Everyone is amped up at the beginning of an online course, and you probably feel like this is going to be the time when you're the most organized. But as soon as the class begins and work starts flowing in, it's easy to feel overwhelmed.
These four tips are what help us at Talance keep courses moving smoothly and make each subsequent class even easier.
1. Prewrite course communication
Everyone at the start of our courses receives a welcome. Everyone receives a reminder when the course is almost over. Everyone gets a nudge to complete their course evaluation. Even if the course is about a completely different topic, the pattern remains the same, and the messaging is more or less the same.
That's why we prewrite this course communication and save it so we can pull up the correct template without really thinking about it.
This goes for course announcements, course emails and even forum posts. Any kind of regular communication gets saved in a central location so it can be sent at the right time.
Here's an example of a document containing draft messages that we prepare for each one of our courses:
The benefit is two-fold: it takes less instructor brainpower—no need to reinvent the wheel on rote reminders—and it helps keep communication consistent.
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2. Schedule course communication to go automatically
With messages written ahead of time, the next steps is to schedule them to be delivered automatically.
The Talance learning management system (LMS) lets you pre-load messages and set a delivery date and time. The messages then go out to students' email and also get posted on the homepage of the course.
Our instructors can add these to the queue for deliver at the beginning of a course and not have to worry about them again.
Even if the learning system you work with doesn't let you automatically send messages. Outlook lets you delay delivery of messages so you can create emails ahead of time, and they'll be sent at the specified time.Read how in Delay or schedule sending email messages.
3. Save copies of sent messages
If you teach a course more than once, you'll start to notice patterns. People will begin to ask the same questions, they'll have the same responses to questions and they'll have the same needs. For example, someone inevitably misses a deadline for a quiz and asks for another chance to take it.
So at the end of each course, our instructors take note of questions that repeat and save copies of responses. These get saved, along with draft messages, for the next time they teach a course.
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4. Setup an "I need help" forum
You can cut down on emails altogether by creating a forum called "I need help." Instruct participants to add their questions to this forum rather than send you or your tech support team emails. If more than one person has the same question, you can help all of them at the same time. You also increase the chances of another student helping out. They might know the answer and can respond faster than you can.
The Talance LMS lets you "subscribe" to forums so you receive an email alert whenever someone posts. If you have the ability in the system you use, subscribe to the help forum so you can respond quickly.