The First Week of Your Online Class

If you’re new to teaching online, the first week can be a little overwhelming. It can also be hard to tell if your students are doing anything until they start posting. Below are a few tips to help you get started. You may also want to refer to our Getting Ready for a New Semester post.

  1. Gauging Student Engagement: Use the Performance Dashboard to check on student access to the course. If a student has not accessed the course in the first week, contact them immediately (by phone if necessary). It is possible that students are not using Lesley email or have neglected to link their private email to their Lesley account.
  2. Managing Discussions: Familiarize yourself with an efficient workflow for monitoring, responding to, and assessing discussions or other group activities. A common work-flow for discussion management is:
    1. Check in briefly each day to monitor activity. If students are not on-task, use the Announcements tool to guide them back on track. If private communications are necessary, use course email.
    2. Consider your role in discussions. Keep in mind that too many posts by the instructor could discourage student interaction. On the other hand, do let students know that you are monitoring the discussion, even if your presence via posting isn’t necessary.
    3. When reviewing discussions in detail, use the “Collect” tool to view all the text at one time. You also have the option to print the discussion text.
    4. Use a printout of the students’ names, along with the text of the discussion board (electronic or paper printout), to assess the quality of interaction and postings.

For additional assistance and tutorials please visit our website or contact

Lync Web for Online Meetings


Lync Web App is an instant messaging and audio/video chat tool. It’s a great option for online meetings, ad hoc conversations, advising and tutoring. Lync Web includes text-based instant messages, audio and video chat, the ability to share Powerpoint presentations or even your desktop to demo applications or processes. There’s also a whiteboard for quick collaboration and a polling tool for rapid feedback in larger groups.

It’s easy to get started with Lync Web. It runs entirely in your web browser and you only need to install a quick plugin to start your first session. Lync can be accessed using the same login and password as your Lesley email.

Having trouble finding time to meet with your colleagues? Why not schedule your meetings virtually? You can do this directly in Outlook or the Outlook Web App, just as you would any other type of meeting. Select the “Online Meeting” options and a link to the Lync meeting will be included in your invitation. Need to meet with someone who isn’t part of the Lesley community or want to invite a guest to your class discussion? No problem. Include their email address in the meeting invite and they will receive guest access to the online meeting. Note: Guests have slightly fewer privileges for presenting, but will be able to fully participate in the discussion and access the whiteboard.

Lync allows you to participate in online meetings in a variety of ways. There is a desktop client for both Windows and Mac and mobile clients for Windows, Android and iOS so you can even stay connected when you aren’t at your desk.

You can find more information on how to get started with Lync at

Not sure if Lync is right for you and want to consider other options? Check out the Comparison of Online Meeting Tools for a quick overview.

Virtual Office Hours

How do you hold office hours for an online course? Sam Smiley uses Blackboard IM (BB IM). BB IM combines the ability to easily communicate via text, audio and video as in Skype with some web conferencing features such as whiteboards and screen sharing that allow faculty and students to collaborate online as they might in person.

In January 2012, Sam introduced BB IM to her Internship Seminar students. She then posted her Office Hours schedule in her myLesley course. Each Monday night, Sam would log into BB IM and field questions from students. Some were simple questions that could be handled with a quick text message and the student was on his or her way. Audio or video calls worked great for questions that required a bit more explanation or finesse that might not come across in text. The whiteboard tool allowed her Creative Arts and Learning students to share and annotate images while the desktop and website sharing tools allowed Sam to demonstrate processes or answer questions as she might in the face-to-face classroom using the projector or physical whiteboard.

It took a little time for Sam to build interest with her students, but by the end of the course her students were beginning to regularly check in. It worked so well that she is using BB IM with her current courses. As her students work on group projects, they can also use BB IM to collaborate on the fly without Sam needing to set up a space for them to do so.

Give BB IM a try!

Learn more about BB IM Office Hours.


Factors of Instructor Presence that are Important to Students

community of inquiry

Garrison, Anderson & Archer’s community of inquiry model provides a helpful framework for conceptualizing the components of a rich learning experience. Deeper research into each of the types of “presence” identified in the model helps to clarify where instructors and instructional designers should invest time and resources in developing and teaching courses. Sheridan and Kelly, in the December 2010 Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, published the results of a study of student perceptions of what aspects of teaching presence are important to students.

The study used a questionnaire with 64 close-ended items. The findings are based on the responses of 65 students, primarily graduate students (82%). The top five items identified by students (based on median score) as important were:

  • Makes course requirements clear;
  • Clearly communicated important due dates/time frames for learning activities;
  • Sets clear expectations for discussion participation;
  • Provides clear instructions on how to participate in course learning activities;
  • Provides timely feedback on assignments and projects

Items rated as less important by students included:

  • Engages in “real time” chat sessions
  • Provide a video that allows me to hear and see the instructor
  • Reply to each individual student’s posts in the discussion area

The researchers also identified “a significant negative correlation between the number of online courses taken and the importance of chat sessions, the value that students place on this form of communication may wane as they acquire more online course experience.”

This study reinforces the importance of clear expectations and deadlines in an online course, and the important role the instructor has in providing timely feedback.

Online Course Tour at the Start of the Course

View this Overview via this link: Fundamentals of Computer Structures Overview

Instructor: Bill Barowy

Course: Fundamentals of Computer Structure

Description:  Bill orients students to his online class through a screencast that outlines the key sections of the course site as well as the expectations of the course and the main assignments that students will complete during the course. Communication expectations are also set. Bill notes that this is not a heavily edited piece, which makes it “real.” Developing screencasts that show that the instructor is a real person and that communicate important information about the course are nice strategies for cultivating presence as an instructor.