Guest Author - Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger
Preparing to teach your first course can be intimidating. Colleges, universities, and other educational institutions have required materials such as selected textbooks, curricula, and syllabi that are necessary to begin your teaching experience. However, some teaching positions require the instructor to assist in developing such materials prior to the first day of class. In such cases there is planning to be done that will help ensure instructors are fully prepared prior to meeting with their classes on day one.
Approximately three months before beginning class instruction create an appropriate set of learning objectives for your students. Highlight key areas you would like your students to have a thorough understanding of at the end of the course; they should know how to apply their new-found knowledge in real-world situations. Instituting an effective set of learning objectives will better help you formulate details of the course components including required textbooks, technology, teaching methodology, student activities such as labs and assignments, and quizzes and projects for learning assessment. In addition to learning objectives, it is imperative to find ways to engage students in classroom discussions. Be sure to add a plan to your course components that can be used as an introduction exercise for the first day to help break the ice. This will enhance the learning environment and add a little fun.
Once you have gathered all the course materials and technology, itís time to outline topics you will teach in a document called a syllabus. The syllabus should begin taking shape about two months before class begins. One way to view a syllabus is like a contract between a student and the instructor. The syllabus explains the teacherís expectations and the studentís responsibilities within a specific timeframe. A syllabus is an effective tool that helps both students and instructors stay organized, particularly if students are taking more than one class and instructors are teaching more than one. Today, with various classes being taught online, it is wise to provide both a hard copy and an electronic version of the syllabus.
Approximately one month before your class begins you should put yourself in the studentís chair. Examine the syllabus and do the coursework yourself. This will assist you in methodically understanding the learning objectives you want to deliver, and you may discover a few novel ideas in an area you thought you were proficient at, particularly if textbooks have been revised. Reviewing the course materials also enables a second look to enhance presentations already developed from previous classes you have taught. Ride in the passenger seat before you get behind the wheel.
A few weeks prior to class, ensure all your technology and resources are in place. Make sure a list of technology tools needed to participate in class discussions or viewing presentations has been developed. Many instructors today use YouTube videos or create presentations or lectures using a variety of applications. If your lecture is interactive and requires particular browser compatibility, ensure students are aware of this in the course requirements section. Noting all the necessary requirements up front will provide a smoother learning environment without the worry of technical difficulties. Some instructors teach the same course each quarter; it is always wise to review the student resource links to ensure they are active because the one constant in technology is that itís always changing.
As an online instructor, send your students a welcome / introduction letter about a week before class begins, or as soon as the class discussion board is available. Tell a little about yourself including your work, education, and hobbies. So many students participate in online courses today that they automatically begin sending their own introduction on day one. Ensure your introduction letter is posted prior to class beginning to ensure students do not assume the usual questions will be asked. Get ahead of the game: create an interesting and engaging letter that not only highlights who you are but encourages students to share more about their interests and goals. The more fuel you add to that initial introduction letter, the better chances you have of building an engaging momentum within an online learning environment.
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