Teaching Online

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Sample Welcome Letter to Students in an Online Course

Instructors are encouraged to send a welcome letter to students in their course some time before the beginning of the course, both by regular mail and by email. The welcome letter should be clear about the fast-paced nature of online courses and outline the technology requirements for the course. Below is a sample welcome letter to students in an online course.


To: [Name of course] Students

From: [Name of instructor]

Subject: Online Course Preliminary Information

Date: [date of this letter]

Dear Student,

This is a preliminary, brief overview of the [name of course] course. This course is a fully-online, Internet-based course. The course will meet [dates of course].

Please read the following carefully, as it will address common concerns and questions. It may even determine whether you decide to stay enrolled in this course.

  1. This is an entirely web-based course. You may complete all course work from your home as long as you have an internet connection and are able to master the features of Desire2Learn (D2L), the university's online course management system.

    Please note that this is not an online, self-study course with a due date of the last day of scheduled class. This course includes FIRM weekly deadlines scheduled throughout the semester. Again, although we (students and the instructor) are not tied down to specific times of day, we will adhere to a weekly schedule that includes many activities, including discussions, assignments, quizzes, etc. Please review the schedule, and please pay careful attention to deadlines. Due to the nature of this course, deadlines will not be extended for any reason, so please do not ask for an extension. If you miss an assignment or activity, work very hard to earn the maximum number of points on all subsequent activities. Extra credit is not available in this course.
  2. Contacting the Instructor. While this is a web-based course, I am easily accessible. You are welcome to contact me by email, chat or phone.... [include contact information, preferred method of contact, office hours, if applicable, etc.]
  3. Course Technology. You must use your UW-W email account for communicating with me and with other students in the course. There are many technical reasons for this email policy. Please manage your campus mailbox to ensure it does not become full.

    I normally check email several times per day, and I will respond to your email as quickly as possible. I will, at a minimum, make every effort to respond to email within 24 hours.

    The Desire2Learn (D2L) course management system is a CRITICAL component in conducting the course. All students are expected to regularly use and monitor the D2L site in order to participate in class activities. Unless otherwise noted, all materials submitted to your Instructor will also be done via D2L. A word of caution: those using a dial-up modem may find Internet-based courses particularly challenging/frustrating due to the slowness of the technology. If you are using dial-up, I suggest you try out all the features of the site to see if the Internet class format will work for you.

    Beginning on [starting date of course], you should have access to the course's D2L site. Check the Content area at least two to three times over the next several days, before the class begins. At present, there are three items available: 1) a copy of this memo, 2) a copy of the syllabus, to give you an idea of the topics and readings, and 3) a list of students in last semester's course who would like to sell you their lightly used copies of the required textbook at reasonable prices. I will continue to add course information between now and [date].
  4. Textbooks. You must rent one book [name of text] and purchase one book [name of text]. They should be readily available at the bookstore. [further info on obtaining the textbooks]
  5. Course Content. The course content will consist of: 1) PowerPoint lectures, 2) readings (a chapter a day in the text, a chapter or other reading in [another text], 3) online discussions, 4) five online quizzes, and 5) two formal 5-page essays drawn from the lecture and readings.
  6. Grading. Your grade will be calculated roughly as follows: one-third for the quizzes, one third for the discussions, and one third for the papers.

What Should I do first?

Finally, you may wish to take the Online Course Readiness Assessment, to help you decide whether an online course will suit your skills and personal learning style. To access the Online Course Readiness Assessment, go to the UW-Whitewater Online Learning Resources site, and click the Students tab at the top of the page. Find the Getting Started section in the menu column on the left. Click the link labeled Online Course Readiness Assessment to take the assessment. You might also want to check the links in the Learning Online section for further information on the online learning experience.

With best regards,

[instructor name]