Strategies for the First Day of (Remote) Class

Below, six faculty discuss strategies they use on the first day of class to connect and engage with students. These strategies can be adapted to any class size or discipline.

Connecting with Students

It can be difficult to be enthusiastic about teaching when class starts at 8.30am on a dark January morning. However, being present and showing interest in teaching communicates to students why they should be motivated to learn the course content. Listen to Prof. Richard Koestner from Psychology talk about how he builds connections with students on the first day of class.

Sparking Curiosity

We are all passionate about our own fields of study, but how do we get students equally as excited in the topics we teach? Listen to Profs. Stephanie Weber from Biology and Jasmin Chahal from Microbiology & Immunology explain how they engage and get students talking by sparking their curiosity through small, interactive activities.

Getting Students Comfortable with Technology

While students may be experts with TikTok and WhatsApp, myCourses or TurningPoint might not be as straightforward to navigate for first-time users. Listen to Prof. Pallavi Sirjoosingh from Chemistry talk about how she takes time on the first day of class to ensure students are comfortable with the learning technologies used in her courses.

Learning More About Students in the Course

Why are students taking your course – is it because it is required, out of interest for the topic, or maybe they had space in their schedule? Listen to Prof. Kenneth Ragan from Physics talk about the short survey he uses to better understand the students enrolled in his course and what he can do to support their learning.

Describing the Course Structure

Why is this quiz worth 5%? What’s the purpose of this pre-lab worksheet? Listen to Profs. Giulia Alberini from Computer Science and Kenneth Ragan from Physics talk about how they walk through the syllabus and explain the rationale for the course structure so that students understand how course assignments, activities, etc. contribute to their learning.

Making Student Expectations Clear

A 3% draft assignment might take an hour to complete, but is that how much time your students think it requires? Listen to Prof. Giulia Alberini from Computer Science talk about clarifying expectations on the first day of class and about the guidelines she provides to students to support them with the weekly workload for her courses.

Getting Students Thinking About How They Learn

Unfortunately, learning is often synonymous with memorization. Listen to Prof. Kenneth Ragan from Physics discuss his plans for incorporating time into his first class to discuss learning theory with students to help them move beyond memorization to higher levels of learning.

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