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 A few rules of thumb:

  • Encourage everyone to participate! Reach out to students who don't take part.
  • Be sure to participate actively yourself.
  • Ask everyone to respond to their classmates.


Consider editing the standard Welcome topic — or creating your own Welcome topic (as a global topic) to replace the standard one — and including a prompt to open up the conversation and encourage people to get to know one another. Choose a prompt that interests you and/or relates broadly to the content of your class.

  • Write a brief bio (or use the bio from their profile) and then turn it into a word cloud. (Try, for example, Post the word cloud image.
  • Share a recent selfie and explain where and why you took it.
  • Draw a picture of yourself.
  • Post a brief audio or video podcast introducing yourself.
  • You as a work of art: introduce yourselves as an artwork you feel fits your personality. Embed or attach the work of art. Identify the artist and the title, and explain briefly why this artwork suits your personality.
  • Post a picture of your shoes (a favorite or distinctive pair). Others in the class comment and speculate about their classmates are like based on their shoes. At the end of the week, everyone discusses their choice of shoe, and any "story" behind it. Variation: share a photo of your desk or out your window...

Course Content Preview

  • What is the one thing you most want to get out of this class?
  • Tell us about something you learned the hard way about ___. (Specify a topic related to the core content of the class).
  • Describe your first experience with ___. (Specify a topic related to the core content of the class).

Weekly Content Engagement

Try these ideas from other Academy instructors:

  • What did I see today? (from Brian Minards): I include a non-gradable, out-of-outline topic called 'What did I see today?' Into that, I post anything that can be considered to be newsworthy or interesting to the class. It may be old, but if I saw it today for the first time and it's interesting and relevant, I'll post it. I ask the class to do the same and drive discussion around the class subject.

Encouraging Teamwork

  • Marooned: Break class into groups of 4-7 and tell them "You are marooned on an island. What five items would you have brought with you if you knew there was a chance that you might be stranded?" Note: You are allowed five items per team, not per person. Have each group report their five items and briefly share why they selected those items. This activity helps them to learn about another person's values and problem- solving styles and promotes teamwork. (From:
  • Familiar & Unique: Break the class into teams. Each small group must come up with four things they have in common (all working full-time, all single parents, etc.). Then they are asked to share something unique about themselves individually. The group shares their familiar and unique features with the rest of the class. NOTE: You can structure an activity like by creating a post for each team within the topic, where they can have their small group discussions (by posting comments). Then create an additional post where all the groups can share the results of their conversations — again, by posting comments.


At certain points in the semester (e.g., after spring break, after an exam or project is completed, etc.), it can be helpful to re-energize your class by posting a "refresher" topic — something to help students reconnect and focus. You might choose one of the introduction icebreakers (above), or try one of these other possibilities:

  • What's making you happy this week?
  • Tell us about a recent creative project not related to this class. Post photos, if relevant.
  • Think about a time you saw a piece of art and thought "Wow, this is remarkable!" It may have been in a museum, in your home, or maybe at your place of worship. What was this piece? Describe it for us. What was remarkable about it? Embed an image of the artwork that inspired you, if possible, in your post (from Kevin Koczela).
  • Schedule and time management: If you did not have to worry about a paycheck, what would your daily schedule be? What is your actual schedule like? What strategies do you use to make sure you accomplish what you need to do each day and each week? 

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