This document was originally written by Kay Shelton for the Sloan Consortium. What I have attempted to do is to amend the article with a correlation to where in Vista you might accomplish the task.
1. Carefully Develop Online Course Materials – This takes time but is worth it because it saves you from answering many questions during the teaching of the course. Before the class begins, you should move through the course as a student, checking to see if you have all resources necessary for success…such as clear directions for assignment submission, discussion board posting requirements, and articulate quiz/exam directions.
Vista Tip – Ask for a preparation area in Vista to experiment and explore your ideas. If the ideas pan out, then fine! You can copy that content into your other Vista courses without disrupting the current content of a live section. It is easy to get a prep area. Simply email Vista[at]csuchico.edu and ask for it.
2. Course Schedule – Create a course schedule with all pertinent information such as when a module opens, the topics covered, reading assignments, other related assignments and when all submissions are due. Encourage your students to print this out and keep it with them at all times so that they are responsible for knowing when their assignments are due.
Vista Tip – Activate and use the calendar. Most areas in Vista, like assessments for example, have a check box that automatically lists the activity on the calendar. The listed item will also become an active link to take students straight to the activity.
3. Write a Welcome Note – Writing a note to the students the first week should cover anything special about your course that you want them to specifically understand. It may be something in the syllabus but this would be a good place for clarification and additional information. At the end of the note, direct students to email you to let you know they read the note.
Vista Tip – Use the announcement tool. Create a timed message to appear as a pop up the first time students enter the class and welcome them.
4. Syllabus Quiz/Activity – Create an activity that encourages students to carefully read the syllabus such as a quiz for bonus points or a scavenger hunt.
Vista Tip – Create a practice quiz using the assessment tool. Set the parameters so students can take the quiz multiple times and use their best result as the final point score.
5. FAQ Discussion – Create a threaded discussion forum for frequently asked questions and post a synopsis of other FAQs from previous semesters – keep course information as surface level as possible. Remind students to post their general course questions in this forum so that others can see your response. Copy and paste replies to these questions from the course syllabus when applicable.
Vista Tip – Create a category in the discussion area that is for non-content related information. Encourage the students to enter responses to provide peer support, tips and encouragement.
6. Print Out Student Introductions – The first week, students usually introduce themselves in a threaded discussion. Expand all of their introductions and print this out and keep it by your computer. When you are responding to a student the first few weeks, glance through their introduction and ask a question specific to their posting, such as…how is your son that is playing college baseball? This is a quick way to create community and demonstrate to the student that you care about your students.
Vista Tip – Skip the printing entirely, go green and use the roster tool. Require that students post an image of themselves that reflects their personality, shows something about their hobbies, family, or out of school like. Use the visual prompts to make comments more personal.
7. Check Email Newest to Oldest – When checking your inbox for student email, go to the newest email instead of the one that came in earliest. Often times, students have sent you a question but a few hours later, they have found their answer and are telling you nevermind!
Vista Tip – Use the mail tool to communicate ONLY if you want student communication to stay within the Vista course and not mix with your profession university account. Be sure to tell your students how long they should expect to wait for a response.
8. Use Grading Rubrics – While it takes time to develop your grading rubric, but when used, it becomes instant and customized feedback for the student.
Vista Tip – Use the grading form to inform students of performance and grading expectation.
9. Keep a Response Template – Often times, we give some of the same feedback on assignments. Keep these standard responses in a document handy on your computer so that you can quickly copy and paste in a response and then you can add additional feedback. This is a huge timesaver!
Vista Tip – Use the grader feedback dialog box on the assessment tool to comment to students about their performance.
10. Allow Students to Facilitate Discussions – Allowing students to sometimes facilitate discussions can free up time for grading—especially when it is a week that you have a lot to grade. However, you still want to show some type of presence in the discussion at least once or twice.
Vista Tip – Use the peer review feature to have students assess each others’ comments. Use in combination with a performance rubric, this form of review can be valuable to students seeking the opinion of their group or class.
11. Back Up Your Gradebook – Back up your gradebook at least once a month or more if you can. This only takes a few moments and can save you hours and hours if for some reason you lose the original—this can even happen in a courseware management system sometimes…for example, if you accidentally delete the exam topic, it may delete the grades in the gradebook.
Vista Tip – Use the Export to Excel button to send your grades to a secondary source. I doubt I need to say any more about the value of a backup.
If you have any other tips or ideas to add to this list I would love to see your comments.