Onboarding: What your students need to do and know before your first live session

Onboarding: What your students need to do and know before your first live session

Publish Date
Feb 3, 2022
I know it’s tempting to leave your cart open as long as possible.
Even right up until the day you’re hosting the first live session of your cohort-based course.
(You want to maximize sales, after all).
But, there’s a significant downside to that. Students who join last minute (which are plenty) will hardly have time for this critical part of their learning journey:
The onboarding.
The goal of onboarding is to get your students mentally and physically ready to dive into your content.
Everyone’s hyped for the first session. And this way, you can match the energy and spend it on content instead of going over boring logistical details.
So, what are the must-haves in your onboarding? And how do you make sure your students actually complete it?
You’re about to find out.

Onboarding must-haves

These are the things your new students must do to get a solid start in your course.
📆 Subscribe to the course calendar: They need to know when your live sessions are going to take place, so they can show up on time. You can create a Google Calendar or use a tool such as Luma or addevent to get all sessions onto their calendar.
📝 Complete the onboarding survey: Your onboarding survey is how you get to know your students and their specific needs better. It can also give you a baseline of their skills and abilities. One question should ask them to define their goals for the course. By writing them down, they'll be more committed to achieving them. Here’s what else to ask in your onboarding survey.
👥 Join the community and introduce yourself: By the time your students join the first live session, the faces they see shouldn’t feel like complete strangers. When everyone introduces themselves beforehand, students can get a feel for who else is in the room. And they’ll know that they’re not alone in what they’re trying to achieve.
👩‍💻 Get acquainted with Zoom: Communicate to your students what they can expect when joining your live sessions. For example, when you tell them upfront that you want them to have their cameras on, they’ll be more likely to do so. Also, simple guidelines such as “be in a quiet place” and “check for a stable internet connection” go a long way.

Additional onboarding ideas

💼 Assign pre-work: What do your students need to do to hit the ground running? You might want to share prerecorded videos and walkthroughs with them so they can get set up for everything that’s coming.
🗣️ Host a networking event: When students meet each other before the “first day of class,” you’ll reach the stage of psychological safety quicker. That’s when everyone is comfortable with each other, openly sharing challenges, and taking feedback to heart. Tools like Gatheround make this fun!
🧑‍🎓 Host a call with alumni: Get 2-4 of your best alumni together and let them share how to get the most out of your course. They’re just a few steps ahead of your students and still know what it was like just to get started.
☎️ Schedule 1:1 or small group onboarding calls: This is great when you want to provide a personalized, high-touch experience (which comes with a certain price level). An onboarding call gives students the chance to get any questions answered directly. And you’ll learn how you can provide the most value for them.

How to ensure your students actually complete your onboarding

Even though it will help them tremendously, you can’t “make” your students complete your onboarding in the same way you can’t “make” them complete your assignments.
What you can do is make it as easy as possible for them by communicating every onboarding step clearly in one or several emails (if there are a lot of steps to complete). Also, publish the same information in your LMS and/or your community platform to increase the chances that your students will see the information.
It also helps to frame the importance of the onboarding tasks for your students. Make it clear that students who complete these steps are way more likely to succeed in your course than those who don’t.