12 First Week

Jennifer Smith

Before Classes Begin | First Day | Disability Accommodations | Check Course Questions or FAQ Discussion Board Frequently | Email Communication | References

Before Classes Begin

Hit the ground running by sending a welcome message through Canvas BEFORE classes begin. Why is this a good idea?

  1. Sharing the syllabus and other important “getting started” information (such as the textbook purchase) as early as possible helps students who have a busy semester ahead get a jump start on things.
  2. It helps students to mentally prepare themselves for the tasks your course will require.
  3. A kind welcome message and student-friendly syllabus can help to reduce students’ anxiety and let them know that you have created an interesting and clear learning path for them.

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First Day

The first day of class is your opportunity to set the tone for the semester. Take this opportunity to:

  1. Incite curiosity about the course topics:
    • What excites YOU about the course?
    • What are the interesting assignments and activities that will help students gain knowledge and expertise?
    • Provide a thought-provoking question, quote, or statistic about the course topic.
  2. Create a learning community:
    • Give students an opportunity to chat with peers through a syllabus analysis activity.
    • Discuss elements of the course topics and what students don’t know or would like to know about them.
  3. Frame your expectations:
    • What level of commitment do you expect?
    • What learning practices have worked well for previous students who have taken the course? (Interestingly, students tend to be more interested in tips from each other than the instructor’s recommendation to do the homework!)
    • Invite your students to travel on a wonderful journey with you!

James Lang provides suggestions in his advice guide: “How to Teach a Good First Day of Class.

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Disability Accommodations

Students with disabilities register with the Disability Resource Center. Many students do quite well with fairly minimal accommodations such as extra time on quizzes. When you received a DRC letter from a student requesting additional quiz time, it’s pretty easy to set this up within Canvas:

  • Canvas Guides: Extra quiz time
  • Canvas Guides: Extra quiz attempt
  • Use the Quiz Extensions (located in the Instructor Tools in the left navigation) to give a student extra time for all existing quizzes
    • Select the students from the list of enrolled students
    • Choose the appropriate amount of extra time (1.5x, 2x, etc.)

If you receive an accommodation request for Closed Captioning in videos, fill out a request form. Do this as quickly as possible, as it can take some time to set up.  Delays may put your student at risk of falling behind in coursework.

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Check Course Questions or FAQ Discussion Board Frequently

Consider using some type of Course Questions or FAQ forum for students to use when they have a question that could benefit the entire class. This discussion board is comparable to raising one’s hand in a face-to-face class.

If students email you to ask a question about course content or material, you should respond to the email with something similar to, “That’s a really great question. Please post it on the Course Questions Discussion Board.” This response will remind students and train them to use the board rather than email for general questions. In the end, you will have less work because all students can see the answer. It is very important to use this “tough-love” method to guide them to use the FAQ forum.

It is very important for instructors or TAs to check the Course Questions Discussion or FAQ Board at least once a day. During the first week of class and during the summer semesters, it is best to check it a few times a day. Students get very anxious when they don’t understand something and get frustrated easily when they don’t get a response quickly. Keeping up with questions on the discussion board will reduce the number of email questions students send.
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Email Communication

Be sure to include information in the syllabus as to how to communicate with you regarding personal or grade-related matters. You should make it clear whether they should email you within Canvas using the Inbox tool or if they should email your UFL address using their UFL email.

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Robertson, J. (2020, November 06). Part One of Practical Mid-Career Teaching Reflections: Early Week Classroom Activities: Faculty Focus. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from Part One of Practical Mid-Career Teaching Reflections: Early Week Classroom Activities

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UF Instructor Guide Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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