This post was co-authored with Emma Jenkins.

The approach of Spring session marks yet another shift for academics, some of whom will be moving their subjects into Canvas for the first time.  

Canvas will also be a brand-new environment for many students. We talked to UTS postgraduate student Liam Robertson about his experience as an undergraduate student, and how the world of online learning has changed dramatically over just a few years. 

“Sometimes we’d post on a forum once a week – that was the extent of online learning!” 

Liam Robertson

Now in his first year of a postgraduate degree at UTS, Liam initially felt overwhelmed with just how online his learning has become (and that’s even before he and his classmates transitioned to remote study!). 

“Having everything online is great. It’s a big change from buying a printout of the subject readings or a textbook from the uni bookshop. Now, it’s all linked through the UTS library as eBooks.” 

Liam Robertson

With online learning more important than ever, it is vital to help new students like Liam feel welcomed and supported when they click into your subject. It may feel like a monumental task to ensure that students across the world are supported and comfortable in your online space, but there’s one thing you can do that can kick start a feeling of community: post a welcome announcement. 

Not sure how to get started? We’ve put together a welcome announcement template that you can download by clicking here [UTS ID and password login]. 

What does the welcome announcement do and why is it so important? 

Posting a welcome announcement may seem like a small thing, but it goes a long way in creating a supportive community in your subject! Let’s break it down. 

1. A welcome announcement lets your students know where to go 

Posting a welcome announcement triggers an email that goes directly to your student’s inbox, letting them know that their subject is in Canvas. Although postgraduate orientation activities provide information on Canvas, 2020 has undoubtedly thrown a few spanners in the works, and it’s all too easy for students to miss important information. This means that some students may not even know that their subjects are in Canvas! Take Liam for example:  

“I didn’t know my subject was in Canvas when I was enrolling, but then I got an email from my subject coordinator via Canvas welcoming me to the subject – that’s how I found out.” 

Liam Robertson

For students who may have subjects in both UTSOnline and Canvas, this message is essential.   

2. In your welcome announcement you can provide immediate support  

While many students continue to study from home, providing support in the online environment is vital. Some students may have never used an online learning management system before! You can let your students know where to get help with Canvas so that you don’t need to triage both technical questions and subject related questions.  

Why not make it even easier to find support? You can share this digital support flyer [UTS ID and password login] with your students when you post your announcement so they will always know that they are supported even when on the other side of the world.  

3. It creates a chance to promote a sense of belonging among students 

The rapid change in learning and teaching as well as starting in a new learning management system is a lot to handle. It might be a little too much right now to think about creating a sense of student belonging outside of the classroom, but you can get off to a positive start by taking the time to introduce yourself and the subject. You can set the tone for the rest of the week, and for the whole session, simply by saying hello and letting students know what to expect – and that’s as easy as posting a welcome announcement. 

“I love the welcome announcements and welcome videos for each subject, I found them super helpful and personable. They helped me feel more comfortable and helped me to understand what the subject was about.” 

Liam Robertson

Looking for more ways to engage your students? 

We have a collection of Spring 2020 resources for supporting students in Canvas [UTS ID and password login] – including a support flow chart to help you answer any student queries. You can also check out the huge collection of remote teaching resources to help you create the best Canvas Subject site for your teaching this session.  

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