Introduction

I often get new online instructors who ask how it is that they start their term.  I always end up sending them my introductory message.  It conforms to a series of standards.  They’re pretty easily visible:  technological needs, assessments, and additional advice.

Introductory Message in Online Courses

Here, I’ve made my course generic by using DISC xxxx (discovery?) and have eliminated some of the start and end dates.

DISC xxxx Students,

My name is Dr. Jon Ernstberger and I am your instructor for the Fall 2014 DISC xxxx fully online section of Computer Applications.  Remember, this class begins on xx/xx and concludes on xx/xx.

This course is completely online–there are no class meetings.  This course will be very computing-intense.  I strongly recommend that you have easy access to the following:

  1. An adequate personal computer (desktop or laptop). You need a sufficiently modern computer on which to complete your work, watch videos, and submit coursework.  You cannot complete the work for this course on a smartphone.  Doing this work on a tablet may even prove to be challenging.
  2. A broadband internet connection. Without a readily accessible broadband (high speed) internet connection, most of the course content will be difficult to access.  Invariably this will lead to lower course grades.
  3. A spreadsheet application. I will only accept digital spreadsheets (no paper copies) which are exclusively in the following formats: MS Excel (.xls or .xlsx) and Open Document (.ods).

To get to the course page, you should direct your browser to lagrange.learninghouse.com and login with your LC credentials (username/password).  A video that details this process is here.  Navigate to this course (DISCxxxx_201490).

You will immediately notice that there is a “Welcome Section” of sorts.  Then, below that, is a “Module Zero” section.  There are several assignments that you must immediately address:

  1. The pretest.  The pretest is not a part of your course grade.  However, you cannot do any other component of the course without completing this piece.
  2. The introduction assignment. This assignment requires that you submit a 20-point presentation (7-10 slides) or a video (2-3 minutes).  The due date for this assignment is 8/31 at 11:55 pm.  You should feel free to have fun with this assignment–lots of fun.  However, be mindful of what you post.  Let’s keep things polite and classy.
  3. The Moodle Profile Completion. You can earn up to five points by simply completing your Moodle Profile (you’ll have to learn how to do that).  This is also due on 8/31 at 11:55pm.
  4. The syllabus quiz. Due on 8/31 at 11:55 pm, this quiz can be taken repeatedly until a perfect score is achieved.
  5. The Excel Basics Quiz, also due on 8/31 at 11:55pm.

Each module of the course has a content focus shift that builds upon previous modules.  This content is delivered in a Lesson.  As you complete portions of the lesson, there are questions that are graded.  You may retake the lessons as man times as necessary.  However, if you get an answer incorrect, you must retake the lesson completely to be able to earn those points back.  There will be five weekly quizzes, each on the content of the week, that you may take an infinite number of times until the term concludes.  I want you to learn the content.  Finally, there will be five weekly exams, each submitted no later than Sundays at 11:55 pm (beginning on 9/7).  These weekly exams will have submissions due as spreadsheet files. You should always feel free to ask questions.

Pay attention to the access that you have for the assignments in this course.  Access to some assignments or content rely upon the completion of another assignment.

I have some additional pointers:

  • There is a lot of useful info in the syllabus. Of particular use are the end drop/add date and the last withdraw date.  But, read the whole thing.  I may add some additional content, but nothing that changes your course grades.  I’ll notify if/when this happens.
  • You should notice that there is a “General Discussions Forum” at the top of the course. Feel free to ask questions; I will respond as will your classmates!
  • I will urge you to begin or continue using a calendar or planner. When taking an online course it is easy to let due dates slip up on you–especially when there are not constant reminders during regular class meetings. Be mindful of your time.
  • Hold to your integrity. You may be tempted (or you may tempt others) to duplicate or share work for this course.  You may never be certain of the intents of your classmates (even close friends) and visits to the Honor Council are unpleasant for everyone–especially students.

Hopefully you’ve recognized that this online course is just as intense as a face-to-face course.  The lessons, quizzes, and exams are all graded just as if in the classroom.  The primary difference is that you operate without the frequent reminders of the classroom.

Finally, I hope that any of you walking through the Science Building or who see me on campus will take a moment to introduce yourself!  I look forward to meeting each and every one of you.

Best,

Dr. Jon Ernstberger

I also often include a link to a video or series of videos that steps the students through access and use of the site.  I send this message out with about week to go before the class begins and the day before class starts.  (Using the Boomerang tool in Gmail is a great way to schedule this and then forget it.)

Conclusion

Please note that I also attempt to display humanity, especially friendliness.  I welcome these students to my office.  For many students at LaGrange College, the office is where they come to know their professors and vice versa.  Losing this conversational space would be a blow that was dealt to many of our students. I do not want to take that away.

Does anyone else do something like this?  What do you do that’s different?

Introductory Message to Students in Online Courses
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