Preparing & Managing Your Online Course

  1. Review best practices for teaching online.
  2. Split course sections (if applicable).
  3. Update your syllabus.
  4. Copy content from another course (if applicable).
  5. Review course content & check for accessibility
  6. Update library reserves.
  7. Update availability and due dates for assignments and folder visibility.
  8. Set your personal notifications.
  9. Post digital textbook (if participating in CMI) and publisher resources.
  10. Create a central Start Here area for your students so they know how to get started.
  1. Send students a welcome email.
  2. Make your course available so students are able to see and interact with the materials and their peers.

How often you check the class is an individual decision, but you should let your students know upfront about how often they can expect to hear from you. Checking in at least once each business day and a few times over the weekend is a good rule of thumb. Many online faculty strive to read and respond to all e-mail conversations and discussion forums within 24 hours. To expedite your communications with students, make sure that your Blackboard notifications are set up properly.

  1. Monitor the Class Discussions.
  2. Monitor and respond to all email conversations.

See Communication in Original CoursesCommunication & Engagement in Ultra

Once a week (preferably on the same day each week) we recommend that you:

  1. Post an Announcement telling students what you will be covering that week and reminding them of any due dates.
  2. Summarize discussion forum conversations, since it can be hard for students to wrap up a discussion and/or cull out the important points before moving on to other discussions!
  3. Grade all assignments. Students appreciate timely feedback on their assignments and will let you know if they feel they are waiting too long!
    • Most faculty strive to grade their assignments within one week of an assignment due date. If you anticipate that it will take longer than a week to return student work, it is best to inform them in advance when their grades and feedback will be available.
    • How long it takes to grade assignments and send meaningful feedback to students depends, of course, on the nature of the assignment. However, students may not be able to proceed in your course until they get your feedback on how they are doing.
    • It is also best to grade assignments in sequence (i.e., assignment 1, then assignment 2, and so on) so students can apply the feedback from one assignment to the subsequent assignments.
    • See Grading & the Ultra GradebookGrade Center in Original
  4. Consider holding online office hours. Giving your students a chance to communicate with you in real-time can help build strong relationships and motivate students to fully engage in the class. A few popular options for conducting live office hours with geographically dispersed students are Blackboard Collaborate. Just let your students know when and how to join your office hours!

Gather mid-semester feedback from your students. Administering a mid-semester evaluation is a great way to see how your class is going from a student perspective.

  1. Create an anonymous survey where you ask personalized, class-specific questions. Use Google Forms or Qualtrics Survey Software
  2. Ask them about the content as well as the structure of the course to get a sense of how students navigate your course design and access course resources.

Research has shown that the biggest influence on whether a student completes an end-of-class survey is the instructor! So a note from you encouraging your students to complete the survey and assuring them that the information will be kept confidential and used to improve the class is essential for a high response rate.

  1. Post an end-of-class announcement to wrap-up to the class. Include a final request to complete the course evaluation, if it’s still open.
  2. Mark your course COMPLETE if you want students to access content, but not submit any further communication or assessments. If you don’t want students to see anything, mark the course PRIVATE.
  3. Post final grades within the designated timeframe per University policy.
  4. Review and revise your course materials while everything is still fresh in your mind. Alternatively, jot down some notes.


Adapted from Penn State College of Earth & Mineral Science under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.