Starting Off Right: Tips for the First Day of Class–
The first day of your face-to-face or fully online course sets the tone for the entire term. Organize materials and carefully prepare for this initial meeting to create an environment conducive to learning and to convey expectations regarding what you expect of your students and what they can expect from you and the course. Both new and seasoned faculty may benefit from these suggestions to make a positive impression on the first day.
Set the Stage
- Prior to the first day of face-to-face courses, visit the mediated classroom to test the technology, microphone, computer, and other equipment. Contact the Teaching & Learning Center if you need assistance (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- In online courses, greet students with a welcome message and/or appropriate image on the course Home page to establish your presence and let students know they have come to the right place. Guide students with clear directions for how to get started in the course.
Spark Interest and Build Rapport
- Arrive early and greet students as they arrive in your face-to-face classroom or as they post to an initial introduction forum in your online course. Engage students in conversation to foster a welcoming environment and to help you start to get to know their names and a little bit about them.
- Post (on the CSC Online course Home page) or project (at the front of the mediated classroom) a relevant image, cartoon, icon, quote, question, or surprising fact which demonstrates why the content of this course matters or how the course might help students address a question or solve a problem.
- Focus attention initially on the “why” aspects of the course–why study this topic, why studying the course topic might affect them as students, why the course is important to their future–rather than the “what” aspects of the course–what is required, what the grading policies consist of, what they need to complete. The “why” of the course provides the critical elements to spark student motivation to learn. Once they have engaged with the “why” of the course, students will likely be more receptive to the”what” of the course.
- Share some information that will personalize you – your teaching experience, your family, an anecdote from your undergraduate learning days, or whatever you are comfortable with sharing.
- Let your students see the enthusiasm you have for your subject and your love of learning. Communicate how much you are interested in their learning.
- Provide students with an opportunity to introduce themselves and their interest in the course subject or discipline. Consider an activity to encourage student interaction. For example, ask students to pair up and spend a few minutes exchanging information about themselves with their partner. Then, bring the class back together and have students introduce their partners to the class. Here are more icebreaker activities to investigate for ideas.
Explore Syllabus & Course Details
- Provide a syllabus that details course information outlined in the CSC syllabus template. Consider ways to encourage students to be responsible for reading the syllabus and becoming familiar with the information it contains. One option is to plan a group activity in which students interact with each other in exploring the syllabus to answer questions they have about the course:
- Ask students to organize into groups of 3 to 5;
- assign each group to first introduce themselves to their group members;
- then compile a list of 5-8 questions they have about the course;
- after each group has compiled their list of questions, hand out the syllabus for each group to review and look for answers to their questions;
- bring the whole class back together and address any remaining questions.
- For CSC Online courses, an online check-in quiz offers a way for students to become familiar with the syllabus and structural aspects of the course. A brief quiz can help reduce the anxiety experienced by new-to-online students as they explore the course and use course tools to answer quiz questions and incidentally learn about the critical course features.
- Clearly state your learning outcomes for the course and the expectations for students to be successful in the course. Describe why you think the course is relevant to their lives and their learning.
- Clearly describe classroom procedures that are important to you such as expectations for attendance, class discussion and active participation, respect, grading policies, and plagiarism.
- Establish clear communication strategies for the students. These could include specific details regarding office hours, the best way to contact you, expected response time to e-mail messages, phone & texting policies, and feedback and grading time frames.
- For your online courses, consider developing a “Start Here” Unit to convey the expectations, procedures, and communication strategies described in the previous bullet points as well as other critical course components. Require students to complete the “Start Here” Unit prior to accessing the first week of course content.
The Absolute Worst Way to Start the Semester has several helpful tips you might consider as you frame the first day of class.
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