First Day of Class

Think about the first day of class as one of the most important days of the entire course.  This is where you set the stage, set the ground rules, and create that first impression with your students that can last through the to the last day.

I like to start out with community-building activities. This is a great start for any class, but in my public speaking class it is critical to have support around the entire class because there are typically many heightened fears about speaking in public.  I use a few strategies throughout the term to create this support system, such as teams (with a really fun team icebreaker) and lots of small group/pairs activities while learning concepts.  But as far as the first few days of class, here are a few ideas of gleaned from others:

Activity Ideas:

  • Syllabus Group Activity – divide class into groups of 3-5. Give them a syllabus worksheet with a set of 5-7 questions that ask about the contents of the syllabus as they understand it. For example:
  • Pre-first day: online course expectations quiz (randomized with unlimited attempts so students can take over and over again to get them all correct).  Hey, what’s so bad about exposing them to the material over and over?  I have done this every semester and it really prepares students to learn what the expectations are.  Then I do not bore them on the first day of class by “reading” the syllabus to them.
  • First Day Walk Around –  post large post-its or use space on whiteboard/chalkboard with sentence like:
    • I learn best in classes where the teacher _____________
    • I am most likely to participate in classes when ___________
    • Here’s something that makes it hard to learn in a class _____________
    • Here’s something to make it easy to learn in a class _______________
    • Students in courses can help me learn when they ________________
      Have your class in groups, or individually, get up and walk around full circle, adding their thoughts to each post-it. Have fun and give each team different color pens!
  • Student Information Sheets – find out more about each of your students individually and have them fill out a student information sheet that they share only with you.  This is a great way to ask questions such as: “As the instructor, how can I best support your learning?” “What, if any, fears do you have about this class?” Also, you can ask questions related to the course topics that can better design effective teams (this may include familiarity/experience with specific methods such as, research, outlining, etc.).

Great Resources on First Day of Class:

Supporting 21st Century Students

A critical component of today’s learning is supporting and connecting to our 21st century learners.

Students today need skills and knowledge built upon critical thinking and problem-solving. In order to include these types of learning opportunities, consider the 7Cs of skills needed in the 21st century environment:

  • collaboration
  • critical-thinking
  • communication
  • creativity
  • curiosity
  • computing
  • cross-cultural understanding

Students of today want an independent, personalized learning environment that supports these skills needed in our present world.
Ways of learning are different today then they were even five years ago. We are a very data rich society and online learning is “not about replacement” for the face-to-face classroom; it’s about adding to our educational system. – change what you are doing, so focus can be on improved learning; use technology as an edge that can explain something better

CSU Science eAcademy

Gerry Hanley, Assistant Vice-Provost of the CSU Chancellor’s Office kicked off the eAcademy using an analogy of the “stone soup story” with the eAcademy goal in building communities of online faculty across our system.

The CSU system received ten million dollars as part of the Enrollment Bottleneck Solutions Initiative to focus on bottleneck courses by  expanding enrollment via online offerings. The CSU system plan is to build communities of faculty across the system to support each other in online learning.  Incidentally, courses with students with high fail/repeat rates: STEM – 1.8M course sections.

Fourteen CSU campuses were represented here today; coming together to share ideas on supporting online instructors and students. Here is a handful ideas that were brought up:

  • using emoticons to connect to students
  • lab packs from eScience are used for courses with labs
  • nursing students are using tablets in online nursing (Denise at Bakersfield)
  • getting students to read: syllabus test with nothing else available til pass with 80%+

CSU Campus leads on specific strategies:

  • flipped/edX – San Jose
  • Virtual Labs – LA (biology)
  • SmartPhysics – Pomona
  • Supplemental Instruction – Fullerton (Jan 16 sharing resources with CSU)