The Getting Started Page

A getting started page is the online equivalent of greeting students in a traditional class on the first day. Its primary purposes are to welcome them, provide an overview of the course, and state your expectations in terms of student time and effort. The following elements are recommended:

Examples of Getting Started pages

Below are four examples of Getting Started pages, used with permission from the faculty.

Example from ENVS 294 Environmental Education, Margaret Burke and Wendy Verrei-Berenback

Welcome to ENVS 294 Online! This page will provide some context for getting started and oriented to this online course.

As we observed in our welcome email, we believe that Environmental Education (EE) online is not an oxymoron. The online environment has some attributes that we believe can truly enhance learning. In order for those strengths to be realized, we all (students and instructors) have to make a commitment to “show up” – log in regularly and consistently contribute to dialogues. Without this level of activity, our learning won’t be as deep as it could be. We’ve curated some resources about dialogue and tips for responding to each other. We hope that you find them useful. We realize that online “discussions” are radically different from sitting in a circle, looking at each in the eye and speaking. That said, we believe that some of these differences can facilitate rich dialogue. The very act of writing compels us to crystalize our thoughts. We can be more reflective in our responses. We can more accurately and thoroughly cite course materials to support what we write or raise provocative questions. And sometimes, a little anonymity can go a long way in our ability to respectfully express thoughts that may counter the “group think” that you may have experienced in some of your courses.

The pace of this course is intense! I am not going to sugar coat the amount of work a summer course entail. Your are taking a fifteen-week, three-credit course in less than half the time! Overall, plan to spend at least 15 hours a week engaging with your peers, us and the course material. Expect to log in almost every day and complete assignments. As noted in the syllabus and course schedule there are multiple deadlines each week. I hope I am not sounding too harsh with this description, just trying to accurately describe the pace. That said, there is a lot of thought provoking and interesting “stuff” crammed into these six weeks. We think you will stay engaged. Here is the weekly schedule:

Monday & Tuesday - Discussion 1, post by 9 pm
Thursday & Friday - Discussion 2, post by 9 pm
Friday - Assignments due by midnight
Sunday - WOA & Journals due by 5 pm

To make this class a rich learning experience, we have given considerable thought to assignments that require you to “step away from the computer.” There is a course requirement that you choose a spot in the natural world and visit it on a regular basis. This “Weekly Outdoor Assignment,” hereafter referred to as WOA. WOAs are described in detail in the Syllabus and Course Information (link on the course menu), but we want to underscore its importance here. We are assuming that since you enrolled in this class, you have some predisposition to be in the natural world. We hope that visiting your WOA becomes a gift, not a burden, something that “forces” you to show up in a place outside of your day-to-day routine. Of course there is no way that we can know if you actually do this or not, but you will know. And these weekly visits can become a practice that you may want to integrate into your life. PLEASE NOTE - if you have a physical disability or challenge that prevents you from completing this assignment, please let us know ASAP and we will design an alternative assignment.

The Course Schedule (left menu) provides a “10,000 foot” overview, where you can quickly glance to see when assignments are due and where to submit them. There are strict deadlines for weekly activities, such as participation in the Dialogue Forum and completing your WOAs. Think of these activities as “in-class” time. If you miss class, you don’t get “credit” for participating that day. Overall a successful online experience necessitates that you are a self-directed student. We suggest that you schedule time for your online course as you would a face-to-face course. A little discipline in keeping to a schedule will go a long way.

Now, here are some concrete next steps for beginning the course:

A note about the “co-instructorship”- we are 2 different people, with different styles (writing, perspectives, etc.). We hope that this diversity add riches to the course and does not distract from your learning. We will sign our “lecturettes” so that you can get a sense of voice. If you are sending a message about assignments, etc, please send it to both. Know that we are sincerely interested in your experience in this course and that we value communication. Let us know if you have suggestions, questions or need support.

We are looking forward to learning with you!


Example from Mark Greenberg's ENGS096 American Sounds: Ballads, Blues, & Roots Music

Getting Started


WELCOME to American Sounds: Ballads, Blues, & Roots Music, a long title for a short survey of some American “roots” or “vernacular” music. This music reflects the rich mix of this country's cultures and traditions, including blues, ballads, Cajun and zydeco, conjunto, old-time, bluegrass, salsa, jazz, and rock and roll.

The fact that this course is listed under English may be a bit confusing (as I say in the introduction to Week I [Course Content], categorizing things can be tricky). While music is certainly central, those of you with more interest in the “English” aspects of the course may wish to focus on textual/lyrical considerations and on critical writing. If so, just let me know so that I can make my responses to your work as appropriate and helpful as possible.

You don’t need any specialized music knowledge to take this course, and I’ve tried to keep the use of technical music terms to a minimum. If any baffle you, look them up and, if that doesn’t help, either post a question to the General Discussion section of the Discussion Board so that other students may benefit from – and possibly help answer – your question, or send me an email (via the Bb email tool). We’ll be focusing on two of the major (many would say the major) sources of American music: British/Celtic-based music and African-based music. It is the interactions and inter-twining of these two sets of influences that have created much of what we think of as distinctly “American” music (rock and roll is the most obvious example). There are, of course, many other sources and styles of music in this country, and I’ll be counting on you to choose and explore one of them for your Course Project.

I’ve been involved with this music since the 1960s as a musician, writer, producer, presenter, and teacher. Along the way I’ve seen, heard, and been fortunate enough to know and work with some of the musicians we’ll be listening to, watching, and talking about and have seen many more.

Next Steps:

  1. Read the syllabus and familiarize yourself with the entire course. You are expected to follow all of the guidelines and are responsible to read all the requirements and work expectations.
  2. Take the Academic Integrity & Copyright Policy test linked at the bottom of the syllabus.
  3. Test your browser and plugins by clicking on links to audio and video files in the Media page (on course menu at left).
  4. Introduce yourself in the Discussion Board forum “Week I: Introductions” by July 1, 9 AM. (See Course Content, Week I, Tasks for what to include in our introductions).
  5. Go to "Weekly Modules" to begin the course.

* Please let me know (via Email - the Blackboard email tool will send emails to my UVM email address) about any problems you encounter with this site – broken links, missing documents or files, inconsistent terminology, confusing instructions, etc. Your suggestions for improving the site and course are always welcome.

* You should know that Blackboard tracks your use of this site, so I will know which pages you’ve at least visited and how often.

* Communicate with me (via Email) about any problems or concerns, including scheduling, that you may have. There’s usually a way to work things out as long as I hear from you in a timely manner.

* If you do not have a cable, DSL, or other high-speed connection, plan to use a computer at a local library (or UVM) so that you can efficiently access the media files (take headphones).

Example from Elizabeth Smith's ANTH195 Gender in the Middle East

Getting Started

Greetings from the Middle East! I am in Egypt until our course begins August 3, winding up a summer of book writing and research in Cairo. It has been as hot and dry here at is has been cold and wet there, I hear.

I look forward to working with you, learning from you, and getting to know you all over the next four weeks. Given the short time span we have, the course will move along very quickly so it's important to keep up. You can expect to put in a minimum of 2-3 hours of work per day, including reading, writing and responding to other students' work, doing a little online research for certain assignments and projects, taking quizzes, and from time to time watching video content online. The reading is substantial, the writing is all relatively short but frequent, in depth, and interactive.

You'll start writing right away for your first assignment. Look for the instructions at the bottom of August 3rd's Session 1 page.

But first, here are some tips on how to use the materials in this course.

Your Next Steps:

  1. Read the syllabus by clicking on the “Syllabus” menu item.
  2. Take the Academic Integrity & Copyright Policy test at the bottom of the syllabus.
  3. Test your browser. It is recommended that you use the most recent version of Mozilla Firefox as Blackboard is most compatible with this browser.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the course thoroughly by checking out the different menu areas (syllabus, sessions, discussion boards, blogs, and wikis etc.).
  5. If you have questions, contact me with via email at I’ll repeat this a number of times, but you MUST include the middle initial “a” in my address for your message to reach me. Without the “a” goes to another Elizabeth Smith. There are a lot of us in the world, even at UVM.
  6. Session 1 starts Monday and Assignment 1 is due Tuesday by 7 AM in the Discussion Board. You’ll have to complete Session 1 before you do the assignment.

That’s all for now!

Dr. Smith

Example from Jennifer Dickinson's ANTH028 Linguistic Anthropology

Getting Started

Welcome to our online course! This course will run for six weeks and requires the same amount of work you would normally put into 15 weeks of a regular course. Important information about grading policies, workload, and types of assignments is available in the syllabus and course schedule.

First, here are some pointers on how to use the materials in this course.

  1. Every day when you log into our course, look at the most recent announcements to make sure you are up to speed on what we are doing that day.
  2. The Course Schedule, which you can reach from the course menu at the left, includes information about topics, readings, and assignments for each week of this course.
  3. In the “Course Content” area there is a folder for each week. At the start of each week, click on the appropriate folder to get an idea of what we will be covering. Each week has two parts, covering two different but related general topics.
  4. Within the folder for each half of the week, there is a reminder about the readings for that part, written lectures listed by topic (usually about three lectures per topic), links to related sources on the web and other materials such as interesting examples to get discussion started or video clips related to lecture topics.
  5. I recommend that you do the readings for each part before reading the lecture materials. I also recommend that you read the lectures in the order that they appear on the page, however this is not mandatory. Rather than covering all of the lecture material in one day, I recommend that you balance reading, lecture and working on assignments for the course.

Your next steps:

  1. Read the syllabus by clicking on the “Syllabus” menu item
  2. Take the Academic Integrity & Copyright Policy test linked at the bottom of the syllabus
  3. Test your browser and plugins (if necessary)
  4. Familiarize yourself with the course by checking out the different menu areas (course schedule, Week 1 in the course content area, blogs)
  5. Introduce yourself in the discussion forum titled “Introductions” by the end of the day on July 6th
  6. If you have questions, contact me with the Messages tool