Beginning of Semester Checklist

First Week Success

Research shows that students will be more successful in your online course if you successfully engage them the first week. Be creative and think of something that will motivate your learners. Have them use the discussion tool to introduce themselves, respond to other students, and take a sample quiz. Consider a homework assignment to give them an opportunity to learn your personal style and relieve any apprehension they may have about the unknown.

Set Expectations

Let students know what you expect and when to expect (or not expect) interaction and responses from you. Make sure they know what contact method to use to contact you. Each instructor has a unique approach and the extra “distance” between you and your students in an online environment makes clear expectations even more critical to their success. Use the Canvas Syllabus tool so your students can leverage the power of up-to-date expectations, due dates, reminders, and mobile calendaring to stay on track.

Reflection & Revision

Can you recall any issues with the course content from last time you taught this course? Was there any content that was not clear? What feedback did you receive on your teacher/course evaluations? On formal assessments, where did your students demonstrate less-than-ideal performance? What questions did students have? Is there any new content or activities you want to try?

Here’s a handy checklist of common Blackboard tasks you may wish to consider at the start of a new semester.


This document refers to Blackboard. During the 2018-19 academic year, the College is transitioning to Canvas. This resource will be updated soon!

  1. Update the Syllabus
    If your course content has been copied from a prior semester, don’t forget to update information, such as the following. Students really notice when course materials appear ‘recycled.’
    • Textbook details
    • Expectations
    • Due dates (be sure to check out the Date Management Tool for this!)
    • Grading schemas
    • Office hours
    • Contact information (and expectations for response time)
  2. Assignments
    If using the Assignment tool for submission of student work, update:

  3. Assessments (Tests, Quizzes & Surveys)
    If you have tests or surveys in your course, consider the following:

    • Update questions/add new questions.
    • Update point values for questions and whole test value
    • In copied courses, deployed tests may be visible early. Check that deployments are deleted or hidden using Availability Dates in Test Options. (Date Management Tool)
  4. Grade Center
    • If assignments or assessments changed, update calculated and total columns for mathematical accuracy.
    • Hide unnecessary columns from students, if needed.
    • Delete unused columns and reorganize columns to match the planned course progression.
  5. Discussions
  6. Content Areas
  7. Make Course Available
    • Don’t forget to make your course available to your students (flip on the light switch). By default, all courses are unavailable so that instructors can prepare without prying eyes!
JOIN IN! Leave a comment with your own “Beginning of Semester Checklist” items!

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