Verify course participants against your official course roster. Follow upwithany who have notparticipated by the end of the first week of class.
Consider participation by students during the first two-three weeksof the term who don'tnecessarily end up enrolled in your course.Consider putting a "reminder" message with theregistration drop/add dates for your course in your announcements.
Consider what you will do with "late starters." Be prepared to tell them where to start and how tocatch up (e.g., consider alternate assignments such as summarizing discussions, rather thantrying to go back and participate once the time for a specific activity has passed).
Make your first written orgraded assignment one that can be done independently of the second, sothat late starters can jump in to the current topic while simultaneously catching up. Or, preparealternative assignments for late starters.
Don't become a HelpDesk for your students. If your institution offers technical support for students,use it. While it may be tempting to answerstudents’questions, this may not be the best use of your time,and blurs boundaries for distance students. Even if you know the answer, refernon-course-relatedquestionsto theappropriate helpsource.Appropriate referralswill help students understand your role asprofessor more clearly.
Communicate with your help sources concerning anything that seems out of order in your course,particularly in the first 3 weeks.
Call your help sources any time you or your students cannot access your course,or experienceproblems that prevent normal participation.
Encourage public posting of general questions or comments, and reserve private communications for private issues only.Train students early to use areas and features of yourcourse for general communications. It is more efficient to answer a question once in a public place. When astudent emails you with such a question, you might respond, "This is a good question. Would youmind if I postedit and respond to it in the course?" or "Would you be willing to post yourquestion in the course,so that other students can seemy response?"
Set and maintain a regular logon schedule. Consider logging in on a scheduled basis—especially at thebeginning of the course. Students will be wondering "who is out there?" andyou can help them by checking the course frequently to make announcements, respond to questions, interacting reassuring and guiding students as they become comfortable with you and the course.
Don't worry. Breathe. You can do this! It will be okay!