When developing an online course, the Weekly Introduction paragraphs seem to get overlooked until the end of the project, and the most common practice is to write a summary of the readings and big ideas that will be covered in haste, to meet deadline. Don’t Miss This Great Opportunity.
The introduction is the first thing your students see when they open up the new Week module. This is your chance to engage them and hook them on your topic. After all, an engaged online student, is a successful online student (Kleinman, 2006).
Of course, when you sit to write, foremost in your mind are the details: a week’s worth of readings, discussion, and assignments for your students to complete – how can you hover above the details and cast a vision for a week full of promise for your students?
Three essential elements, “tease”, “enlighten”, and “challenge” should be incorporated as you write – but even before you do that – ask yourself three important questions: Who are the learners? What do they already know? What should they know? Now you’re ready to draw your learners into the learning.
The idea here is get some attention! Make this week’s module an interesting place to be, and you’ll be on the way to motivating your students to think about the important things you have to say. (Oblinger, D. G., Learning Spaces).
Some suggestions for teasing your students as you write:
- Start with a surprising fact: “12,000 of all college freshmen in the United States say they don’t believe in God”.
- Incorporate humor: Share a funny – with the point leading to your big idea for the week.
- Tell a story: Everyone loves a story – and it’s a perfect way to get your students thinking about your topic. “…stories evoke emotions and set a context for learning that result in greater student motivation and performance than the presentation of factual information alone.” (Hirumi & Sivo, p. 129).
Now you have their attention – you can give them some good solid information. This is the time to direct your students toward the learning goals you have for them.
Some suggestions for enlightening your students as you write:
- Begin with a “Did you know?” question. It’s okay to start a paragraph with a question. And incorporate more knowledge-check questions as you go.
- Share a statistic. We’re all suckers for those.
- Give some background for the big ideas you have in store: “The author of our text spent 25 years researching aborigines in Australia.”
Now you can divulge the reason for the week’s learning activities. Show your students how and why the content will meet their learning goals.
We all want to believe that what we’re asked to read and write about is going to be worth our time and effort. Students “…need to have a sense of the ‘grand design’ of the course and reassurance that participating in the learning activities will lead to attainment of their learning goals”. (Anderson et al, 2001, p. 6).
Some suggestions to challenge your students as you write:
- Answer the student’s question: “How will this content help me?”
- Make connections between the content and learning goals/needs.
- Share a positive testimony – a previous student, a personal experience, a colleague’s story
Take advantage of a great opportunity! Ask yourself who your learners are, what they already know, and what they need to know; put together 3-4 to-the-point paragraphs, incorporating some teasers, enlightenment, and a challenge, to hook your readers on your big idea for the week, and draw your students into the learning.
It’s a great place to start.
Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, R. & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(2), 1-17.
“Learner Needs and Characteristics Questionnaire”. (2005). Real World Instructional Design. Wadsworth division of Thomas Learning.
Kleinman, S. S. (2006). “Teachers open the door, you enter by yourself: Best practices for online graduate education. International Communication Association Conference, [June 2006 in Dresden, Germany].
Oblinger, D. G. (2006). Learning Spaces. [Ebook].