Three Digital Strategies to Orient Students to Your Course

This is the seventh post of the Carefully Curated Series for the Spring 2024 semester.

In your teaching career, think about how many times you have had to remind a student about something included in the syllabus gently. Sometimes, it can be stressful to realize someone has made it deep into a semester without being aware of vital course information that benefits them. As folks dedicated to students’ success, it is important to create structure to make it as easy as possible to help our students become acquainted with how college works, starting with how your class operates.

In today’s Carefully Curated post, we share some ideas for ways you can build accountability to ensure students get the important course information they need to be successful. By creating low-stakes assignments that require students to learn about how the course is designed, you give structure to folks who benefit from the extra support to figure out how things work. As an added bonus to yourself, you may just find yourself sending that “it’s in the syllabus” message less and less.

Syllabus questionnaire in Canvas Quizzes

You may have heard of (or used) learner information surveys. These are short questions given at the beginning of the semester that ask students about their preferences, themselves as people and learners, and other information relevant to their experience in the course.

Consider adopting a learner information survey and including important questions about the course that could only be answered by looking at the syllabus. This could include due dates for major assignments, resources that students are expected to acquire, specific course policies, or any commonly asked questions you receive semester after semester.

Check out this example Interactive Syllabus Questionnaire by Hillary Jones at Fresno State. You’ll notice she asks students what a “flex token” is and how it can be used, where due dates can be located, and which assignments are required.

Course tour video with embedded questions in PlayPosit

Every course is run a little bit differently, so why not give students a little extra help navigating college by creating a short recording walking learners through your specific course? With PlayPosit, you are able to turn an existing video into an assignment, guaranteeing that students have watched your recording. You are also able to include questions that pause the video, which will only resume when students have answered the question. This assignment guarantees that students have watched something that orients them to the course and that they are able to answer your chosen course-related questions. 

Check out this example Course Tour Video in PlayPosit by CSUCI’s own Jessica Muth in Business. Students are prompted to learn about the larger purpose of the course, which modules to expect certain major assignments, and look at the syllabus. If you want to learn more about how to put a course tour video in PlayPosit, check out our how-to guide, watch a video (the how-to steps are from 8:29-22:49), or book a Learning Design consult.

Interactive syllabus scavenger hunt in PlayPosit

With PlayPosit, you are able to create worksheet-based assignments where students answer questions while being able to scroll through a relevant document at the same time. When the document of choice is your syllabus, it makes it easy for students to identify important pinch points from the course policies by following along with your questions. This assignment guarantees that students have looked at specific content in a syllabus. 

Check out this example Syllabus Scavenger Hunt by CSUCI’s own Lydia Dixon in Health Science. You’ll notice that students are asked questions about the course content on the left side of the screen while being able to scroll through the syllabus on the right side at the same time. Students are prompted to look for information related to common due dates and times, best practices to earn full points on assignments, and identify which readings are necessary. If you are curious about creating a similar syllabus scavenger hunt, check out our how-to guide, watch a video (the how-to steps are from 20:06-39:56), or book a Learning Design consult.

Feeling inspired? If you try any of these strategies for your course next semester, let us know how it goes!

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