Access, orientation, and organizational matters
Getting to know the students, questions, wishes
The goals of the first event include creating security through structure and clear guidelines as well as promoting a trusting and productive working atmosphere.
The following is content that could potentially belong in an initial joint session. Not all of it fits every type of course. Therefore, your own selection should always be based on the requirements of your own course.
The contents of this document have been ordered in thematic blocks. These blocks are not a recommendation for the order in which you should implement them in your course. Depending on your course requirements, you may freely choose, combine and rearrange content.
If there is not too much one-way communication at the beginning, it is usually easier to get students active later.
Access, orientation, and organizational matters
- Use STiNE to communicate all access details and technical requirements for the first meeting to students well in advance.
- Clarify the technical requirements for the entire course and check whether students are able to meet these. It may be useful to communicate these to students in advance and request feedback, as some may have difficulties meeting the requirements. This will allow you to find solutions in good time.
- Welcome your students and introduce yourself
- Briefly show the functions of the virtual space (e.g., Zoom, BigBlueButton) and explain how these options are to be used in the course.
- You can do this directly during the first session or in advance, e.g., in an explanatory video.
- Explain the course schedule and requirements for passing the course. Also provide information as a PDF document (possibly together with FAQs) or for viewing on the learning platform to reassure students. This usually also reduces the number of follow-up questions.
- It can also be helpful to communicate your own role as a teacher within the course (e.g., Do you see yourself as a moderator of the learning process or as a facilitator of knowledge?) as well as your own expectations.
- Where relevant, introduce other tools to use, such as learning platforms (e.g., OpenOLAT, Moodle). You can do this directly during the first class or by making an explanatory video available.
- If necessary, form small groups. You can use a tool for collaborative writing (e.g., HedgeDoc or OnlyOffice/Collabora within your learning platform) in which students can choose a topic by writing their names behind it. In some learning management systems there is also an enrollment tool available.
- As an alternative to forming groups according to chosen topics, it can also be useful to form groups according to the times when individuals are available for group work. Forming groups according to students’ availability makes it easier for them to coordinate dates for synchronous group work and meetings within their group later on.
- You can discuss with your course what is necessary for productive and enjoyable collaboration (e.g., netiquette). One way of doing this is collaborative writing. Another way is group work.
Getting to know the students and their questions and expectations
PollsThe "Surveys" function in Zoom or BigBlueButton can be used to ask students get-to-know-you questions.
“Speed dating” in breakout sessions (The number of students is irrelevant, but ensure that no one ends up in a breakout room alone. Please note: BigBlueButton allows a maximum number of 8 breakout sessions.)The students are asked a question, which they are supposed to remember. Then they are divided into breakout rooms with 2 people each for e.g. 3 minutes and are supposed to discuss this question. After the 3 minutes everyone ends up back in the main room and gets the question for the next round of newly mixed breakout rooms. Alternatively, the new question can be posted to the breakout rooms via message.
Small groups and submission of questionsIn breakout sessions, students get to know each other based on given questions. They then consider together what questions and wishes they have with regard to the event. They present the results of this collection in plenary (without going into the getting-to-know-you questions).
All those ... (max. 20 students due to limited simultaneous display).Everyone sticks a colorful Post-It in front of their own webcam. Then a statement is made, e.g. "All those majoring in...". All persons to whom the statement applies take off the Post-It. Before the next person makes a statement, the Post-Its are taped back on. Then the next round begins. In small groups, more in-depth questions can be asked if necessary, e.g. "What minor do you study?", which are answered orally.
Introductory round (Max. 15 students; more if small groups are used in breakout sessions.)The students take it in turns to share something about themselves based on the questions asked. Fun questions (e.g., “If I were to rule the world, the first thing I would do would be to ...”) and/or a related challenge can make things more interesting. Challenges could, for example, be:
- Find as many people as possible with whom you have at least 2 points in common.
- Bingo: based on terms mentioned during the round of introduction. (Each student must prepare their own individual bingo cards on paper beforehand, featuring a given number of terms.)
Find your own motto for the course (Max. 15 students, more if small groups are used in breakout sessions.)The students are provided with a selection of images via a learning platform (PDF file or similar). Each student chooses a picture that awakens positive associations in him/her. These associations should be used to develop a motto for the course. Afterwards the students say which picture they have chosen and present their motto. They can store the image and motto with themselves as a reminder. Examples:
- Photo of the ocean: "Looking at things with a clear view."
- Photo with mismatched objects: "Discovering connections."
- Photo with unusual perspective: "Take in new perspectives." Or "Questioning your own point of view."
Additional options on the accompanying learning platform
Forum for introductions within the learning platformSet up a forum on the learning platform in which students can introduce themselves and get to know one another. In addition to answering the initial question, they should also adhere to the following format: “Answer—Add—Ask.” The students answer the question, add an additional aspect about themselves, and conclude by asking a new question.
ProfilesThe students are invited to add a brief profile about themselves and to publish it on the learning platform.
Many topic entry methods from classroom teaching can be transferred to digital teaching with a little "inventiveness." Here are a few examples:
Impulse posters are posters with a (provocative) thesis or the beginning of a sentence. The students should add to the posters what spontaneously comes into their heads. They are also welcome to comment on and/or add to the entries of others. Afterwards, the results are reviewed together.For digital teaching, collaborative writing tools (e.g., HedgeDoc or OnlyOffice/Collabora within your learning platform) can be used instead of posters.
Normally, in the speed-dating method, there is an inner and an outer circle, with 2 students facing each other and exchanging ideas on a given question. The exchange partners are changed by moving the outer circle clockwise one person at a time.Since this is difficult to do digitally, the breakout session function is used instead. An introductory question is posed to which the students in teams of 2 are allowed to exchange ideas for four minutes in a breakout room. Afterwards, the breakout rooms are shuffled so that other students form a team in each case. Then the next question will be asked, and students will be allowed to exchange ideas for 4 minutes. So before each new question is asked, there will be an exchange. The total number of questions is arbitrary. Of course, the time can be varied. Depending on the goal and the later use of the content, it may be useful to ask the students to take notes.
Discussion islands in a forum on the learning platformThere are different topic forums (= islands). Each island has its own topic. The participants can choose the island whose topic interests them the most and work together on this topic. The work can be guided by preparing initial questions for discussion in individual threads. A short linked video, text or similar in combination with a question can also serve as the basis for the work within the forum.