Helping Students Navigate Your Course
Over the past few weeks, the Distance Learning Team has published multiple posts about items to include in your courses to help students navigate them successfully. In her post It’s Not Just A Reading List: Adding Context to the Resources In Your Course, Instructional Technologist Jackie Wickham discussed the importance of including information about the resources you are including in your course and why you are including them. A few weeks ago, I elaborated on Jackie’s discussion in my post How To Keep Students From Getting Lost In Your Course. In that post, I emphasized the value of including roadmaps, or advanced organizers, at the beginning of each week of your course.
Just as including a road map at the beginning of each week orients students to the week and outlines what is expected of them, including a wrap up at the end of the week gives students a sense of what they should have accomplished and how they should prepare for the upcoming week. This post focuses on weekly wrap ups: what they are, why they are valuable, what to include in them, and how to make them.
How To Use Weekly Wrap Ups
Bridge From One Week To The Next
One common critique from students about online courses is that they are not organized in a systematic way. Information is presented, but it is difficult for students to determine how to go through the information and how to make the best use of it. A weekly wrap up helps students see what they should have learned during the week and how that material relates to what they should learn the next week. By helping students transition between each weekly topic, a wrap up can function as a bridge between each week of content, and can help you and the students determine how one week of content relates to the next.
Build Relationships With Your Students
A second common critique from students and faculty about online courses is that the lack of in-person contact can make it difficult for instructors and students to build relationships. One way to address this critique and make the online class more meaningful to you and your students is to establish your presence in the course. By establishing your presence, you show students that you are paying attention to their activity in the course, thinking critically about their contributions to the course, and caring about what is going on in the course. Including a weekly wrap up that demonstrates to students that you have been actively engaged with the course throughout the week–the same way you expect them to be–is one way to establish your presence. When you provide a wrap-up that demonstrates your presence in the course, students have a better sense of what your expectations are and how to meet them, and feel a greater sense of connection with their instructors.
Assess Students’ Progress
A third common critique from instructors about online courses is that without the visual cues like eye contact and body language, it can be difficult to determine if students are grasping the material. Ending each week with a wrap up addresses this critique by getting you in the habit of taking stock of students’ learning and progress toward achievement of learning outcomes each week. Creating the wrap up will keep you on top of assessing students’ performance, since you may use the wrap up to make observations about how students are doing in the course. Based on the information you offer in the wrap up, students can decide if they are ready to move on to the next week or if they should backtrack through the week to review course content.
What To Include In The Weekly Wrap Up
Here are some ideas for items to include in the weekly wrap up.
- A Preview of Next Week’s Content
Give students a teaser about what to expect next week, and how the content they just learned prepares them to move on to next week’s topic.
- Discussion of Assignments
Provide students with additional details on assignments, or make some observations about the quality of the work you are receiving from the class.
- Comments about the Discussion
Show students that you are actively engaged with the discussion by commenting on the quality of their participation, good questions raised, or themes that emerged from the discussion.
- Questions for Additional Consideration
Pique students’ curiosity and spark their interest in each week’s content by posing additional questions about content that you invite them to respond to via email or in next week’s discussion.
How To Deliver Your Wrap Up
Weekly wrap ups are created while the course is in progress, since you are going to be making comments on students participation and performance. During the course development process you can create placeholders for the wrap ups.
- Write your wrap up on a page in Canvas.
- Create a brief video and talk students through the wrap up. For tips on video creation, please see the Video How To Guides on the School of Professional Studies Distance Learning web page.
Here is an example of a weekly wrap-up from Dr. Achenbach, instructor of MSGH 408: Biostatistics and Epidemiology
Blackboard Blog, 3 Tips To Connect With Your Online Students
Hanover Research Council, Best Practices In Online Teaching Strategies
Onlineteachingcareer.com, Weekly Wrap Up # 1
SUNY Fredonia, Building Your Online Course Map