Class Management Strategies
Always be flexible and human in your dealings with your students. Understand the heavy demands on your students and be flexible with assignment due dates as long as you feel the request is genuine.
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Create your course announcements in a word processor Word and copy and paste them into the Announcements tool when you are ready. This gives you a backup copy and allows you to reuse announcements for the next time you teach the course. It also serves as course documentation.
Create a "Website of the Week" item in your course. Choose a website that supports your lecture material and highlight it in its own session item. This should spark interest in your lecture material.
If you want good participation, the requirements must be clearly defined. In Teaching Online, Ko and Rossen (2004) recognize that "if students aren't graded, the majority won't actively participate" (p. 67). Some students think that if they take an online course, they can take a vacation and still catch up with their coursework upon their return, or do a few modules ahead of time before they leave. While online courses do allow for flexibility, students must participate. Student may ask if they can post ahead of the other students or take the course on a self-paced schedule. Because of the prevalence of this question, you should have a policy regarding early posting and state it clearly in the syllabus.
A policy for late assignment submissions and missed exams should be created. Students who are not actively participating in the learning community are not supporting other students. Because of this interdependence, some instructors have a "no late work accepted policy," while others assigned reduced credit. Another option is to create alternative assignments or exams for past due work. To facilitate course management, these alternative assignments could be offered at the end of the course for those who missed assignments during the normal time period.
Self-examination and contemplative thought are successful approaches for course improvement. A recommended practice is to keep a journal that records items that should be redesigned or altered the next time the course is taught. The instructor should make notes of assignments that worked well and those that were difficult, and critically evaluate the effectiveness of content and instruction.
Technology policies should be stated in the syllabus and should direct students to a helpdesk or resource other than you, the instructor, for technology problems. Additionally, you should encourage students to create draft postings of assignments in a word processor and save them before posting to the class. This will minimize spelling and grammar mistakes and provide a backup copy for students in case of technological problems. Students should be reminded to save all work on a computer hard drive and to a removable device, such as a floppy disk or USB flash drive. Saving work to a USB drive allows portability between home, office, and campus systems, and a chance of recovery if systems go down.
To encourage good syllabus comprehension, create a short Syllabus Quiz or a Scavenger Hunt worth bonus points added to the students' overall course total. This is excellent for assessing syllabus interaction. This may seem like an unnecessary activity, but often, the first session of an online course affects the final outcomes of the course. You don't have the first night of class to thoroughly cover the syllabus, but have to assume they understand. This should alleviate any confusion with your syllabus, which is, in reality, your learning contact with the students.
Offering an icebreaker in the first session, such as "share your silliest moment in college" or "name the animal you most identify with," helps to alleviate nervousness and provides insights to the students' personalities. Several good icebreakers that also provide you with student information include the VARK learning styles (http://www.vark-learn.com/english/index.asp) and the Keirsey temperament sorter (http://www.keirsey.com). The Kingdomality profiler (http://www.kingdomality.com) provides not only a Medieval vocational assessment, but is fun and generates discussion. Each of these websites offers instant feedback, and the students can post their results and a short paragraph whether they agree or disagree.