas:

Advanced Suggestions


  1. I take classes online and greatly appreciate a highly organized teacher. I appreciate being told due dates on a frequent basis just to be sure I am on schedule.

  2. I always include a picture of myself and a brief bio so students can connect

  3. great suggestions-I will try adding some of them


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