The week before the online term starts is called Preview Week, where students have access to their courses, but not any of the graded assignments or activities. This is primarily so that students can access the syllabus, get a feel for the course layout, the instructor, and what the expectations of participating in the course will be. In addition to the normal professor bio, course outline, and term specific syllabus, I included:
- A screen-capture video (with webcam inset) of myself going over the course introduction information, and the syllabus. It turned out 18 minutes long, something I'm hoping to change in the future.
- A recommended timeline of when I expect students to complete certain activities. I also provide alternate timelines if a student prefers using the Khan Academy videos I provide in the course.
- Links to my RatemyProfessors.com profiles at the colleges I've taught at. Not all the reviews are flattering, but I believe being upfront with that information builds trust.
- A Student Cafe (which is in all courses) where I ask students to post introductions. I'm hoping that using the Student Cafe in this way, rather than having a specific Introduction Forum (which we've done in the past) will create a 'path' for students, one they can travel later on during the course.
- A short pre-assessment to allow me to gauge student abilities, and to jog their memory of different operations and concepts.
- A poll to see if they have the textbook.
- A Google Form on their likelihood of which course resources they believe they would use. They have all responded fairly positively to using most of the course resources, but I would like to compare their choices with their actual performance.
Students were not participating very much during the Preview Week. Thus I sent a fairly strongly worded email to them about the lack of participation on Friday, and how they should complete those activities before the graded material is assigned. This consisted of reporting on the number of students who completed the Preview Week activities, a very direct but non-judgmental method. That seemed to move most of them, getting about a 60% completion rate for all activities early on Monday.
Will post next week on how Week 1 fared.