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Committee on Online Learning (COOL)

Tips for Early Online Student Success

1. Make the announcements page, your course entry point (at least for the first week). When the students log into the course site the first thing they will see is your announcement and this will give them a sense of stability.

2. Configure the course menu so that the main things the students need will be available to them right away when they log into the course site. Make the menu items short and clear. And, try not to have too many menu buttons or your learners may become confused.

3. If you send out and post announcements every day for the first 2 weeks of your course you will find that students will develop the habit of logging into the course site every day. The announcements do not have to be long; they just need to give your learners brief updates and reminders about what assignments may be due or other course information.

4. Make sure to let students know how they can contact you. Please be clear and place the information in a prominent location (i.e. "Syllabus" button, "Contact Instructor" button, first Announcement- or all of these places). Just be sure to tell students how to contact you, where they can meet you in your office, and when you will be online. They may need you that first or second week. This makes it easy for them to find out the best way to reach you or to meet with you in your office.

5. In your initial Announcement and Syllabus, let students know when they can expect a return e-mail from you: 24 hours, 8 hours or however long is right for you. Please be honest and clear about this for your learners.

6. Include a Discussion Board forum for your students to ask questions about the Syllabus. You can inform your students that you will leave that forum available for two weeks. Learners will appreciate this and it will save you from having to answer numerous e-mails about the Syllabus. After the first two weeks, you can add a forum for questions about the course.

7. Let your students know how the days of your course work. For instance, is does your course operate on a Monday-Friday schedule, Seven days per week, or Monday, Wednesday, Fridays? Whatever the configuration of days you intend to use for the course, let your learners know right at the beginning of the course so that they will not be confused.

8. Sent out an introductory message to your learners in an e-mail format to introduce yourself and let them know that the course is available for them to log in and what they should do first. You should also include the link and steps to log in to Blackboard. This will facilitate a positive start to your course and will also save you from having to answer separate e-mails asking about the start of the course.

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