Setting up Online Writing Courses

One of the most challenging parts of teaching online is setting up the course website. For this activity, then, you’ll visualize and begin setting up the first week of an online course.

Workshop Activity

Step One. List the goals for the first week of your online course. In addition to an overview of the syllabus, online courses require an orientation to the course website and the digital tools that the students will use most frequently in the course. In all likelihood, you’ll also include an introductory activity where students get to know each other, as well as activities to engage students in the first project/concept of the course.

  • Common tools within a learning management system include:
    • Modules (sequencing tool)
    • Forums (discussion tool)
    • Resources (tool for organizing files)
    • Quizzes (tool for multiple-choice assessment)
    • Assignments (tool for student submission of work)
    • Gradebook (tool for grading)

Step Two. Select appropriate digital tools. Your next step is to decide how you’d like the students to accomplish those goals. Below you’ll find a few common approaches to online activities:

  • Ask students to contribute to an asynchronous discussion forum
  • Hold a synchronous webinar with the whole class or with small groups
  • Require students to take a quiz
  • Ask students to write a short reflection and submit it to you
  • Regarding course content, you might have external content (textbook readings, PDFs of articles, or videos), but you may also wish to generate your own content (by creating videos, or PDFs/webpages with screenshots). You could also ask students to find their own content on the web and collect it in a public area on the course site.

Step Three. Once you know that types of activities you’d like your students to complete during the week, your final step is to actually create the activities in the learning management system. Your first decision is how to design the site. There should be one central location with all course materials; often, this is best accomplished by using Modules or some other sequencing/calendar tool in the learning management system.

Students need to be able to access the website and immediately understand what is expected of them, so your next step is to write extremely clear instructions for each activity ( I recommend screenshots, images, or videos whenever possible!).

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