Below is a checklist for launching your online (Canvas) course (plus optional Microsoft Team), as well as some tips for effective online facilitation, communication, and interaction with your students.
Check items such as these related to the Canvas Beginning of the Semester Checklist to ensure your Canvas course is ready to launch:
- Publish your course, of course 🙂
- Ensure any future modules are locked if you want to prevent early student access.
- Go to the Assignments area to set up any assignment groups or percentage weighting.
- Ensure all your graded activities have due dates set and have clear descriptions for students (see the Transparent Assignment Template). I recommend frequent, low-stakes graded activities to be able to see that your students are actively participating and not falling behind in your course.
- You can set your gradebook options such that missing assignment submissions are automatically given a zero (to alert students) and/or late submissions have a percentage deducted.
- Run the course link validator (Settings -> Validate Links) to check for any broken links or images.
- Check your course out in Student View to ensure you haven’t accidentally left something unpublished or inaccessible.
- Check your course out in the Canvas Student app to ensure it is readable from a mobile device, especially any videos. 80% of students use the Canvas Student app to access their courses each week on average.
2. Microsoft Teams Checklist (or adaptable to Zoom, etc.)
- Manually add your students to your Microsoft Team.
- Schedule any recurring meetings: class sessions, virtual office hours…
- Get the link to your Team and add the link to your Canvas navigation menu if you choose.
- Create channels in your Team for group discussion spaces.
3. Crafting Your Opening and Regular Announcements
- Consider sending out a welcome announcement when your course starts (you can pre-schedule the release of an announcement, too). You might link to your orientation video if you have one, your syllabus, and the orientation module or any other required first week activities.
- When you send announcements and refer your students to a quiz or a file, for example, I recommend hyperlinking directly to the items, rather than leaving your students to figure out how to find them.
- I recommend regularly sending announcements once or more a week telling students what to expect and do each week (or possibly day if a shortened semester class). Remind students of assignments or scheduled meetings and encourage them to reach out to you if they have questions.
4. Creating Opportunities for Student Discussion and Collaboration
Student-to-student and two-way student-instructor interaction is the real key to improving student outcomes in online courses, making an entire grade’s difference, on average. Some examples might include: online discussions, effective team projects, individualized messages, virtual office hours, etc.
- I recommend creating multiple opportunities for student discussion in your online course, starting perhaps with an opportunity for students to introduce and get to know one another, and maybe even a first day icebreaker activity.
- There are many reasons to incorporate online discussions in courses, even face-to-face classes. Here are some sample discussion prompts, discussion rubrics, and discussion expectations to help you with designing effective online discussion activities. Mastering the art of discussion board facilitation is also one key to getting students to participate in online discussions.
- An alternative to a traditional discussion board is the video discussion board FlipGrid, which integrates with Canvas and SpeedGrader. See this video or this handout on how to set it up in your own Canvas course.
5. Reaching Out to Struggling Students and Encouraging Help-Seeking
In addition to announcements and office hours, there are other ways you can foster faculty-student interaction in your online course, which is also critical to student success:
- From the Canvas gradebook, you can ‘message students who‘ have not submitted an assignment or scored poorly on a quiz or exam. Reaching out individually to struggling students has been shown to dramatically help students turn it around.
- See also these tips for encouraging student help-seeking. Remind and encourage your students to use any available Student Support Services including any tutoring, office hours, recitations, etc., and to contact you with any questions.
- If you are teaching live sessions, you could take attendance and use the Canvas Inbox to email students who miss one or more class sessions.
- Around week 3 or 4 depending on if you are teaching Summer A or C, I recommend giving students an anonymous Midterm Student Feedback Survey to get feedback from your students that can help you make mid-course adjustments and improvements.
The Assessing Online Facilitation (AOF) instrument has some other suggestions for facilitating your online course to maximize student success.