Facilitating Your First Online Course

Whew, the development is complete and now the online course begins…

Where do you start?

One of the first places I begin is with the Facilitation Record. This is a handy record of things that you need to do and when to do them, as well as notes about what you may want to change for the next time you offer this course.

Some key things to remember during the first week:

  • The Welcome Email.  Send out a Welcome email about 7-10 days before the course begins. This is a great way to introduce yourself to your students and give them important information to get started in the course, including technical requirements, access, and any required materials.
  • Create/Select Teams. The very first week is a key time to create (or have your students select) their semester teams.  Students will need a lot of encouragement and structure in building successful teams. Take a look at Tips for Successful Groups for more detail.
  • Introduction/Icebreaker Activity.  Be sure to include some type of icebreaker the first week so that students begin to build community.  This can be a simple discussion forum or even a short intro video shared with class in a web-based tool like Animoto or YouTube. It is important to introduce yourself to your students in this activity also. Respond to each student’s introduction, even if brief. Building community is key at the beginning and this sets the tone for the rest of the class. You likely won’t be as ‘active’ in further discussion forums, but the intro forum is critical.
  • Check Student Log-ins.  In an 8-week online course, it is important to stay connected to students to be sure they are staying on task.  The first week is critical. After day three, I typically check the log-ins to see who has not logged in yet. I send a personal email (can be a template you send to each) to each individual student letting them know that I have noticed that they have not logged in and should get started ASAP. By the end of week 1, I notify any students who have not logged in that they will be manually dropped from the course if they don’t log in by specified date. I also check the student log-ins periodically throughout the term to ensure that no more than 48 hours has gone by since their last log-in.
  • Introduce the First Topic. The first week is often filled with learning how to navigate the course and what is expected. Introducing the overall course focus and how/where it can connect to students individually can really shape the rest of the course for students.  It may be helpful to have a short video (3-5 minutes) where student hear your voice and even see you to make connections.  This is also a great space to talk about the expectations of the course

sample of facilitation record

The following would further support the above Best Practices:


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