Getting New FWS Students Oriented Quickly

The KNIGHTLYnews is an online forum where FWS instructors and other teachers of writing can swap and share ideas for best classroom practice. Weekly posts are designed to help teachers develop lesson plans and writing assignments, and respond to classroom challenges by introducing new teaching tools and sharing emerging pedagogical ideas. Posts also direct readers to program and campus resources that support teaching and learning, and provide opportunities for peer collaboration and mentorship. #teachlikeabear

Students often need to drop or switch FWSs -- whether because of scheduling issues, fears about readings being too challenging, or a variety of other reasons (See Elliot Shapiro's post, Expecting, and Accepting, Fluctuating FWS Enrollment). This semester, students have until Monday, February 6th to add a new FWS.

However, this process, we all know, can feel disruptive and presents a variety of challenges for orienting new students to your class and getting them caught up. Here is our advice for doing this work: 

  1. Create a 3-5 minute in which you orient students to your Canvas course. Kate uses Panopto to do this (inside of Canvas, very easy to use) and Tracy starts by recording in her Personal Zoom Room, saves to the Cloud and then edits and prepares the videos using Kaltura in the Video on Demand (VOD) platform. In these videos, you might simply introduce yourself, the course, and then switch to a shared screen where you talk to students about how to navigate your Canvas site and/or explain the work plan. You might highlight any significant parts they would need for either homework or class, like understanding how you use modules, assignments, where your course calendar is, and what "class time" looks like in your course. You might also highlight how any central course features--like a grading contract--work, and/or describe major assignments and the logic behind your assignment sequencing and scaffolding. We have found that these videos are quick to make and help orient students quickly without having to repeat this information for each new course-add. 
  2. There are different approaches to helping students "catch up" on course work, but essentially, most of us ask some version of What do new students need to complete in order to turn in our first major writing assignment? While, of course, all of the work of the course is valuable, when students first come in, this question can be useful to streamline where to start. 
  3. As soon as you see a new student has added your course, send them a welcoming email with your orientation video and the work you deem to be essential to get started. While students may or may not reach out on their own, we find that sending them the video and catch-up work right away makes them more likely to be able to get caught up and is less stressful for you! 

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