Expectations Management

In a face-to-face course, an instructor typically sets expectations for students in the syllabus and during the first or second class meeting. The instructor also can easily clarify expectations during a discussion or group activity if s/he sees the need. Since an online course is largely asynchronous and students set their own pace for completing activities once they gain access to the course, an instructor should set expectations upfront for any kind of interaction, workflow, process, or submission. Managing student expectations prevents potential frustration and contributes to high student satisfaction in an online course. The following are some suggestions for managing student expectations.

Let students know what they can expect from you.

  • How long will it take for you to answer private communications such as e-mail or phone calls? Most faculty need about 24-48 hours to respond to students.
  • How do you plan on participating in the class discussion as a facilitator?
  • Provide a course schedule so that students know when activities, discussions, assignments, and assessments are due.
  • For what length of time do students have access to the information contained in each module, i.e., what are the open and close dates?
  • How long will it take for you to return grades and feedback for activities and assessments?
  • How will students be graded? Many instructors use rubrics to help students know grading criteria.

Let students know what you expect from them.

  • What level of interactivity is required for students to do well in your course? Student-centered, interactive courses show high levels of effectiveness in online learning.
  • How often should students engage in each discussion thread and when are posts due?
  • Do you expect students to help each other answer content questions? Do you encourage or require instances of peer instruction?
  • What are the qualities that successful online learners demonstrate?  For more information on this, see What Makes a Successful Online Student?

Further Readings

Managing Student Expectations in Online Courses - Blog post by a University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee instructor

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