Instructional Design

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Course Design

Instructional Design Unit

Office of Faculty Support and Development


Principle 6

Communicate High Expectations
Click the play button to view Yale Professor Shelly Kagan communicate his grading policy.
High expectations are important for everyone: for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well motivated. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the face to face classroom, clear policies are usually set out in the syllabus.

But besides that, it’s fairly easy to emphasize your goals throughout the semester by just verbalizing it as you are handing papers and exams back or as you have review sessions. There are a variety of ways that this can be done in the online environment.

Best Practices

After working hard to clearly communicate policies and expectations in the syllabus, many instructors give a syllabus quiz or some type of assessment to make sure students have actually read the course policies. Don’t assume that they will. You can give a short quiz and require that they score 100 percent before they continue in the course. Four or five questions are plenty.

Sharing your rubrics and other grading criteria/expectations in written form clearly communicates to students what they need to do to be successful in your course and also what kind of work will result in a low grade. It is especially important when students are asked to participate in discussions for them to have models to pattern their postings after. Let them know for example that “Yeah, I agree” is not an acceptable posting and will not earn any points. It is good practice to include how late posts are valued/graded and if grammar and spelling will affect the grade.

The Publish settings in the Assignment tool allows you to publicly call attention to exemplary performance by the students which provides motivation and feedback about the kind of excellence you are looking for.

Some instructors have found it helpful to give weekly briefings to communicate what the expectations will be for that week. If you decide that this would be beneficial for your course, a good way to do this is through the use of podcasting technology.

Another very effective way to communicate high expectations is to have a section on Net Etiquette. Don’t assume that students know how to behave in a Web course. They may not realize that what works with peers may not be appropriate in an academic setting. This "Netiquette" section should explain concepts such as flaming, using all caps, and interpersonal communication (inappropriate tone) via the Web. Students should be aware that these guidelines apply not only for formal discussion areas but in the non-course related chat spaces and when communicating via email/ instant messaging as well.