Provide Directions & Explain Your Expectations

Directions – CC0 Public Domain
Directions – CC0 Public Domain

Faculty that stand in front of their students in a traditional classroom setting and assign work don’t simply hand out written directions without saying another word about the expectations. Faculty also do not simply display assignment directions on a PowerPoint slide without explaining what the expectations are or what students can do to be successful.

Unfortunately, this is often what happens in online courses. Directions often come in the form of written text. While faculty may feel that the writing is clear, but the nuanced detail that is usually provided in a traditional classroom is missing.

Faculty must remember that online students work in isolation. They don’t have the built-in opportunity to ask for, or receive clarification, while in-the-moment of first receiving assignment or project directions. This is why it is crucial for faculty to clearly explain what the expectations are in an online course.

Caution should be used to carefully create directions that don’t become overly detailed or provide pages and pages of directions that may be completely ignored by the students. Try to find that balance..the right mix. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • If available, consider providing an example of student work that received high scores, an example that received an average score and an example that received a low score. A brief explanation of why each example received the score that it did will help students better understand the expectations.
  • Provide a rubric. In most cases, a simple rubric that outlines the EXCEEDS, MEETS and NEEDS IMPROVEMENT levels of achievement will help students achieve success.
  • Create a brief assignment overview video to go over the details that could be problematic for students. Generally, a 1 or 2 minute informal video will help students as they begin the work.
  • Create the directions in the form of a conversation that might take place with a student. Use bullet lists as opposed to long paragraphs that might be found in a text book.

So students don’t have to guess what the expectations are…provide meaningful support in a short and concise manner.

-RG