Monday, June 22, 2015

Preparing Brick and Mortar Students for an Online Course

This summer, I have the pleasure of working with a group of students who normally attend classes at a brick and mortar school but have enrolled in my online summer art course. I have spent the last several weeks creating a compressed 5-week beginning art course for these high school students and I have really enjoyed building the course and experimenting with a new (to me) LMS, Moodle. I created a syllabus and a welcome letter for parents and then I took some fantastic advice from my colleague Teresa Potter (blog here), to make an introduction and planning activity to help students be successful in an online course.
While most of the year I am working with students who are already very familiar with online learning, these students may be taking an online course for the first time. And they're taking an art course at that, something that confuses even my online veteran students. So I used a part of Teresa's design and combined it with features I have always used in my courses to make a worksheet that would guide students through the freedom they have when working in an online course. Students get to decide when they will work, how they stay focused, and how to be successful in an environment that is not structured for them. 
First, I created a tip sheet for students about how to be a successful online learner, specifically in my art course.

Things you can do to help yourself be successful in this course:
  1. Build class time into your schedule: Just like having English class from 12:00-12:50 Monday-Friday, time spent learning in this course should have a dedicated time in your day
  2. Familiarize yourself with deadlines: Print a copy of the class schedule and/or mark deadlines on your calendar
  3. Be prepared: Get your art supplies early so there is nothing holding you up from completing your work on time
  4. Practice with technology early, and have a backup plan: Technology does not always cooperate with us on our time table. Make sure you test for problems and find a solution or ask for help well before the deadline.
  5. Take notes: When watching videos or completing readings in the classroom make sure you take notes and write down ideas that emerge to refer to later
  6. Ask for help: Unlike in a traditional classroom, I cannot see if you are struggling. Make sure you keep me informed of any issues and reach out to me for help-it’s why I am here!
  7. Read your feedback: I will provide detailed feedback for each assignment in this course and this feedback will be instrumental in helping you improve and grow.
Second, I put together a Getting Started Activity which students are expected to complete the very first day the class begins. This beginning portion of the sheet consists of the questions below:

1.What do you know about art?

2. What is you favorite subject?

3. What do you hope to learn or achieve in this course?

4. What is the best phone number and time to reach you?

5. Do you prefer calls, texts, or emails to communicate?

6. What are 3 things I should know about you? (interests, hobbies, learning styles etc.)

I use questions like these to help myself get to know students, learn how to contact them, create talking points for building rapport, and get a general idea of what students hope to gain from the course so I can address their needs. 

The second portion of the sheet is all new to me. It asks students to plan a schedule of when they will complete their work for class and I listed which assignments they need to plan for. 
This activity allows students to take ownership of their learning plan and emphasizes the importance of staying on top of their work. Even my online veteran students could really benefit from something like this. Previously I have offered little help in my own course when it comes to encouraging student planning, but perhaps if I encourage student planning early, students will be more successful. 


  1. Excellent activities and warm welcome note.

    I'd like to know what would you say to your online students in the last week of your course?
    As an instructor, I would like to summarize what we have learned in the class and wish the students good luck in their future endeavors.
    What would you say or do in the last introduction note?
    Look forward to hearing your suggestions & thanks in advance.

    1. So sorry I missed this for so long! At the end of the semester, I have a live session where we go over all the content to review for the final exam and I also show them a video about creativity and continuing to make art in the future. I also record a video for each student with feedback for their final project and my best wishes for their future.