First week is hectic - a solid start is key

“Time in an online class is different from time in a traditional class setting. . . in the online setting I almost need to reserve [the] first week of class just for orientation; to make sure my students are online, make sure they understand the assignments and the site. . .[I] ask students to do activities . . . that allow me, as the instructor, to know that everyone’s on board and we all know what’s happening. And that takes a lot of resistance because it goes against what we are trained to do, which is to get right in there . . . and start teaching the actual subject matter.”
~Marcus LiBrizzi, UMM (remarks from Panel Discussion at the 2001 Faculty institute)

Getting Off to a Good Start: The First Week

The beginning of the semester can be especially anxiety provoking for online students. Getting your students off to a good start can not only allay their initial worries but might influence how they approach the demands you place on them throughout the semester. The suggestions in this section, then, are to help ensure a good beginning.

1. Schedule a “Technical Introduction” as the first assignment

Some faculty have included an opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with the technology tools used in the course, and have scheduled a week at the beginning of the semester for them to do so.

2. Have students check the e-mail address entered automatically in Blackboard

When students register for a course using Blackboard, a “UNET” e-mail address (with the format: is set up for them and automatically entered into the e-mail address field in Blackboard. Students will receive any e-mail you send to them at this address. In many cases, however, students prefer to use another e-mail address and may not check the UNET account. Be sure to tell them to verify that the e-mail address listed in Blackboard is the one they want to use. They can either change this address to one that they will use or arrange to forward any mail sent to this address to their preferred address. Instructions are available in the Blackboard QuickGuide for Students. If students plan to use the UNET account, they can access it through a Web browser. Instructions are available on the LEARN Web site.

3. Ask students to introduce themselves

Ask students to introduce themselves to the class in a forum that you might call “Welcome and Introductions.” This gives everyone a chance to get to know a little about one another. It also allows you to check whether or not the student has cleared the initial hurdle of getting online. Introduce yourself using the Staff/Faculty Information area of Blackboard or include an introduction in the opening forum.

4. Remind students about Technical Support and other technical assistance

Remind students about Technical Support (1-800-696-4357; ) and the Blackboard QuickGuide.

5. Remind students to sign up for exam sites

If your course includes proctored exams, refer students to the online exam site registration page.

6. Remind students about Library services

Remind students of the Library services available on the UMA Library page.

7. Contact “No-shows”

Find out who hasn’t yet gotten into your course site successfully. Use Blackboard’s Retention Center to find out whether or not a student has logged into your course site.

Go to the Control Panel, then click Evaluation and Retention Center. Students who haven't logged into the course in the last five days are listed with an alert. Click on the alert to see the date of the last login.

Our University College Learning Services staff can help you to contact any students who have not participated after the first week of class. Contact UMA-AL at


Creating Media Assets for the Course 

 Course Planning Timeline