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At this stage, the focus shifts from development to teaching. After your course material has been uploaded into the designed learning environment but before your class actually starts, you should have time to review all the developed material for technical accuracy, and to check to make sure all the links are active and lead to the correct websites. You will also have a chance to get more comfortable with the online environment, including navigating through your course, testing out any video or multimedia, and making sure that you understand how the instructor tools (for checking grades, receiving assignments, etc.) work.

Learning management system training

If you haven’t done this already and are not familiar with the institute learning management system (currently Desire2Learn, or D2L), make sure you attend a training session. This session will be arranged by your project lead and your trainer will be one of the educational technology support group. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how basic you feel they are. It is important that you feel comfortable and ready to take on your teaching role. And as you start teaching your course, anytime you are stumped, and don’t know how to proceed, call the technical support line for D2L rather than spend too much time getting frustrated.

Other training

If you are teaching online for the first time, you might want to inquire with your project lead about a formal or informal session on some useful strategies for teaching online.

If you are planning on using any other technologies such as online collaborative tools, or live classrooms such as Blackboard Collaborate, the LTC can also help you get some training in those areas.

Important things to remember

Creating a course schedule

Your students need to know the significant milestones that will occur during the course: for example, assignment due dates, the dates for the mid-term and final exam, Blackboard Collaborate sessions, or any other major events you want students to know about in advance. You can create a single page course schedule (using an Excel spreadsheet, or Word table), or use the course calendar that is built into the course management system. Make sure that the course schedule is easy to access and in a place where students regularly look for course information.

Beware of making radical changes to the structure of a running online course. Unlike face-to-face teaching, where you will see all your students at one time, students of your online course are online intermittently. Some may miss an important change, such as a new date for an exam, or even a major change to course notes. However, by all means take advantage of the dynamic nature of the online environment to post links to topical information or a new website in your content area.

First week

Welcome your students by sending them an introductory email they will receive before the official start date of the course. This will help set the tone for the course, and help engage the students, by letting them know that there is a real person they can connect with, even though it is an online course.

Try not to schedule too much course work during this week, as students need time to orient themselves to the online environment, especially if this is the first time they are taking an online course. If you are using Blackboard Collaborate (a web conferencing tool) in your course, you could schedule a get-to-know-you session for the first week.

A sample set of implementation guidelines is included in the resource section.

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