Last year I had one of my courses evaluated by Quality Matters (QM), and received a very useful feedback on announcements made to students, in particular the first one. Generally, the announcements would contain brief information on the course instructor and what the students need to cover on the first week. QM advised that we have more comprehensive first announcements.
Online courses comprise of different components, such as course materials, additional resources, assignments, or online collaboration. Apart from the first course announcement, there will be subsequent ones throughout the course; however, the one at the beginning is the most important. The QM feedback included where students can access all these components as well.
I’ve noticed we tend to consider that our students are already familiar with the courses, and never think that there could be some who are doing an online course for the very first time. In most universities that integrate eLearning, learning designers or instructors fall into the generalization/assumption trap, and presume that after a few years, students are already familiar with this mode. But what was pointed out to me by QM was that we should always be considerate towards the novices.
I also experienced my first online learning doing a Coursera course on Gamification. The course announcement was up two weeks before the course, with all the essential information on the course components. Having learned about the assignments, it was more helpful for me as I started planning my schedule.
Here’s what I suggest a first announcement should include:
1) Course components
3) Assignments and their dates including the deadlines
4) Important dates including the quizzes and final exam
5) Information on additional materials
7) Links to different course components such as Wiki, blog, or Discussion Forum
If you feel there are other useful components to be added in an announcement, please don’t hesitate to share with me.