Quickly Orienting New FWS Students

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 their FWS -- 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 Tuesday, September 5th to add a new FWS.

As we all know, this process 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 video in which you walk students through your Canvas site and/or syllabus. In your video, 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. As you did on the first day of class, you should highlight the areas they need to be familiar with on order to complete homework or be ready for 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 submitting assignments, grading policies, and/or 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 each time a new students joins your course. 
  2. There are different approaches to helping students "catch up" on course work. Some instructors require students to complete all missed assignments; others 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 help streamline the process of getting the student more quickly integrated into the classroom community. 
  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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