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We all strive to create effective online learning content and experiences for students. Yet, when we are teaching content to students and designing our online course, it’s so easy to overwhelm students with lists and folders of materials, cross-links and multiple links, and giving them everything we ever wanted to them to know about our subject. I know I’ve been guilty of over-supplying the information and options in the past. We just have so much we know about the subject and after all isn’t our role to teach and share what we know when we are doing instruction?
Interestingly, one of the consistent complaints we hear from students when we survey them in regard to the learning management systems, be it Blackboard or Canvas are: problems with navigation and knowing where to go first in the course, where to find something, or which links to use.
Actual student feedback comments from past surveys:
- “Things are to scattered. Easy to loose track of where something was. Some things are everywhere you look and others are hidden.”
- “It was hard to figure out how to submit assignments… so I would suggest making it easier and in one place. I just found it difficult the way either my teacher set it up as, or how the website was set up.”
- “Collaborative group work was hard to manage. Not everyone knew where to look for our shared documents we were using.”
Now, various learning management tools take different approaches, some are better or cleaner than others; but we always have a certain amount of customization we can use to tailor the course how we see fit. How do we do that best?
One approach is to look at online courses you like or that are set up as “best practice” examples and borrow some ideas on course set-up. Taking part in workshops and sharing about online course design is certainly another approach. Many of you have likely used both.
Let me offer another approach, slip on a different pair of shoes and think like a student. You do it now without realizing it when you participant in our IMPACT course redesign program through the Blackboard content, complete an online MOOC or participant in any other online course for professional development. I have had amusing comments from my IMPACT faculty, who sheepishly admitted they were short on time to complete their weekly online readings and activities. One of them said he felt like one of his students must, by quickly scanning down the page to see just what he “had” to get done for the session today. So, if we are looking for shortcuts at times; what of course are the students doing? If we aren’t sure what to do first and poke around when we are in an online course for the first time; what are students doing? The same, I would imagine. I don’t think we can write it off as students are being lazy when we are all challenged with time constraints and try to maximize our time on tasks.
While we like to give many options and much information, it’s best to help learners maximize their time on tasks too. So as you set up your entire course or a partial amount of your course online, think like a student.
Look at the course like you are viewing it for the first time. Using the ‘student view’ options provided are useful for this as well. Consider, is it glaringly clear where the student should start first? Is it without a doubt, clear what is required weekly and where items are found in the menu or content arrangement? Have you pared down content to focus on what the student ‘must know’ and moved additional ‘nice to know’ information into a reference area; so, they are not bogged down completing weekly tasks? How will they communicate with you and with other students? Ask a student to test drive your course and provide feedback.
To get started with assembling and arranging your content, here is a link from our ITaP Course Design Web page: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/cdm/index.html#faculty or email our team at email@example.com. Happy thinking!
Since mobile devices are often the access point for email, it’s logical to assume that someone might view your survey link on a mobile device. Checking to see if your questions will display properly is an easy thing to do.
First you should know that Qualtrics surveys are built to be “adaptive” to a device’s screen size and type. The devices that are recommended as compatible, include Android, iOS, and Windows Phone systems. Secondly, while all surveys are set up to be adaptive, be aware that some questions may not display well because they are too wide in their format. So, it’s useful to check your survey questions with the Mobile Compatibility Advisor in Qualtrics.
To use the Mobile Compatibility Advisor, from the edit mode on your survey:
- Click on Advanced Options and then select Mobile Compatibility Advisor. The Advanced Options tab is in the upper right of your screen.
- In the survey, small mobile icons appear to the left of any question box that might have a display concern. You can click on the icon and read the display issue message. An orange icon means the question might wrap or display poorly due to the length of the answer choices. A red icon means that question format will not display consistently on mobile devices or may not display at all on a mobile device. In either case, you may adjust your question format and run the advisor again to recheck the survey before sending it out or posting the link.
A frequent question that comes up is what the difference is and how to decide which tool to use for activities in a course – discussion boards, blogs, wikis, or journals. The tools are similar in some ways, allowing students to post text and other materials, but do operate in ways that make them more useful for some course activities than others. The following is a brief description of each and some examples of when to use each in a course.
- a communication tool that that allows individuals to collaborate with others through posting or answering questions
- topic centered
- frequently used as a supplement to in-class activities
o class discussion
o class debate
o peer review
For more information see: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/tools/blackboard/learn_res/fac_res/boards.html
- a web site that shares an individual’s or group’s log of events, insights or opinions; from the words web log
- author centered
- frequently used as a place to reflect
o course learning reflection
o resource review
o record of research activities
For more information see: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/tools/blackboard/learn_res/fac_res/blogs.html
- a web page that allows a group of users to create and modify pages easily and quickly; from the Hawaiian words Wiki wiki meaning quick
- content/document centered
- frequently used as a collaborative space
o group projects
o group writing assignments
o planning events and activities
For more information see: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/tools/blackboard/learn_res/fac_res/wikis.html
Debbie Runshe, Educational Technologist
Diagrams have been adapted and made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike Creative Commons License from Worsham, D. (2007, June 27). Blogs and discussion boards – What’s the difference? Wisconsin Union Blend. [Weblog post].