The week before session officially starts, when students have access to their subject sites through Canvas or UTSOnline, is a week of limbo, of uncertainty. Students might be asking themselves, is this the subject I thought it was? The elective that I want? Should I be excited about the session ahead or worried about where to find my textbook? A welcome message for your subject helps to alleviate some of those concerns. Through a welcome announcement you can provide an engaging and meaningful first encounter with your subject.
A welcome doesn’t just orient students to the subject and let them know where to go to find their subject outline and assessments, it can also build belonging and connection to your subject. It can provide some insight into who you are as a subject coordinator and how this subject connects with the broader degree.
A format to follow could include a greeting, information on access, expectations, how to get support, next steps, and your contact details, as outlined below. Take a look at our templates for help getting started.
Introduce yourself, the subject, and the purpose of the welcome message. You may choose to link to or include more biographical information here, otherwise be sure to provide a little more background about yourself.
How to access subject learning material
Include information about Canvas and how to use it. We suggest linking to the Canvas Student Guide on the UTS website.
Provide students with an outline of what to expect in the subject to avoid uncertainty later.
Support & troubleshooting
Let students know how they can ask questions about the subject, and remind them to seek support for Canvas technical queries via the options in the Canvas Help menu.
Next steps or tips for success
Explain how students can be successful in the subject and the online environment, and how they can prepare before session commences.
Provide information on how students can contact you.
Connecting with students
A welcome message should be separate from the subject outline, which contains more detailed information about the course expectations, learning objectives, assessment dates etc. This is a space to write as you would introduce yourself and the subject as you would introduce it in class, an opportunity to inject some of your unique teaching style and personality providing a sense of teacher presence and connection with your class.
Not only can a welcome announcement provide a connection and start off your subject on the right foot, it can also prevent many emails from students asking questions before session starts. It can be helpful to think about what students have asked in previous sessions and classes and try to include those answers up front.
So have a think about the kind of scene you’d like to set for your subject and greet students with a welcome announcement (more Welcome templates are available here) as they get access to their sites a week from the start of session.
For more tips on start of session, check out 6 steps to your Autumn 2021 launch in Canvas.
Feature image by Tim Mossholder.