A recent discussion thread in an online facilitation course concerned the topic of students not reading early communications such as the Welcome email or the syllabus and then not knowing how to proceed. Here is the response I wrote.
Here are some ideas we have used in various courses for trying to make sure students read important information.
If the Welcome letter is sent via email ask them to reply to the message. This is a good way to
- establish early contact
- make sure their email is working
- begin to train them on how to write good subject lines for their messages
Mention the Welcome letter in an announcement or Q&A posting and ask students if they received it.
Have a quiz during the first week, an easy one, which 'tests' them on the letter or the syllabus. This one has worked really well for me. The quiz 'tests' them on the very things students always used to ask me, "When are assignments due?" for example. I rarely get those questions now.