Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)

OSCQR Scorecard 1. Welcome and Getting Started

This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring the OLC/Open Suny OSCQR Scorecard for online course design and review – recommendation by recommendation until we reach #50.  Your ideas and comments about this series are welcome. If you would like to share examples of how you applied an OSCQR recommendation in your course, please consider contributing a short blog post to the series.

And now let’s get started!

The first category in the scorecard is Course Overview and Information. The ten practices in this category are related to ensuring that learners in your online course have the information that they need – from day 1 of the course (or before) – to begin the learning experience.

“Recommendation #1. Course includes Welcome and Getting Started content.

Explanation: By welcoming learners to the course and providing context for what they will be learning, the instructor sets a tone for success from the start of the course. Learners benefit from an overview of the course, with general information about the nature and purpose of the course, the course activities, grading structure, and where to find the specific information on each.”

Reflect for a moment on how you conduct your first class session for an on-ground campus course.  Do you introduce yourself?  Do you go over the syllabus, provide a big picture overview of the course, and then point out the activities/tasks learners should focus on first? Do you get your students excited and engaged by sharing your enthusiasm about the subject matter? In an online class, there may not be a first class meeting.  Instead, learners login to your Blackboard course and that is the start of class. Consider that students may be disoriented and overwhelmed when they first login. It may be their first time using Blackboard, or your course may look completely different than their last online course. Couple this with the anxiety, fear, or excitement that some learners experience when starting a new course.  Who is the instructor? What will be expected of me?  What is the course about?  Where should I start?  What if I miss something?

Since your online students don’t have a person (you) standing right there at a prescribed class time to provide clues and cues about what the next 16 weeks will be about, how might you welcome learners into the online learning environment and get them started?

This is where Welcome and Getting Started information comes in.  An increasingly common practice is to have a section labeled Start Here. This section contains everything that your students need to know about the course – what the course is about (course overview and context), what the expectations are (major assignments and grading criteria), course schedule and required material, technical requirements, and campus resources (including ADA accommodations).   You might include a video welcome message to get your students excited about what is coming and engaged in the first course activities. Your welcome message also helps to establish your presence in the course and provides a way for your students to connect to you.  This could be considered your first class “session” – what do you want to impress upon your students and what impression do you want to make about who you are as a teacher?

Conrad (2002) found that online learners’ immediate “sense of well-being and engagement” is dependent on their connection with the learning materials. Instructors are judged on the clarity and completeness with which their course details are presented.”  Think about Welcome and Getting Started information as your first opportunity to positively impact your students’ well-being and engagement, and to launch them to learning success!

Resources and References

  • OSCQR Scorecard: Access the Scoreboard
  • OSCQR 3.0 Annotations: Specific design ideas for each of the 50 OSCQR recommendations.
  • Conrad, Dianne L. (2002). Engagement, Excitement, Anxiety, and Fear: Learners’ Experiences of Starting an Online Course. American Journal of Distance Education, v16 n4 p205-226 2002