It is important to make sure all goes well at the start of an online course or students will see your course as sloppy, amateur, and unprepared. The start is also a good time to develop a sense of community. Even before the start of your course, consider designing (or modifying) your college faculty Web page to give better information on your current online courses.


  • Orientation can be online or on-campus (as a one- hour session on a Saturday or weekday evening).  You may give students a choice of either, but make some type of orientation required, not optional.
  • Be clear on what you require (a "contract agreement").
  • Mix course information with some Canvas instructions, but also be aware that many of your students may be familiar with Canvas.
  • Give Help Desk contact information (see Help Desk)
  • See Orientation Content for more details about what to include.
  • Be sure your syllabus is ready for online.

Welcome Ideas

  • Email students before course begins with a welcome message that includes how to access Canvas and get started.
  • Consider opening your course to students a few days before the start of the semester.
  • Send a friendly, informative welcome announcement to start off your course - with a brief summary of what to do first and where to find it.  Note that in Canvas, the course needs to be published for students to be notified.
  • Include a teacher page in your first module.  Include a picture of yourself and contact information.

Creating a Sense of Community

  • Include an opening icebreaker discussion.
  • Include chat or online conferencing times as part of orientation: "I will be available via Zoom on this date."
  • Include personal phone calls for those truly lost.