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Orienting Students

Orienting Students to Your Online Course

In a face-to-face course you likely communicate class norms and expectations to students in a variety of ways--through your syllabus, handouts, slides, oral communications, emails, and more. In online classes, these kinds of communications are even more critical. As you start orienting students to your online class, there are a few areas you may want to address.

Communication expectations:  Make sure students understand the best ways to get in touch with you. For example, will you be monitoring messages that are submitted through Camino, or should they use email instead? Also, let students know what channels you will be using to communicate with them and how often. If you plan to send out weekly announcements through Camino, students may want to check their notification preferences to be sure that they are receiving alerts when new announcements go out.

Modality expectations:  What aspects of the course are synchronous and asynchronous? What are the norms and expectations for interacting within particular spaces, such as Zoom sessions and Camino discussion forums? If most of your course activities are asynchronous, you and your students may need to manage your time differently than you would in a face-to-face course. Establishing a rhythm for participation that is feasible for both you and your students is important for making the online transition as smooth as possible (here’s an example of how you might map out participation expectations).

Course organization expectations: In a face-to-face course, we tend to think about individual class sessions as the primary unit of organization. In an online course, it’s common to think about modules as the primary unit of organization. An easy and student-friendly way to organize modules is by week and topic (e.g., “Week 1:  Introduction to Victorian Literature”). However you choose to organize your modules, be clear and consistent with your organizational scheme, and be sure students know what they are supposed to do within each module. Posting an overview or checklist at the beginning of each module can help to orient students.

Additional Resources

Dockter, J. (n.d.) Improve access with a course orientation. Conference on College Composition and Communication.


Page author:
Dr. Rachel Stumpf, SCU Faculty Development Program Manager

Last updated:
July 31, 2020