icewarmingIntroductions and icebreakers are a proven way to inject the personal element into your online course, connect students with one another, and for you to get to know the personalities of your students. Done well,  you can make introductions more than just an online meet-and-greet; you can use them to set your students up for a semester of learning.

Here are 5 Tips for creating an effective first-week introduction discussion:

1. Make the Initial Question Lighthearted

This is the key to your first question. Make it silly, off-the-wall, and fun. Examples: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be? And what does that tell us about you?” “Which of the seven dwarves would you be?”

2. Engage the Content from an Affective Perspective

Ask a question related to the content, but make it an affective question: one that forces your students to address what they value, their fears and expectations related to the course subject matter, and what they want to get out of the course as a learner.

3. Get Information You Need from Your Students

Number two above is going to help you do this. You may find that a majority of your students are unfamiliar with the subject matter, or that 3/4 of them have already taken a similar course in their undergrad. However, you may want to ask a more pointed question to expose a common misconception, or you may ask a question about their educational background in order to build a better composite of your learners.

4. Have them Engage a Meta-Metaphor

You may find that a particular metaphor helps students frame their experience with the subject matter of your course. For example, let’s say that see studying history akin to both a flight simulator and a time machine. It may be part of your first lecture, but why not ask your students, “How is  studying history like a time machine and like a flight simulator?” This gives them a chance to actively play with the idea and sets you up for your first presentation of course material.

5. Be Present and Active in the Discussions

This is your first impression and you know what they say about first impressions. So, be active; facilitate discussion, and ask follow-up questions that show your interest and engender interactivity. Many of your students will have been in an online course monitored by a passive instructor, so your involvement during this first important week may both surprise them and help them to realize that this will be a very different (and much better) experience.