People sitting around a meeting table with computers and presentation.

You have done the hard work! Your curriculum is sorted. You have put it into an online space. Now your goal is to introduce your students to this new framework and your expectations. Start your class as you typically would: Introduce yourself to the group, share your syllabus, and share how computer use is part of your instruction. How do you support the various needs of students? This post is geared towards the answer. 


TL;DR: Preparing for the most challenging scenario also prepares you for the simplest.

One of the things that makes online instruction difficult is that you, the instructor, cannot use body language to convey ideas. You can’t give a shrug or a sarcastic eye-roll, and you can’t call a student out for not paying attention.

Knowing these things, how do you even start the year with your students?


The good news is, you and your students are all in this together. You may be the instructor, but that does not mean that you know everything or have the answer to everything. The beginning of term is the time to let participants know you are open to suggestions and how they can share them.

Some ways to communicate this to students are:

  • Create an initial assignment. In that assignment, ask how students can help support their classmates. Make a response to the question that students can see, and list that you are a member of the class. Explain that this kind of learning is new to you and that you look forward to learning with them over the term.
  • In your syllabus and the area where students will get their assignments — like the to-do list — let students know they can answer group questions and that you’ll validate their answers. Use language like, “If you have any questions, please add it to the General Help Discussion Board. A classmate or I will give you an answer. I will respond to questions and comments within 24 hours.”
  • At the end of assignments, add a statement like, “Please add questions to the General Help Discussion Board. A classmate or I will give you an answer. I will respond to questions and comments within 24 hours.”

You are creating a common ground of learning and building a Community of Learning. You are learning with the participant. Empowering student participation creates buy-in, and because of that, participants will have more robust learning gains.

So how do you support this community? Use traditional methods like explicit instruction to help students succeed. I think when people hear “explicit instruction,” they think of IKEA instructions. That is a form of explicit instruction, but you can do more. Yes, create worksheets that have screenshots in them. But don’t forget the tools of the internet you have. You can quickly speak directly to a camera, record over the video, or use video within a document. There are a lot of options.

Explicit Instruction

Let’s start with the low hanging fruit: use screenshots to create explicit instruction. Create screen captures to quickly share information and your screen’s view with your students. Pressing the Print Screen key on your keyboard copies your monitor to your clipboard. Paste the saved image to a document or email and edit there. Annotate images with numbers giving information and answers to the reader in a quick way. BAM. Done.

Screen capture is a video tool that allows you to record the screen, the movement of your mouse, and your voice while recording. Some computers have this ability built-in. But if not, check with your institution or district Chief Information Officer (CIO) to see what options there are.

Tool Talk

Two resources for screengrabs and casting:

Either of these two tools allows you to prepare communication ahead of time and respond to participants.

Another tool I recommend is H5P can be used alone or within a CMS and will grade work for you. The website has a variety of free test styles. Even better, the backend of the tests use xAPI instead of SCORM.

What is the difference between the two? A lot. The most significant difference is that you can edit or update tests without removing full versions of your hard work. If you have ever been frustrated because you wanted to fix a question in an online test, but as you went to save the test, you learned you would lose all previous data … well, xAPI keeps that from occurring.

xAPI is a cool shift in online education. It’s a language that the full use and implication of its abilities are not fully known.

A head’s up — H5P does have a .com as well as the .org. The .com is a subscription service that may give more utility to the tests. I don’t know as I can’t speak to the service.

Try this sample of a quiz put together with H5P.

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