Early Course Check-in: Taking Action

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The Early Course Check-in is a great opportunity to enhance your course delivery. You find out in Week 5 what students are thinking. Please go to each Early Course Check-In item below and think about the ideas and suggestions.

Remember, starting this semester, you can also choose two additional questions!

Early Course Check In Questions and Optional Question Choices

Q1. Conducts the course in an organized and well-planned manner

Q2. Provides relevant and useful resources to support my learning

Q3. Manages class behaviour and interactions in a manner that makes it comfortable for me to learn

Q4. Provides clear instructions and expectations for all tests, assignments, and projects

Q5. Provides me with helpful feedback on my work in this course


Q1. Conducts the course in an organized and well-planned manner.

Students really value solid organization. Try to imagine your eConestoga shell and first few weeks from a student’s point of view. If you can answer “yes” to most of the questions below, students will likely respond “Always” on this item. 

  • Have you ensured all Essential Elements are available in your course shell three days before the course start date? 
  • Does the Instructional Plan outline activities, dates, assessments and suggested resources for each week or unit? 
  • Does your welcome message or video help students feel safe with you and anticipate the course? 
  • Are students easily able to identify the times and links for synchronous classes and office hours/additional support? 
  • Do they know the best way to ask questions (e.g., in class, after class, in a discussion board, in a drop-in time)? 
  • Have you explained when you will return marked work? 
  • Do you respond to messages within two business days or send a quick note explaining when follow up will occur? 
  • Have you walked students through the course shell and any text or e-text highlighting expectations? 
  • Have you asked students if there is anything they are missing that would help them navigate the course? 
  • Do you provide an agenda or overview at the start of each synchronous session? 

Think about what else you can do so the course and each class meeting is organized and well-planned. In a study of what students valued in terms of organization in mostly online courses, Fayer (2014) concluded that “The implications here include the necessity for instructors to pre-plan and provide highly organized course documents via email prior to the start date of the course and again in the course on the first day, permit access to all content modules from the beginning of the course allowing students optimal time management opportunities and support for the asynchronous learning environment, and the pre-planning of rigorous and supportive learning modules that target complex information and allow for multiple opportunities to master this content.” 

Q2. Provides relevant and useful resources to support my learning.

Students consistently say that one of the key factors to their success in online environments is having access to a variety of meaningful learning resources (Martin, Ritzhaupt, Kumar, & Budhrani, 2019). In order to get an ”always” from students on this one you need both the resources and the marketing of them. 

  • Have you added meaningful resources to your eConestoga shell including both text and multimedia sources (e.g., videos, real-world simulations, H5P interactives, short articles, infographics, practice quizzes, images, or industry-related materials)?  
  • Have you highlighted to students the value of the materials you have curated in eConestoga? 
  • Have you used these resources in the synchronous sessions or in asynchronous activities to showcase their value? 
  • Have you indicated how the resources will help them succeed and get marks on assessments? 

Students have challenges dedicating time to out-of-class activities. Wherever possible, learning resources for learners should be short and facilitate ‘just-in-time’ learning experiences to enhance lessons. 

Ways to provide relevant and useful learning resources: 

  • Reach out to your library liaison to locate resources, such as videos and images.
  • Mix and match different types of resources to provide a comprehensive look at the topic. 
  • Make sure all resources are accessible.
  • Using a text or e-text? It is possible that students aren’t recognizing or tapping into the usefulness of the resources. Frame the value of these resources for learner success, future employment. Use them in the synchronous session to highlight their value.

Q3. Manages class behaviour and interactions in a manner that makes it comfortable for me to learn.

It is challenging to get student participation in a virtual world, and once we have it, there are all the nuances of muting/unmuting, video on/video off, turn-taking, and sometimes unacceptable behaviours can occur. Setting expectations and ways of communicating upfront can be very helpful in getting a response of “always” from students on this item.  

  • Have you suggested or co-created ground rules for how synchronous sessions will run?
  • Have you told the students how you will protect and honour their privacy and confidentiality?
  • Have you explained what you will do if someone is behaving inappropriately or harmfully? 
  • Have you vetted your own speech for inappropriate humour, compliments, commentary and language use? 
  • Is your setting on Zoom or Teams professional and well lit? 
  • Do you give both oral and written instructions, timing and deliverables for any break out room activities? 
  • Do you respond to any student concerns or complaints in a sympathetic manner, trying to identify their interests rather than getting stuck on positioning? 
  • Are you invitational when you ask for comments and questions providing enough of a pause for students to gather their thoughts? 

In a study by Broadbent (2021), it was found that many messages out to professors are attempts to get help for a problem. Some classroom management may be taken care of with careful planning of ways students can communicate with you and each other outside of the live Zoom or Teams session. This research indicated that students used e-mails, discussion boards and live chats for different purposes. Invite your students to communicate with you in a variety of ways.

Q4. Provides clear instructions and expectations for all tests, assignments, and projects.

The clarity of the assignment descriptions and the processes suggested for students to successfully complete an assignment are crucial. See The Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment for resources related to writing assignment descriptions and processes for a variety of assignment types including capstones.  To achieve an “always” from students on this prompt, be prepared to answer yes to the following questions.  

  • Have you posted assignment and test descriptions in eConestoga, well in advance of the due date?
  • Have you posted a rubric and/or marking scheme for each item?
  • Do your instructions guide the students sequentially through the expectations? 
  • Have you gone over them in a synchronous session? 
  • Have students had a chance to ask questions about an upcoming assignment or test? 
  • Have you provided some formative practice and given feedback to the class? 
  • Have you done a think-aloud walk through of how you mark? 
  • Have you provided a model or example and described what mark it would receive and why? 

Further Resources: Conestoga Faculty Orientation Handbook – Assessment section 

Q5. Provides me with helpful feedback on my work in this course.

You may sometimes be baffled by students’ complaints that you are not giving helpful feedback. From your perspective, you may have taken the time to give extensive feedback on each assignment to students. The issue here is perhaps not that you failed to provide feedback, but rather that the student perceives it has not helped them get better marks. Students will likely give “always” to this prompt if you can answer yes to the following.  

  • Have you provided a few forward-looking comments or questions to encourage reflection? 
  • Have you given concrete suggestions on what the student needs to improve to do better next time?
  • Have you labelled your suggestions as feedback?  
  • Have you limited yourself to what is helpful rather than providing a defense of your mark? 
  • Have you invited students to request a meeting, if they have questions about a mark?
  • Have you maintained an evidence-based, outcomes-based stance? Encourage students to share with you any evidence suggesting a different mark.

A Conestoga student in the Spring 2020 COVID-19 student feedback survey that “It was difficult to receive feedback on assignments in some of the courses because we were only assigned a grade. I found it helpful when our work was returned to us and we could ask the professor – or the feedback was actually provided – where we could improve.”

Student perceptions that they are not being provided with meaningful feedback tends to fall into a few specific areas: (a) No comments are offered from the professor aside from a grade; (b) Feedback is not given in time to make an impact on learning and skill development; (c) Feedback isn’t useful; and (d) The feedback seems to have little to do with the grading criteria (Poulos & Mahoney, 2008). Effective feedback is ongoing: formative feedback about the student’s learning process throughout the course, and summative feedback that evaluates how the student met the learning outcomes (Paulson Gjerde, Padgett & Skinner, 2017; Schwarcz & Fargaris, 2017). 

Ways to provide useful feedback to your students: 

  • Don’t assume students already understand essential background knowledge; use informal methods such as polling to find out what they do know. 
  • Provide ongoing formative feedback so students can adjust from and learn from their mistakes in process and understanding. 
  • Be explicit. Students get frustrated with comments like “Good work!” or “Wrong.” 
  • Try to grade and return assessments within one week.  
  • Review assessments with students when you return them. Identify the common errors and explain why they are incorrect. Protect confidentiality. 
  • Use the Grades feature in eConestoga to provide easy access to marks. 

Further Resources: Delivering Feedback Remotely Video Workshop with Joel Beaupre 


Broadbent, J. (2021). International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education Volume: 18 Issue 1  ISSN: 2365-9440 Online ISSN: 2365-9440. 

Conestoga College (2020). Spring 2020 COVID19 Student Feedback Survey. Retrieved September 20, 2020. https://cms.conestogac.on.ca/sites/academic-administration/IR/SitePages/Home.aspx 

Fayer, L. (2014) “A Multi-Case Study of Student Perceptions of Online Course Design Elements and Success,” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 8: No. 1, Article 13.  

Liem, G. A. D., & Martin, A. J. (2013). Direct instruction. International guide to student achievement, 366- 368. 

Martin, F., Budhrani, K., Kumar, S., & Ritzhaupt, A. (2019). Award-winning faculty online teaching practices: Roles and competencies. Online Learning23(1). https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i1.1329  

Paulson Gjerde, K., Padgett, M. Y., & Skinner, D. (2017). The impact of process vs. outcome feedback on student performance and perceptions. Journal of Learning in Higher Education13(1), 73-82. 

Poulos, A., & Mahony, M. J. (2008). Effectiveness of feedback: the students’ perspective. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(2), 143-154. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930601127869

Schwarcz, D., & Farganis, D. (2016). The impact of individualized feedback on law student performance. Journal of Legal Education, 67(1), 139-175. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2772393

Sowell, J. (2017) Good instruction-giving in the second-language classroom. English Teaching Forum, 55(3), 10-19. 

Teachonline.ca. (2017). A new pedagogy is emerging…and online learning is a key contributing factor. https://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/how-teach-online-student-success/new-pedagogy-emerging- and-online-learning-key-contributing-factor.  

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  • Published: May 28, 2021
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