Faculty Checklist for a Successful Course Start

Reaching out to students early and often before a semester begins and throughout the first week of class makes a major impact on students’ success. As a faculty member, you help guide students as they build their online learning community. Review the checklist below for steps you can take to start the semester off on the right foot.

Two Weeks Before Course Start

Revise for Community & Inclusivity: Review your course for a voice and tone that helps build a growth mindset and promotes belonging. Frame challenges as opportunities, encourage the learning process (not the results!), and help students plan and reflect. Use our voice and tone checklist as you make modifications.

Gather & Prepare Support Communications: While students rely heavily on their instructor in the first few weeks of a course, there is a network of support services and resources available at your institution that are available to support students from orientation through graduation. Pre-write announcements that highlight key services, websites, and resources that students may need in the early days of the course. Use our Student Success worksheet to begin this process.

One Week Before Course Start

Open Course to Students: Making your online course site available to students before the first day of the course gives them the chance to review materials and better prepare themselves for the expectations of the course. You do not need to make all pages available, but sharing your syllabus, instructor introduction, course policies, and introduction activity for students will help answer any initial questions students may have.

Send Initial Outreach Email: One week before students begin the course, send a warm and inviting email to students welcoming to the course and inviting them to meet 1-on-1. This email should express your commitment to their development and share information that will support them. Use our initial outreach email template to start your email!

Send Follow-Up Text: Follow-up your kick-off email with a short text to students prior to the first day of the course. This is a chance to informally share your contact information and check-in on any issues the students may be experiencing. You can craft your own text message or use our follow-up text template for inspiration.

Day One of Your Course

Send Kick-Off Announcement: On the first day of the course, send an announcement to all students using your LMS’s announcement functionality. Like your kick-off email, this message should reiterate your excitement about this new learning community, promote your new learning community, and share that you are looking forward to each students’ success. An LMS announcement template and example are available for you to use.

Week One of Your Course

Monitor Student Analytics: Analytics available in your LMS can tell you a lot about how engaged students are in your online course. Monitor those analytics closely. Track frequency of logins, submission of assignments, and other data points to inform your outreach strategies. Learn more in our on-demand webinar “Enhance Your Course Using Data & Analytics.

Request and Schedule Student 1-on-1s: Now that students are actively working in your course, engaging students with short, 1-on-1 meetings in week 1 can help them better understand the expectations for success in your course and feel supported. Use our 1-on-1 student check-in template to start scheduling with students.

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