GSC faculty members Elizabeth Reed and Julie Moser, along with Plymouth State University colleague Danielle Philipson, piloted a “Course Start-Up Message” in 2017 to discern if it made a positive impact for student preparedness and success in online courses – and it did! After researching best practices (explore the article in EDUCasue) here’s what they did:

Course Start-Up Message

  • Personalized and posted the message as a resource to review in Week 1
  • Created an optional forum activity in week 1 that asked students to reflect on the resource and share what surprised them the most and what types of strategies they would use to stay on track
  • Faculty sent students a personal mid-semester check-in to see how things were going and how they might assist them to stay on track (most students said they simply needed to recommit to the strategies they identified in Week 1)
  • During the final week, students were asked to share “advice to future students” – the top tip so far is for students to ensure they are proactive and manage their time wisely

Here’s the Course Start-Up Message that was shared:


Online courses can be just as rich and rewarding as face-to-face courses, but it takes a little more work on everyone’s part. The information in this post contains key elements that are important for your success in this class.

  • Begin building relationships right away. Please make sure you read my introduction and post one of your own so that we can get to know each other. As others join the conversation, please read their introductions, too.
  • Have clear expectations. Online courses are convenient because we have flexibility about when to do the assignments, but they take just as much (and often more) time than a face-to-face course. The national consensus is that a three-credit course should take 6–9 hours of your time each week.
  • Students who set aside several short sessions throughout the week, at consistent times and days, have the most success in online courses. Brain research tells us that “all-nighters” and long cramming sessions are the least effective ways to learn and retain new information.
  • Because online courses require a written presence and participation, it is important to not only read and compose your responses early in the week, but to also leave time to edit and proofread your posts and assignments. It is recommended that you add major assignments to your calendar and work ahead on them a little each week, rather than try to knock them out all at once.
  • Read the syllabus and all course resource documents (rubrics, major assignment descriptions, and so on).
  • Ask questions. In an online course, the instructor can’t see your confusion or frustration. If you are having a problem or any confusion, speak up sooner rather than later. Do not wait until the assignment is due to ask for clarification.
  • Make sure you have the books and resources you need.
  • Save all work (for online and face-to-face courses) on a flash drive; that way if your computer goes down you still have all your files and can work on a different computer.
  • Download and save course resources you want to use often. Download reading assignments posted in the course shell, especially if you will be traveling or have unreliable internet — that way you can always do the reading.
  • Read all announcements (News Forum posts) in the course. These are messages from the instructor. They will often have notices of changes, hints, or preview upcoming assignments.
  • Check your college email. This is the way the college (and instructor) will communicate with you.
  • Use the course question and answer forum. This forum allows you to get answers from the instructor and colleagues about general course topics.

I will pass along other hints as we go, but if you have any challenges, please ask… I am happy to help! It is my goal to make this the best course you have ever taken.

In short: Be prepared. Be organized. Be proactive.

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