What To Do In Your First Class
Top 5 Things To Do In Your First Class Online
Teaching online for the very first time? Here are some tips for your very first session to start things off right.
Get students talking from the start. Greet every student as they come into the session, even before class formally starts. Instead of launching right into a lecture, take some time in the first session to let your students check in with an icebreaker or two. In smaller classes you can have a conversation; in larger classes you could have a prompt like “What are three words that describe how you’re feeling?” (or "...describe your interest in the course?"). Call on them directly, by name. This gives you a chance to check everyone’s connection and microphone, and sets the tone for a participatory class, so students don’t feel like they’re just passively watching TV.
Let students know how to interact. If they have a question, should they raise their hand, type a question in the chat, or just speak up? Decide these things in advance, and then communicate those norms to the students. In courses with lots of interaction and debate, set aside time for a norm-setting activity. If you get partway into class and your plan doesn’t seem to be working, don’t be afraid to revisit your expectations.
Check in with your students regularly. In a classroom you may have relied on students’ body language to tell you when they were engaged or tuning out. This can be harder to do organically during a web conference. We have a resource for ways you can check to see how your students are doing. After the session, invite feedback and suggestions for improvement via direct messages or on a Canvas discussion board. Make sure your second session reflects student feedback so they know you're listening.
Start with the familiar, then translate. If you previously taught in person, were there things you did in every class session? Adapting those familiar things for web conference can provide you and your students with something that feels familiar.
Go easy on course content in the first session: Adjusting to this format can take time, for the reasons already mentioned. Plan less lecture content and discussion than you might for a first in-person session. Students will have a better experience if they don't feel rushed, and have time for lots of questions. Go easy on them...and on yourself!
- The First Day of Class—Harvard's Bok Center for Teaching & Learning