Standard 1. Course overview and information


1.0: A Getting Started / Start Here welcome is provided and easily found when student first enters course site.

By welcoming students to the course and providing context for what they will be learning, the instructor sets the tone for success from the start of the course. As the orientation to the online course, the Getting Started / Start Here / Welcome section/video is a great place to explain the course layout, expectations, and organization; ensure that students are familiar with the learning management system; and that they have all of the proper hardware and software of the course. The instructor can use it to provide explanation for all of the necessary handouts, information, and course materials that they would typically introduce on the first day/week of a face-to-face class. In essence, this is the students’ first impression of the instructor and the course. The course welcome does the following:
  • Helps establish instructor presence
  • Introduces the purpose and structure of the course
  • Provides guidance and direction to ensure that students will get off to a good start in the online space, preventing confusion and frustration


1.1: An Orientation or Overview is provided for the overall course and in each module. Students are informed how to navigate the course, what tasks are due, and netiquette guidelines.

Simunich et al. (2015) found that courses with high levels of findability, based on careful development and placement of course information materials, have a direct impact on student perceptions of course quality, experience, and successful learning outcomes.

Creating an area in the course for Course Information/Syllabus materials (this could also be within a Getting Started module) provides the opportunity to present course information in well-labeled smaller chunks of information for the students to easily access and review. The intent is to enable students to find varied, discrete course information details easily and quickly with a scan of document heads and subheads, or one or two clicks, rather than having the information buried in obscure nested folders/documents, or a convoluted and lengthy syllabus .pdf.

Students benefit from knowing what they are about to learn, as well as the scope of work and time commitment expected from them. Therefore, each online course should provide both a course overview as well as an overview page at the start of each module. Such information helps students become self-directed and assuages any anxiety of starting a new class and/or module. See Standard Objective 4.0 for more information on Module Overviews. The course overview can be provided in the Start Here / Getting Started orientation module, syllabus, and/or via a welcome video. It should prepare students for what, when, where, and why they will be learning, and relay the same type of information that is provided in the first day of a face-to-face class and syllabus. The course overview/orientation section may include any of the following:

  • Course Map
  • Netiquette and Interaction Guidelines
  • Communication Expectations
  • Description of How Lecture will be Delivered
  • Course Layout and Navigation
  • Contacts and Help
  • Icebreaker/Introductory Discussions
  • Required Technical Skills
  • Learning Management System Tool Usage / How-Tos
  • Homework Manager Program Registration Information
  • Vendor Accessibility Statements


1.2: An accessible, printable syllabus is available to students.

Empowering students to remain on track is a core teaching goal, and the more information provided in advance, the fewer problems and obstacles students will encounter. Providing an accessible syllabus in a format that is available for students to access at their convenience is a key element of clear course design.

While you may use the WebCampus Syllabus tool, many students prefer a document that they can print and refer to offline, or keep for their records. Producing a syllabus in a format that is readable and printable (not editable) is the goal. PDF and HTML file formats are recommended over DOC formats.


1.3: Course includes links to relevant campus resources and policies on plagiarism, computer use, filing grievances, accommodating disabilities, information technology resources, etc.

Students should be able to connect to their campus through their online courses, and that includes connecting to student services, policies, and procedural guidelines. Easy access to online student supports and services such as technical help, orientation resources, tutoring services and other available online student supports and services will limit frustration, and enable students to find and access the help they need, when they need it. Connecting online students to support services and resources at the course level will also open opportunities to explore available services, and more fully use those services to their benefit. Perhaps most importantly, providing such information helps create an environment where students feel they have access to you, their classmates, resources, and help–and a place where their questions can get answered.

Policies that students are expected to comply with need to be communicated and course links to associated student services offices within the University should be provided. Links should bring the students to:

This information can be added to the course syllabus, and introduced by the instructor in the course welcome, or course information documents.


1.4: Course information indicates how content will be delivered (e.g., video, text, audio) and describes methods for accessing all course materials.

Students must be informed on how course content will be provided and delivered so they can plan appropriately and determine if the course is right for them. For example, some students may need asynchronous lecture material in order to succeed, while others may prefer synchronous lectures. Providing this information at the start of the course will help students determine whether staying in the course is the right action for them.

In asynchronous online courses, lectures and course materials may be provided in different formats, such as written notes, video, or interactive tools. Providing a succinct explanation in the syllabus and/or Getting Started materials of what students can expect at the start of class is vital in digital courses, since there is much variation in lecture delivery and methods. Importantly, students will also need to know that they can access learning materials, interactions, and assignments at any time and asynchronously. The main premise is that there is no requirement for everyone to be in the same place online at the same time.

If you plan on locking material and/or using timed release features in your course, you must also notify and explain to students your parameters and what they must do to access content. See Objective 3.1 for further explanation.


1.5: Course provides contact information for instructor, department, and program.

In addition to providing this information in the syllabus, including a contact information page in the course site opens opportunities for students to contact and interact with course instructors, as well as department and program administrators. This includes information on the best method of contact (e.g., WebCampus messages, email, department website, etc.) and office hours. Opening avenues for communication and providing easy access to those channels supports learner-instructor interaction, and facilitates engaging in supportive contact and interaction, a key component of social presence (Garrison et al., 2000). See Standard Objective 5.5 for more information on how including such information also provides students multiple opportunities to provide descriptive feedback on course design, course content, course experience, and ease of online technology.