Welcome and orientate students
Don't assume your students will be able to find their way around your site. Put yourself in the position of a student with low computer skills and low confidence: once this student makes it to your site he or she will be hugely relieved to find a welcoming, informative message or video from yourself on the very first screen. To do this, make your welcome a 'news' item in text and/or video. Include:
- A statement welcoming students to the site
- A very brief overview of the unit, using a friendly tone
- Contact details for all teaching staff, including preferred method of contact (usually email), email addresses, phone numbers and times on particular days when they will be available to answer student queries
- A photograph of yourself and any other teaching staff
- A link to the unit guide
- Instructions where to find the unit assessments, resources and other key tools to get started (eg you could say something like 'click on Content in the toolbar above this message and then click on the first item in the list you will see in the Content view: Introduction to Unit xxx').
Note: for advice, tips and support with making videos, see: Sound and vision support.
An introductory module
Once students have found the Content view, an introductory module, video or narrated PowerPoint will help them orientate themselves further. Include:
- A brief explanation of how to orientate themselves in Desire2Learn. You might like to provide a quicklink to the student navigation guide
- Full detail of the assessments, including due dates and links to submission instructions.
- An explanation of how your teaching/learning strategy should work, what activities the students are expected to do, how much time to set aside each week.
- Again, contact details for yourself and other teaching staff. Include how often online discussions will be checked, and whether students should email urgent queries.
- Where the various resources students will need can be found on the site (graphics or a flow-chart might be helpful)
- A link to a discussion topic for students to introduce themselves (including a link to the participating in discussions quick guide for students)
- A link to a discussion topic where students can post messages asking for help on technical matters
- If you are using online assignment submission, include a practice online Desire2Learn dropbox, or Turnitin dropbox if you are using these. You might like to allocate a small portion of marks for completing the practice dropbox. In the instructions, include links to the student guide for using dropboxes or Turnitin submissions. Also include links to student referencing and avoiding plagiarism resources.
- If you are using online quizzes, include a practice quiz and links to the quizzes guide for students.
- A link to the first iLecture recording for the unit (or a dummy if this has not yet been recorded), including a link to iLecture student information page
- If you are using eLive, include instructions on how to set up for eLive and a link to an eLive session you have created for the unit, which is set up to be open constantly at least until the first scheduled eLive session, so students can check that their software is working, and their audio and microphone levels are correct.
- Links to academic skills resources provided by the Division of Student Life.
- The unit guide. Make sure this contains:
- clearly stated intended learning outcomes
- indications how indeded learning outcomes are linked to learning activities, content and assessment
- any pre-requisite skills and knowledge, including details of how students may catch up if necessary. Skills may include e-literacy and IT skills - if so, provide links to online self-help guides if possible.
- assessment details including clear criteria
- submission dates and a suggested study schedule.
If the structure you have chosen to group the items on your site is strong, intuitive and consistent, this will help students navigate their way through the whole site. However, most of your students will be enrolled in multiple unit sites, each with a slightly different structure. It won't hurt to provide ongoing pointers to key items throughout your site. To do this:
- Post regular 'News' items - these will be the first things students see when they enter the site, so use them to remind students of key dates, point them to (or link to) current learning activities or important learning materials.
- In the modules - in your summaries for each module, or even within modules, point students to the items they should/could look at next.
Two examples of good practice in online teaching describe ways in which Deakin teachers introduce their units and provide updates:
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