Ready, Set, Start Facilitating Your Online Class

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BruceBy Bruce A. Johnson, Ph.D., MBA By Bruce A. Johnson, PhD, MBA

The start date for your next online class is approaching. How do you prepare for your facilitation duties? Do you review the list of expectations for your role as an adjunct? Have you developed a checklist for your instructional requirements? Many online classes follow a non-traditional, accelerated class schedule so it is important to be organized and prepared prior to the start of class so that you are fulfilling your obligations and creating an effective learning environment. Being prepared helps your facilitation of the class and it assists your students, who may feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the class. There are strategies that an adjunct can utilize to effectively prepare for the start of a new online class.

Adjuncts: Start Your Engines

Consider How You Manage Your Schedule:
Meeting the facilitation requirements and expectations requires an investment of time. An adjunct instructor knows that a time management plan is needed and this includes developing a weekly schedule so that all duties are completed on time. Another helpful tool that can be utilized is a course calendar, which can serve as a planning guide for the instructor and students to follow.

Consider How You Manage Potential Stressors:
An important aspect of stress management is recognizing factors that may cause stress and how you react to stressful situations. Because adjunct instructors are often facilitating a class part time, while holding other career responsibilities or a full time job, it is also helpful to conduct a self-check to determine if there are potential stressors. Understanding the potential for stress, along with developing a plan to manage that stress, will allow an instructor to maintain a positive disposition towards his or her facilitation duties and better assist students who may also experience stress.

Reviewing Materials and Locating Resources:
Preparing for the start of a class could also include reviewing the assigned course materials and readings. It may be helpful to highlight key information that you want to emphasize throughout the class, especially during class discussions. After reviewing the course materials you will also know if supplemental resources, such as articles or websites, should be included to help students better understand the course concepts.

Evaluate the Online Platform:
Have you considered how your students will interact with the online classroom? For the first week of class it may be helpful to post an announcement that will guide students to important information, features, and resources, while addressing any potential challenges they may face when they are working with the classroom for the first time.

What Do You Expect Students to Learn?
Every course has assigned learning objectives. How will students meet those expectations and what should they demonstrate through their performance in class discussions and written assignments submitted? By understanding how these expectations are met an instructor can provide the support necessary to assist students.

Preparing Assignments and Class Discussions:
Have you considered the possible range of responses that students may submit for their assignments? Have you also thought about the possible answers that students may post for their discussion question responses? Instructors are expected to provide substantive and timely feedback, along with significant contributions to the class discussions. Many instructors find it helpful to review the assignments and discussion questions ahead of time to be prepared. Some instructors will develop a bank of comments, materials, and resources that can be incorporated into their feedback and participation postings.

How Will You Evaluate Performance?
As you review the required assignments have you also considered how you will evaluate students’ performance? Grading forms or rubrics can be used as a means of creating a method for providing meaningful and uniform feedback. In addition, sharing these grading forms with the students prior to the assignment due date will further emphasize the required expectations.

Establish Your Expectations:
When students start a class they understand that there are rules to follow. How will you establish your ground rules and expectations? Many instructors will establish expectations about important guidelines such as online communication and plagiarism at the start of the class as a means of reinforcing school policies.

Share Important Information:
As you develop a feel for the course materials, assignments, and class discussions it may benefit your students to create a weekly preview message to help them prepare for the upcoming class week. Are there important updates or is there any information that you should share with the class through the use of an announcement?

What Do Your Students Need?
As you prepare to work with your students and address their developmental needs and challenges, do you have a list of resources available to provide your students? For example, have you reviewed the writing resources that are available for your students?

How Will You Respond?
Maintaining an active classroom presence means being responsive to your students. Do you have a plan in mind for checking in with the class and addressing their concerns and questions?

Final Check In:
The last important consideration for the start of your class is conducting a self-check of your initial thoughts and feelings. Do you feel a sense of excitement about having a positive impact on the classroom learning experience? By starting with a positive attitude you are likely to find that it has a positive influence on students’ performance.

Preparing for the start of a new class means having a plan established to meet the instructional requirements and expectations. Being prepared can also include planning the use of your time and developing a schedule, along with conducting a review of the classroom environment, assignments, discussion questions, and course materials. When you feel that you are ready to effectively facilitate your class you can reduce the potential for stress and increase the possibility of creating a classroom that is supportive of students’ learning and their developmental needs.

About the Mentor: Dr. Bruce Johnson has had a life-long love of learning and throughout his entire career he has been involved in many forms of adult education; including teaching, training, human resource development, coaching, and mentoring. Dr. J has completed a master’s in Business Administration and a PhD in the field of adult education, with an emphasis in adult learning within an online classroom environment. Presently Dr. J works as an online adjunct instructor, faculty developmental workshop facilitator, and faculty mentor.

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