LMS tools – Simple strategies to welcome students and simplify your semester

You can see energy crackling around schools, as students of all ages prepare to start a new semester. “Will this be the year I… [any hopeful or dreaded outcome]?”

Returning faculty often exude a different vibe.  They tend to ask things like, “Where did the summer go?” or “How will I get everything done?” or “Another meeting?  Really?”

picture of three students sitting on stairs

Reduce stress and prepare students to succeed in your class leveraging LMS tools for online, hybrid, and face-to-face classes.  Included at the blog’s end is a teaching task checklist to ensure your online class runs smoothly.

The Welcome Mat

Coming to college isn’t a trip to Disney, but there are takeaways we can apply from the legendary Disney experience approach.  Disney’s red carpet welcome may feel magical, and it’s the pre-planning, not magic, making it happen.  Use LMS tools for creating an online “welcome mat” and reaching out to students before class begins to make their Ferris experience smooth by:

  • Using the announcement tool ahead of time from your class greeting students and  sharing brief but important information on how to be ready for the first unit.  If you have a textbook, include the first chapter or a link to an online version for students who may be waiting on financial aid.
  • Suggest downloading apps such as FerrisGo, Canvas Student, and the SharePoint mobile app for Bulldog News.

The Door

As a former K-12 teacher, I have many great memories of the rush to finish decorating our doors and room decorations to be ready in time for the first day.  Students first login to Blackboard or Canvas for many students constitutes their first impression of you and your teaching.  Suggestions to make your online “entry door” appealing:

  • Have a welcome image and message as the first item students see when they open the link to your class.  Include the date and time your first unit will open or the first course meeting if your course materials are not yet available.
  • Check all links and documents for functionality while in the student view.
  • Update due dates for current semester to prevent automatic student notifications of late assignments.
  • View your course from your smartphone–How most students see it!

The Meet and Greet:

Whether or not you are teaching online, using the LMS to create a space for students to meet and greet each other facilitates a positive class culture.  Bring your course introductions to life by using video, audio and image tools already integrated into discussions–why not post a video introducing yourself, and asking students to do the same?  Or have them share a link to their favorite social media feed about your subject?  Click here for one website with adult-friendly virtual icebreaker directions.

The Teaser

We may love our content, but students may be taking our classes only to fulfill degree requirements.  Why not use your LMS to intrigue students?  Go beyond a limited restatement of the course objectives, and share some things they’ll be able to do later as a result of taking the class.  Sharing success stories and example work from previous students or stories from people in the field using course concepts via YouTube helps students 1.  transfer what they know already for use in your course, and 2.  transfer what they learn in your course to their life outside the classroom.  For example, the Canvas YouTube channel has many tips and tools you might want to explore to find out more about skills you’ll learn while attending one of our Canvas Trainings.

The Packet

Canvas appSyllabus?  Course schedule?  Assignment directions?  Policies?  Papers everywhere, for you and your students.  Fortunately, your LMS course shell provides everyone with a one-stop-shop for keeping foundational documents organized and available 24/7  (and accessible on their smartphone wherever they are).  One added benefit to online course document availability is the ease of adding a simple syllabus and course orientation quiz in either Canvas or Blackboard.  Using a self-grading quiz to ensure students viewed course requirements also lets you know students have met the “attendance” requirement for financial aid, and tried out the quiz features in a low-stakes setting.  Don’t forget to use the automatic feedback feature in quizzes to congratulate them on successful task completion as well!

Just Give Me the List

Click this link for a checklist organized by things to do before, during the first week, as the class continues, and after semester end.

Ready or Not, Here They Come.

Want to learn more about using technology to teach?  Consider attending on of our trainings listed on the Ferris eLearning page for Canvas or Course Design.  Have a course you’d like to put online?  You can sign up now for our fall fall cohort to design your online course:  Register here

Additional References

Laws, E., Apperson, J., Buchert, S., & Bregman, N. (2010). Student evaluations of instruction: When are enduring first impressions formed?  North American Journal of Psychology, 2(1), p. 81-91. 

Richardson, J. & Swan, K. (2003).  Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction.  JALN 7(1).

Perkins, D.N. & Salomon, G. (1994). Transfer of learning. In Torsten Husén & T. Neville Postlethwaite (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition.Oxford, England: Pergamon Press. Available: http://learnweb.harvard.edu/alps/thinking/docs/traencyn.htm

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