In a typical semester, before your on-ground classes begin, you may have some communication with students before the first day of class. More likely, your first communication with students is when they arrive in Green Hall Room 105 for the first class session. The students have found their way to Green Hall Room 105 by consulting their course schedule, a campus map, and their friends.

But the online learning environment doesn’t hold to the same traditions. How do students know “where” to show up for your online class? How do they know “when” your online class takes place? It’s important to remember that your students are new online learners as well, and will need explicit guidance at the beginning of the semester in order to successfully navigate your online or hybrid course.

Where do I go for the first day of my online class?

Students will NOT receive an automatic message about your course spaces, so you will need to reach to your students to let them know where and when to “show up.” We recommend reaching out to students before the first day of the semester, to share the following information:

  1. A welcome to the course
  2. Reiterate the course format (online, hybrid, on ground) and what that actually looks like for your specific course
  3. How they should access your course materials (for ex., a link to the Canvas course or WordPress site)
  4. If you’re conducting live meetings, the date and time of your first first live meeting is
  5. Instructions for where and how to get started with the first course assignment, and what the deadline for that first assignment is
  6. If you have a survey or other info you’d like your students to share with you, include that as well
  7. How students can reach you, and where they should go to ask for help (ITS Help Desk, DLINQ Remote Student Resources)

Sample Welcome Email

Hi everyone, you’re receiving this email because you are registered for [Course Name] for Fall 2020. Welcome! I’m looking forward to working and learning with you.

Since our course is [fully online/has a significant online component], you may be wondering how to access the course and to connect your classmates. This email contains information to help you get started.

  • Course Format: This is a fully online course, and Canvas is our home base, our classroom for the semester. You can access our Canvas site here: [link]. Our course will be a mix of synchronous live sessions on Zoom, and asynchronous activities like readings, discussions, and collaborative projects. You can find instructions and deadlines for all course activities in our Canvas site.
  • Communication: I’ll post all important course information to the Canvas announcements, as well as send to you by email.
    • It’s very important that you check your Middlebury email account on a regular basis – there will be a lot of course-related information delivered by email, and it’s your responsibility to access and read it.
    • Please set your notifications in Canvas so that you’re pinged when Announcements and other key information are posted in Canvas. You can also subscribe to the Canvas calendar on your iOS device and/or synch the calendar to your Google calendar.
    • Email is the best way to get in touch with me. I check my email regularly, and will email you back within 24 hours, except on the weekend.
  • Course Modules: Our course is structured in weekly Modules. In Canvas, you’ll find a Module for every week, and each Module contains all of the instructions and materials that you’ll need to complete that week’s assignments and activities.
  • Where to Get Help: If you have any questions about the course, please email me, or post questions to our Canvas Ask a Question discussion board so that other students can see the answer. If you run into technology problems, contact the ITS Help Desk. Canvas also has 24/7 Help that you can access by clicking on the question mark (?) icon in Canvas. DLINQ has also created a Remote Student Resources guide with useful information to support you.

To get started with our course, go to our Canvas site and carefully read through the syllabus and the instructions for Module 1. Please note that our first live session is on [date and time], and your first assignment is due on [day], so you’ll want to access our course right away to begin preparing.

Finally, I know this semester is quite different from usual, and you may have concerns about how this semester will unfold. Please do reach out to share your concerns, and hopes, for the semester – email is the best way to get in touch with me.

Additional Resources

  • Faculty Communication Planner: faculty can use this planner to organize and communicate their remote/digital course requirements with students.