89 Things Students Need to Know in the First 10 Days of an Online Course

(Combined result of the presenters’ original handouts and the work of the 2003 FSI participants.)


2003 Illinois Online Network Faculty Summer Institute

Janice Kinsinger; Director of Instructional Innovation and Faculty Development and Medical Laboratory Faculty

Patrice Hess; Instructional Technology Specialist and Social Sciences Faculty

Illinois Central College

jkinsinger@icc.edu; phess@icc.edu


This document will list things students need to know in the first ten days of an online course.  The “things” are separated into topics.  Each topic states an assumption that the instructor will do “something” to require the student to know how to do the “thing”.  Each “thing” may not be applicable to every online course.  Many “things” can apply to fully online courses as well as hybrid or blended courses.


Successful Online Learners

The instructor will expect the student to be ready for online learning.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Assess his or her technical abilities
    2. Obtain ready access to a computer and the Internet
    3. Perform basic computer and Internet Browsing functions
    4. Communicate efficiently and effectively in writing and through voicemail
    5. Manage time to complete tasks and meet deadlines
    6. Direct his or her learning
    7. Work independently


Access and Login

The instructor will design, develop and deliver a course Website.  The instructor will make an initial contact with the student, mostly likely via US mail or E-mail.  Students will be required to have a specific username and password to access the site.  The instructor will inform students of system availability and scheduled down times.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Navigate to the course address
    2. Access or create username and password and if they are case-sensitive
    3. Request or reset a lost password
    4. Login to course site
    5. Avoid the need to use the course management system during scheduled down times


Course Orientation

The instructor will design a student orientation to the course.  The orientation will be held online, face-to-face, either or both.  The instructor will describe how the student will be made accountable for the orientation material (quiz, scavenger hunt, assignment…)  The instructor will describe how to participate in the orientation.  The instructor will describe what signifies the start of the course and how to begin.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Navigate the course
    2. Obtain required course materials such as texts, CDROM’s and course packs
    3. Find key tools for the course
    4. Begin the course


The Course Timeline

The course will take place in a given time.  The start time, end time and duration may be the same or different for all students.  The instructor will describe if the course timeline will follow the time of the “traditional” term, be self-paced, require students to move through the course in a cohort, or allow open entry/open exit.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Access the course calendar
    2. Be informed of important dates and deadlines


The Course Learning Cycle

The instructor will design the course activities in an organized pattern or structure.  The pattern should repeat itself from module to module.  With repetition of the pattern students should be able to become familiar with the cycle of activities and responsibilities for each module.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Identify the structure of the learning cycle
    2. Be accountable for what is due during each cycle


Required Face-to-Face Meetings

An online course may or may not require face-to-face instructor/student and/or student/student meetings.  An instructor will describe required face-to-face meetings including purpose, date, time, duration and location.  Face-to-face meeting purposes may include proctored exams, library visits, lab sessions, audio-visual access, field trips, service learning, access to computer software and attendance at live performances.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Attend the face-to-face meetings on the proper day at the proper time and location
    2. Inform the instructor of an absence from the face-to-face meeting


Browsers, Downloads and Players

The course site will contain course material in formats including text, images, electronic presentations, video and audio files.  To view these files a student must have the required software, downloads and players installed on his/her computer.

          Browsers: Internet Explorer, Netscape, AOL

Downloads and Players: Word and PowerPoint Viewers, QuickTime Player, RealPlayer, Flash, Windows Media Player, WinZip and Adobe Acrobat

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Access to a computer with the minimum hardware and software requirements for the course
    2. Download required browsers, viewers and players
    3. Connect to the Internet but launch a browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape if AOL is the student’s Internet Service Provider
    4. Open multiple browser windows.
    5. Open a Website with dynamic content to “fool” the ISP into perceiving there is activity.


E-mail will be used as a course communication tool between instructor and student and among students.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Change an E-mail account in a course management system
    2. Forward E-mail from one E-mail account to another
    3. Use a signature on E-mail
    4. Provide a secondary method of contact such as second E-mail address, pager and/or telephone number



Communication and conduct in the course community will be held to the standards of academic achievement, discipline, equal opportunity, student rights and responsibilities policies specified for any course at the institution.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Contribute to the course in a meaningful way
    2. Compose course assignments, E-mail messages and discussion board postings using appropriate tone, language, grammar and spelling (no flaming!)
    3. Avoid cheating, plagiarism or giving or receiving unauthorized assistance on tests or assignments
    4. Know and understand student rights and responsibilities      

Communication Processes

The instructor will request that students use specific communication tools and process for specific purposes.  The student will know, understand and follow the processes when communicating with the instructor and classmates.  The instructor will specify how frequently the student should check announcements, E-mail and discussion boards to stay engaged in the course.  The instructor will specify approximate instructor response times to set students’ expectations.

Announcements – public communication posted by the instructor and shared in the course community. 

E-Mail – private communication, not to be public in the course site or shared other than instructor/student or student/student.

          Discussion Board – public communication shared in the course community.

Group Discussion – semi-private communication shared among the assigned members of a group.

Frequently Asked Questions – public communication shared in the course community.  A reference to seek answers to questions before a question is posed to the instructor or posted to a discussion board.

Tutoring/Student Services – requests made for specific services such as online tutoring, advisement or counseling.

Help Desks (Technical or Instructional) – requests made for assistance with technically-specific problems such as software or hardware failure or instructionally-specific problems or questions.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Send and receive E-mail
    2. Attach files to E-mail
    3. Zip files to be sent via E-mail/unzip files sent via E-mail
    4. Post to a discussion board
    5. Access and post to a group discussion board
    6. Access tutoring or other online student services
    7. Request assistance from a help desk     


Testing Procedures

Students will be evaluated.  Instructors will describe the number of tests to be taken in the course, what type of tests will be given, what the timeframe of the test will be, if the test will be timed, if the test will be password protected and if the tests will require a proctor.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Access a test online
    2. Submit a test online
    3. Correct a test online
    4. Access a paper-based test
    5. Submit a paper-based test
    6. Arrange/verify a testing site and/or proctor
    7. Check an online test grade and interpret test results
    8. Maintain integrity and honesty in the online testing environment



The course will require the student to complete assignments.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Complete assignments
    2. Save the assignment in the required format – document formats, as an attachment to an E-mail, in the body of an E-mail message
    3. Submit the assignment – as an attachment to an E-mail, in the body of an E-mail message, into a digital drop box, hard copy sent to a particular location


Critical Policies

The instructor will specify critical policies regarding late work, make-up work, revised work, extra credit, course participation and requests for incompletes and earn final course grades.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Submit late or make-up work
    2. Submit revised work
    3. Earn extra credit
    4. Participate in the course
    5. Request an incomplete status in the course
    6. Earn a final course grade
    7. Use resources without plagiarizing



The instructor will provide students with text, documents and links Websites.  The student will read the text, documents and Website content either online or after printing.  The instructor will provide the student with suggestions and cues on what to print.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Print documents using the File Menu or Printer button
    2. Print Web pages using the File Menu or Printer button
    3. Print Web pages and linked documents using the right-click menu
    4. Use the right-click Open in New Window command to open a file in a full browser window
    5. Use the right-click Save Target As command to download the file then open it in a full browser window or its native application


Online Services

The institution will provide services for students in online courses.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Register and withdraw from courses online
    2. Access online library services
    3. Access tutoring services
    4. Access online advisement and counseling services
    5. Access help desk services
    6. Provide screen-captures of screen displays, if necessary
    7. Access course companion Websites


Group Work

The instructor will require students to participate in a group-based task or activity.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Use group communication and collaboration tools
    2. Play a responsible role in a group
    3. Contribute to a group in a timely manner
    4. Initiate group collaboration, if necessary, to complete the assigned task
    5. Meet group deadlines
    6. Avoid controlling or monopolizing the group
    7. Encourage participation among all group members



The instructor will request feedback from students.  Instructors may request feedback from identified students or allow feedback to be anonymous.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Access feedback or survey tools
    2. Provide meaningful feedback
    3. Provide feedback in a timely manner
    4. Provide anonymous feedback if an option


Contingency Planning

The instructor will expect the student to have access to the tools required for the course.  The instructor will expect the student to complete the tasks and meet the deadlines as described in the course.  The acceptance of late work or non-participation due to technical failure will be at the discretion of the instructor.

          Students Should Know How To

    1. Access a secondary computer if his/her primary computer fails
    2. Access on-campus computer labs, local library or other public-access computer labs
    3. Access a secondary E-mail account if his/her primary account fails
    4. Contact the instructor via telephone if all computer-based technology fails
    5. Document dates and times assignments were submitted by the use of E-mail date and time stamps, document properties or electronic submission receipts
    6. Retain copies of all submitted assignments