Welcoming Our Students

We’re less than two weeks before the start of the spring semester, and I’m thinking about how to welcome my students.
I emailed my ENGL 100 students yesterday, and I am planning to email my ENGL 202 students tomorrow. I’ve put together a Google Site page with information about the course, which I can send to enrolled and waitlisted students. Having this info has helped make the add/drop process a little more manageable. If you’re interested you can check out my welcome letter for enrolled students, waitlisted students, and my course info page.
Many of us do this already, and many of us also offer our students some kind of syllabus quiz or course scavenger hunt during Week 1. This initial course assessment–in addition to community building, ice breaker activities–can help clarify expectations and build confidence.
Below are a few ideas to consider, and if you would like, please share more tips and tricks here.
Introduce 2-3 important things about your course
  • Introduce yourself
  • Describe your course theme or question
  • Provide links to the textbook and/or important apps or software
  • Screencast a brief tour of your Canvas course
  • Provide a list of important Week 1 due dates
Chunk your syllabus
Highlight the key policies, resources, and expectations
  • Student Support Services and Resources
  • Participation, Late Work, and Extra Credit policies
  • Major assignments with a breakdown of grades
  • What to expect in Zoom meetings (including accommodations for voice and video participation)
Include a link to an orientation to online learning
Our friend, Jim Julius facilitates 1-hour workshops for students planning to take online classes.

The Online Education Initiative group created asynchronous tutorials that help students prepare for online course work. Topics include “Getting Tech Ready,” “Communication Skills,” and “Online Reading Strategies.”

At the end of Week 1, assess your students’ expectations
  • Send out a brief survey
  • Assign a low-stakes “syllabus” quiz
  • Assign a muddiest-point discussion

The information we share to welcome and encourage our students is important, and equally (if not more) important is how our students receive and interpret that information. A quick, low-stakes assignment at the end of the first week can give you and your students an opportunity to clarify expectations, increase confidence, and even collaborate over how best to participate in your course.