It is a new semester and a new start for both you and your students.  While designing your online class, it is easy to get distracted by creating your syllabus, posting lecture notes, and everything else that comes along with online learning, but don’t forget the basics of welcoming your students to the class!  The welcome message is the first thing students will see upon entering the class.  This message will not only welcome them, but it will also act as a helpful resource in navigating the course. For this reason, as well as to avoid having the message get lost in a sea of emails, it is more beneficial to have this message appear in the course, itself as an announcement or item. Whether it is a freshman with little online learning experience or a senior with a bit more experience, more than likely this particular class is new to them and the welcome message will be their first impression of the course…make it count.

The welcome message should be informal, warm, and friendly.  This message will also act as a guide for what will be expected in the course.  With this in mind, the language and tone of the message should also reflect the formality of the course.  The content should include information about you (the instructor), what the course will be about, and what will be expected from both you and the students throughout the course.  A suggested technique to incorporate in your welcome message is to ask an open-ended question to help urge students to start a discussion (Winograd, 2002). A course café discussion forum is an easy way for students to have an open dialogue throughout the semester.

Let’s review:

  1. Use a welcome message to welcome your students to the course.
  2. It should reflect the formality and expectations of the course (it can also be used for help with navigation throughout the online environment course).
  3. Try to keep it light and friendly
  4. Use an open-ended question to help spark a dialogue with and/or between the students.

Winograd, D. (2002). Guidelines for moderating online educational computer conferences. TechTrends , 46 (5), 53-57.


Creating an Announcement


  Whitney Huskey
Graduate Assistant
Center for Online/Distance Learning