Monday, November 30, 2015

File Attachments - The Bane of Mobile Learning

We can make our online courses more mobile friendly by cutting down on file attachments. File attachments are a nuisance to mobile device users.

The problem 

Downloading and saving. Files such as .docx, .pdf, xlsx need to be downloaded. These files are not easily saved to mobile devices and might need to be downloaded every time they are used.

Opening to view. Once downloaded the file must be opened with a mobile app. While all computers can now open most file types, this is not yet true with phones and tablets. The student's device may not have the necessary "app."

What you can do

Create a page. Each Learning Management System (LMS) has an easy to use page creation tool. In Blackboard you can create pages with the "item" and the "new blank page" content tool. Rather than attach a file, create a blackboard page that contains the files content.

Do you attach your syllabus as a Word file? Your syllabus can be pasted on one of these pages in your LMS. Do you have a reference table in Excel that you attach within your course? Create a page in your LMS and paste it either as a table or an image.

Links to the Web. Do you attach .pdfs of articles you want your students to read? Ask your librarian if she can give you a "permalink" to an online source for the article. By adding a link to the article the student may be able to read the article online. Linking to the source also ensures that you are not violating "fair use" by distributing copies of copyrighted works.

Interactive files. What if you want students to fill out information in your word document or excel file? You might consider sharing Google word processing documents and sheets with students and linking them to your course. Google documents can be manipulated online with free mobile apps.

Printing. One reason for attaching a file is that it can be printed and set on students desk for frequent reference. Mobile users are not only less likely to work at a specific desk, they are unlikely to have or use a printer.

Some attachments are unavoidable. Most can be replaced by pages containing the content or links to files that can be used in a browser or free mobile app. With more and more online students relying on mobile devices (at least some of the time), let's take steps to make our course content mobile friendly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Your Online Students May Not Have Computers

A recent study by the Pew Research Center reports that among young adults (ages 18-29) more have a smartphone than a computer. And this is a recent shift. In 2011 88 percent of young adults had computers, compared to 52 percent that had smartphones.

MP3, Computer Ownership Has Dropped Among Younger Adults Since 2010
Technology Device Ownership (PEW 2015)
While the study does not distinguish between young adults who are enrolled in college or not, it does alert online teachers about an important trend. Students are likely to be depending more and more on mobile devices.

Most learning management systems are adapting to this change by providing mobile apps. Apps allow students to view and interact with course content on a small format device.

While this is an important improvement, a course is only as mobile as we - online faculty - make it.  In my next post I will share a surprising strategy to make your course more mobile friendly.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Plagiarism or Poor Writing Skills? Part 2

This is the second in a two part look at plagiarism. 

What can we do about a student's improper use of another's words in written assignments?  In my August 9, 2015 post, I distinguish between intentional and unintentional use of another's work and posit causes of the latter. Here I discuss strategies for detection of plagiarism and teaching about original writing.


The instructor's judgement. An instructor may quickly gain a feel for their students' writing.  A post or assignment submission containing phrases that are uncharacteristic of the student's writing, will alert the attentive teacher that a student may be plagiarizing.

Blackboard's SafeAssign. For essay type assignments the institution's learning management system (LMS) may have an integrated originality checker. 

In Blackboard this is the SafeAssign tool. During setup of the writing assignment, the SafeAssign feature (or LMS equivalent) can be enabled. 
To use Safe Assign check the box under Plagiarism tools in the assignment setup.

Turnitin Assignment. Your school may have a third party add-on to your LMS for checking student originality. Linfield College uses Turnitin as another option for faculty. In Blackboard instructors can choose to create an "assignment" with or without SafeAssign enabled. Or we can create a "Turnitin assignment."
Under Optional Settings the instructor can determine whether the student may view the report and resubmit.

These are helpful and automatic screening tools. But plagiarism detection tools are not infallible. Instructors may find examples of another's words in student submissions that passed the originality test. A recent issue of  Inside Higher Ed reported on a several-year study that suggests that the combination of the instructor's judgement and Google search produce far more accurate results than SafeAssign, Turnitin and their competitors. If you have concerns about a particular student or a particular piece of writing, try using Google to check your concern.

Teaching Writing

At many institutions faculty from all disciplines have taken on the shared responsibility for improving student writing skills. A great place to start is to use written assignments as an opportunity to revisit what we mean by original writing, paraphrasing and the effective use of quotations. Here are some strategies that may help.

  • Include guidelines for writing in your syllabus or course expectations. Expand on your institutions plagiarism policy with your own specific definitions and behavioral standards.
  • Use the features of "SafeAssign" and "Turnitin" that support self correction (allow students to see the report and make multiple submissions) favoring improvement over punishment.
  • Look for unexpected phrasing and vocabulary in student's posts.
  • Address examples of un-cited use of another's words or inappropriate quotation. Communicate with the students directly and require their work to be rewritten in their own words. 
  • Be prepared to provide direct instruction on note-taking, paraphrasing, quotation and citation to the class or individual students. Ask students to distinguish between proper and improper examples of each.

It may take a student some instruction and a couple of rewrites before s/he understands the problem and the solution. Using a combination of clear expectations, early detection and teaching strategies, we may offer students tools to become effective, original writers and avoid the severe consequences to which academic/professional integrity violations lead.

Straumsheim, C. (2015). What Is detected? News. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved on 7-30-15 from

Monday, August 3, 2015

Plagiarism or Poor Writing Skills? Part 1

image licensed for sharing by Tennessee Tuxedo
This is the first in a two part look at plagiarism. In this first part I seek to define the problem and identify causes. In part two, I will offer some solutions.

As an instructor, I frequently run into examples of student writing that contain key phrases, entire sentences, and even entire paragraphs that were written by someone else -- not cited by the student. I have also, though far less frequently, received a paper or final project that was written entirely by someone else.

Both of these can be viewed as plagiarism. But there is an important difference. In the second case, the use of another's work as the student's own was clearly intentional and deserves severe consequences. In the former case the intentionality may be harder to discern. I choose to treat these cases as poor writing skills, and an opportunity for me to provide students with skills to succeed in the future.

There are many causes of unintentional plagiarism.
  • With digital tools it is dangerously easy to use copy-and-paste instead of taking notes in one’s own words. I have observed otherwise ethical professionals forget that their copy-and-pasted notes are actually in another's words and use them to produce a paper or report.
  • Many students develop poor strategies in primary school and continue them to this day. Students will often tell me that they thought quotation was unnecessary as long as they only used an "insignificant" phrase or sentence (or three) from another source.  Alternatively students may believe that it is acceptable to use large portions of another's work as long as quotation marks or citation are added. 
  • A poor paraphrasing strategy that writers may not have shed by college is taking another's sentence and replacing or reorganizing words. They see paraphrasing as a restructuring of another authors words, rather than a restating of the underlying meaning.
  • Some students have genuinely not received the expected training on the distinction between original writing and plagiarism.
Just as digital media has made it easy for students to copy others' words, it has also made it easy for instructors to detect when a student presents others' words as their own. We have powerful tools at our disposal. These tools can be used to catch our students at plagiarism and they can be used to teach our students how to write effectively and honestly.

In part two (scheduled for publication on August 17) I explore strategies for detection of unoriginal writing and for developing student's original-writing skills.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Evangelizing the gradebook

My appreciation for a grade book is new. And like any recent convert, I'm evangelical.

I have resisted the grade book in many LMSs over the years. Until recently I had an uncomfortable relationship with grades. And what could possibly do columns, numbers and calculated fields better than an excel spreadsheet? There seemed to be no reason to learn to use this clumsy tool that I did not need.

But I have discovered that the grade book in many LMSs has much greater value than assigning a number to a spreadsheet (though it does that surprisingly well). And, with a little preplanning the LMS grade book won't lock me into a particular style of grading. In the following I will be using Blackboard's grade book or "grade center" as an example, because Blackboard is the LMS used at Linfield. Moodle and Canvas grade books work a bit differently but can achieve the same ends.

  • The grade book, when paired with my own rubrics, makes it easy to quickly grade assignments. Locating and downloading assignments is not necessary. Going back and forth from assignment to student list is not necessary.
  • The grade book gives me multiple ways to give feedback to students: A number, written feedback, and in-margin comments.
  • The grade book let's me give students "just-in-time" personal notes of encouragement or clarification.
  • The grade book let's me blind-grade when desirable. I can grade work without seeing student names - which encourages me to be more objective about my grading criteria.
  • The grade book presents me with ALL students' submissions of a single assignment in one place, making it easy to see patterns across the class.
  • The grade book presents me with ALL of a single student's work in one place, making it easy to see patterns for that student. 
  • The grade book tells me what is new. Until I started using the grade book, I looked at each discussion thread and each assignment every day to see what was new. Now I stop at the grade book first. The grade book presents an exclamation point (!) next to new work (posts, journal entries, quizzes, assignments).
  • When grading a student's discussion contribution, I see all of their posts in one collection.
  • When grading a blog or journal entry I can post comments on their writing, right from the grade book.
I know that timely and meaningful feedback is one of the key indicators of student success and satisfaction in an online course. Though my intentions have been good, I have found it hard to be prompt with feedback - until I mastered the grade book. In fact my home grown systems were far more clumsy than the one in my LMS.

I believe in setting a high bar for success in my courses. I also provide lots of ways to reach success: repeated attempts; alternative ways to complete assignments; optional assignments and more possible points than are necessary. Many of my students exceed the required work for an A.

Based on my rubric criteria, an "A" discussion post gets 6 points - though it is possible to get 7. Journal posts can get 4 but a 3.5 translates to an "A". I am able to assign bonuses for unexpected entries, risk taking, effort, creativity, insight. Each week I give students a points target. They know where they stand based on that target. My approach is not traditional and it is possible within the structure of the LMS grade book.

I'd love to hear how others are using their LMS grade book. Please comment below.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reading and Online Students

Stack of books topped by pair of eyeglasses
As I prepare for summer term, I think about the amount of reading I expect of my online students.

In addition to the chapters, articles, websites required of my online students and their in-class counterparts, I ask my online students to read much, much more. Directions and announcements that would have been spoken in-class, are written. My instruction and redirection which may have taken the form of short presentations or lectures are converted to text. Small and large group discussions must be followed in print.

It is no wonder that online students don't remember the details I think are so clear in my syllabus or cannot always locate the date an assignment is due.

I've developed some strategies over the years to help students make their way through the mountain (or sometimes chaotic forest) of reading I ask them to do.

  • I encourage students to learn how to use the text-to-speech tools on their computer. Some find it helpful to read along as their computer reads to them.
  • I begin each module with a "module at a glance" that is formatted the same way each time. It contains a picture (emblematic of the week's topic) and headings "Read/Investigate," "Think/Write," "Discuss," and "Do."
  • I repeat key elements of the syllabus in the weekly modules as they're needed.
  • I make audio/video recordings of some of my announcements.
  • I give open text / open internet quizzes about course documents and how to navigate the course (and me).
I would love to learn what others do. If you have strategies to help students with the reading demands of online learning, please comment below.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Powerful Learning through Self Assessment

Reflection by montykvirge-d4rblo7.jpg
Each term I include self assessment as an activity. Over time I have honed the questions I ask on the self assessment, and have found this activity to be a powerful tool that serves 3 key roles in my instruction.

As a teaching tool

Before I started the self assessment activity, I was frustrated by students who did not seem to read course objectives and rubrics or use them to guide their work. The self assessment I assign gives students a reason to engage with these course resources. Of course, as a firm believer in active learning, this should have occurred to me sooner. Once the students have a need for the objectives and rubrics, a reason to engage with them, their contents gained meaning.

As with other learning activities, I give students feedback on their self assessments. I use this feedback to acknowledge their progress, direct their efforts and give additional resources.

As a learning tool

Self assessment can be a metacognitive activity that requires students to reflect. If I structure the self assessment well, students consider how they are thinking about the course content. By giving students guided practice reflecting, I hope that I am giving them a tool that they can use throughout the course and beyond.

As an assessment tool

The self assessment confirms, expands upon and challenges my other assessment data. Most students end up telling me (mostly) what I expect to hear. This confirms my own assessment of students' strengths, weaknesses, and areas where I can improve my instruction. Students own words can provide me a more expansive or richer understanding of what students a-has or concerns are. I sometimes get information that reveals a student's greater or lessor understanding than I have previously given them credit. When a student presents a very different view of their progress than I have seen, a dialog can occur. I give the student an opportunity to demonstrate their learning and I have a chance to clarify expectations before it is too late.


I have tried the self assessment activity at different times in the term. It seems to be most useful after the first quarter and before the halfway point in the class. This allows
1) enough work has been done to assess.
2) enough time is left for the student to correct their course.
3) enough time is left for me to improve my interactions/instruction with an individual student or the whole group.

Take a look at a sample of the self assessment and rubrics I use. Please share your comments below, including any experiences with, or resources for, self assessment.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bottoms Up on Assessment

Experience points (XP), are touted as one of the innovations possible when applying gaming principles to teaching. Players and learners gain points toward a goal. This isn't really a new concept. Systems of reward are a hallmark of shaping learned behavior in the behaviorist approach to teaching and training. Many of us raise our eyebrows at the notion of handing out M&Ms every time a learner takes a tiny step toward our learning goals. And from the learner's point of view what good is an XP? It isn't even made of chocolate.

But wait, there IS something important here worth considering.

It turns out many of us like to see our XP pile up. But aside from the pleasure of receiving tokens for our successes, there are pedagogically significant reasons for employing XP meaningfully. A close examination of how XP works might turn our approach to both Assessment and Risk taking upside-down.

Assessment and motivation.
Ordinarily a learner begins class with an A, a 100. Everything she does from that first day on has the chance of maintaining her A or reducing her initial grade down to 99, then 98, then 97.  Alternatively, a learner who receives XP for her work, starts with 0 points. Everything she does from that first day on has the chance of either maintaining her 0 or increasing her XP to 1, then 2, then 3. In other words in the traditional model there is no where to go but down.

Assessment and risk taking.
When everything you do has the chance of reducing your 100, the safest course of action is to, err, play it safe. This assessment approach encourages learners to figure out what won't cause them to lose. Thinking creatively is risky. On the other hand when XP are at stake, trying anything is better than doing nothing. Failure doesn't take away points. So risk taking is valued in an XP system.

What's in a name?
It is not important that this upside down approach occur within the context of "gamification" strategies or even that one uses the words experience points or XP. The value of XP as it is used in games is that it reminds us that assessment doesn't have to take the traditional form. The significant change occurs when we base our assessments on learners successes rather than on their failures. And this isn't a new idea either. Just as rewards in learning have their earliest appearance in BF Skinners work, the idea of assessing success is a hallmark of mastery learning introduced to us by Benjamin Bloom in 1971. In mastery learning students have multiple opportunities and ways to achieve A. Making a mistake is ok. Practice and try again.

What does it look like?
Many teachers already assign "points" to assessment tasks. 10 points for journals, 20 points for the draft storyboard... The recipe for turning grading upside down is:
  • One part: change of perspective. Believe that it is possible and desireable to help more students get to A.
  • One part: more assessment possibilities. Give students the opportunity to resubmit assignments. Give students more activities than are necessary to achieve A. Give students choice in activities.
A does not have to have an upper limit. In the classes in which I have adopted this upside-down assessment approach, I see students doing much more than is required. If I require 800 points for an A, most students surpass that, by 20 or more percent. They do more work with better quality. And they are not afraid to fail when the stakes are low.

_Bloom, B. S. (1971). Mastery learning. In J. H. Block (Ed.), Mastery learning: Theory and practice(pp. 47–63). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
_Skinner, B.F. (1953). Science and Human Behavior. New York: Macmillan

This post is adapted from XP and Me my February 2014 post in the blog Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Teaching through confusion

In this video Dr. Derek Muller shares his research on how clear, explanatory videos do not help students learn science concepts. He found that clear linear explanations simply increase the learners confidence in their misconceptions. He argues that a bit of confusion causes learners to confront their incorrect theories and enables learners to explore complexity.

Muller's findings were initially surprising to me. Clear is better, right?

And yet I know that just because I explain something to a student (whether in speech, or written text), that information is not received as delivered. According to constructivist theories, information is not transmitted directly. Learning is a process of making sense and is filtered (mediated) through language, experience, culture - not to mention attention.

Muller addresses attention also. He found that when the instructional video's were described by learners as confusing, they paid closer attention. When the message seemed clearcut, learners paid less attention to what they were seeing and hearing.

While Muller's research deserves replication, it raises some great questions about all of the material and activities we offer students. Is there a sweet spot between easily accessible (where learning doesn't occur) and impenetrable (where learning doesn't occur), where enough complexity is offered to provoke learning?

Monday, April 27, 2015

What Makes for Student Success?

I just found this video made by my friend and colleague Lindsey Rothschild, Instructional Designer for Holyoke Community College. In this two minute video three faculty members and three students explain tips for being a successful online student.

Two points stood out for me related to being present "in class." Frequency and care.

1. Being present frequently was addressed by both faculty and students. Watching for and reading announcements from teachers, responding to posts and email, completing activities several times per week are tips for students to demonstrate frequent presence.

2. Careful reading and writing were also highlighted. Both faculty and students highlighted the importance of reading completely and writing in a way that makes it easy for others to understand and engage with your ideas.

How do you set expectations for your students to succeed in your online classes? If you have tips for setting or communicating expectations, please post a comment below. If you want help clarifying your expectations of students, let me know.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Internet minus Copyright = Open Education Resources (OERs)

Why Open Education Matters a 2 min 27 sec video by David Blake


Dr. Smith needs high quality (accurate, authoritative, current) educational content for her undergraduate courses. Right now Smith uses textbooks in each of her classes. She has carefully reviewed texts from good publishers. She is confident in the material in those she has selected and happy-enough with the organization of content. She is not happy that her students have to pay between $90 and $200 for these books.

[Wouldn't it be great if we could provide high quality content to students without the exorbitant cost? Maybe we can.]

Dr. Smith heard that some of her colleagues had replaced their textbooks with open educational resources (OERs).  She learned that OERs are teaching and research resources that are published with an "open license" to be used and shared, for free. She asked her librarian and instructional designer for help. Together they found a rich collection of materials that substituted nicely for her text books. Her students are happy. And Dr. Smith is pleased that she is using excellent content in a variety of formats (e-books, articles, videos, interactive web activities).

Scholars and educators around the world have begun to recognize that they will have a larger impact if they share their content rather than if they hold onto it. You may be able to find OERs that suit your instructional needs, at one of the many repositories of OER content. And what about all the great content you create?

An OER Handbook from WikiEducator
TideWater CC offers a zero textbook cost ("Z") degree in Business Admin
9 Videos, each under 5 mins, from Edutopia's Why Open Education Matters video contest

Monday, March 30, 2015

Meeting Diverse Learners Needs

Whether we have students with identified learning disabilities or not, we have students who process and understand information in ways different from our own.

Universal Design for Learners (UDL) is a set of principles that guide how to meet diverse learning needs. We can be most effective at engaging and supporting learning when we follow these three principles of UDL:

  1. Provide multiple means of representation - the ways we present content.
  2. Provide multiple means of action and expression - the ways we encourage students to show their understanding.
  3. Provide multiple means of engagement - the ways we help students make personal meaning and connection to content.
This graphic organizer from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) offers increasingly sophisticated steps to apply these principles to help students become resourceful, strategic and motivated learners.
Used with permission from CAST on 2.19.15
Some things you can do to get started.
1. Representation - mix it up! 
Communicate with your students using alternatives to text; record your voice or a short video. When using text, add relevant images and graphics that can help students make sense of your words.

2. Action and Expression - mix it up! 
Give students opportunities to share their understanding through creative projects: create an advertisement for a concept, artwork, a letter, a dance, an app., a word cloud.

3. Engagement - mix it up! 
Provide multiple ways for learners to navigate your course. Use sources that represent multiple perspectives. Locate relevant TED Talks, Youtube videos, Blogs, twitter feeds. Give students choices. Provide ways for students to work purposely together.

Do you have ideas to share about universal design for learning? Please comment below. If you need help coming up with ideas for making your course more accessible to your students, let me know.

A .pdf and text readable transcript of this graphic are available at the UDL Center
For other resources on UDL visit CAST.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Using Youtube

Here is a Youtube activity I like to use. For this example I am using the broad topic global health. Feel free to apply it to your own content.

Video and Discussion Assignment Overview
This week we will use the discussion thread called Current Events in Global Health to discuss information you have found.

Assignment Details

Step One
Go to

In the big search bar at the top of the page, enter keywords related to global health. You may use one of the following keyword sets or choose your own.
global health
h1n1 vaccine
global health ebola
emergency preparedness ebola
global health vaccine
global health drinking water
global health nursing
Step Two
Review at least three short videos. Consider their length (how many mins), age (when posted), source (you may have to infer this based on content; watch out for ADs), value (what the video might contribute to our discussion).

Step Three
Select one and post the address/link in the discussion forum. Include a 25 word or less reason why you selected this video to contribute to the discussion.

Step Four
View and comment on at least two of your classmates' videos.

Why Do I Use Youtube?
Sure there is a lot of dubious material on Youtube. And there is some excellent content there too! This assignment gives students practice analyzing and discussing the relative value of content found on the internet. As a group we are able to peer review the content and learn from each other's effort and perspective.

Want to comment on this assignment or recommend another? Leave a comment below. If you want help considering ways to use internet resources within your course let me know.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Are you Teaching Above the Line?

In the 1990s Dr. Ruben Puentedura introduced the SAMR model for describing the use of technology for learning. Going from the bottom up, direct substitution of a digital tool or process for an older technology or practice does not substantively change learning. When we use digital technologies to create new opportunities - previously unavailable - for our students, we can transform learning.
image licensed for reuse under CC by Ruben Puentedura

Though there is no cut and dry way to determine if an activity is strictly substitution, augmentation, modification or redefinition, consider this example.

College essays were written with paper and pen. Then using the technology of the typewriter they were neatly typed. Then with the advent of computers papers were typed on a computer and printed possibly in multiple copies for distribution. These technological advances enhance the experience of writing, but do they transform it? I suggest these advances fall below the dotted line of the SAMR model. Writing activities that might go beyond enhancement, or above the line, include publishing papers for a large audience and using a teacher's social network to invite expert feedback.

The technology alone does not transform learning. It is how we use it. When we first start teaching online, it is tempting to use digital tools and activities to substitute for the traditional classroom experience. As we gain confidence, we must consider moving up the SAMR model.

If you have ideas to share about transformative uses of digital technologies/media, please comment. If you need help generating transformative strategies, let me know.

Monday, February 16, 2015

5 Minute Video Boot Camp by Bill Selak, Edutopia

Check out Bill Selak's 5 Minute Film Festival: Video Boot Camp. He starts this helpful tutorial this way:
The rapid adoption of devices in the classroom has fundamentally changed the way we can create video. Every part of the creation process -- writing, recording, editing, and distributing -- is possible on the devices that can fit in our pocket. Vision is the most dominant of the five senses. Research shows that concepts are better remembered if they are taught visually. This is called the pictorial superiority effect, and it’s why video is such a powerful learning tool. Selak, B.
Instructors may create short videos to clarify hard to grasp concepts, and to add a sense of teacher presence to the online classroom.

When students are responsible to make a short videos about their understanding of content, the process leads to powerful learning. As Selak tells us videos are made three times - when they are written, when they are shot, when they are edited.

If making videos is not possible, consider curating videos. Instructors and students can help each other learn by reviewing, evaluating and recommending the best of the best that deals with the topic at hand.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Easing the Way for Students Into Your Course

One of the hardest things to achieve in an online course is to make it easy and inviting to the new student. Each of us tends to set up our courses in a way that makes perfect sense to us (but not necessarily others). Here are two questions to consider as you build your spring courses.

1. Is it clear to your students what they should do first in your course?

In Blackboard, you can set the first page students see when they open your course. The Home (notifications) page may be just what you want. If not you can change it by…

Control Panel -> Customization -> Teaching Style -> Scroll down to Select Course Entry Point and change (to the desired entry point - for instance to Information, Announcements or Content).

2. How do students figure out how to progress through your information and their assignments?

Some of the techniques that Linfield instructors use follow:
  • Personalize HOME By choosing Edit -> Banner. You can add the course name, an image that represents the course and instructions to move next to Information or Content.
  • “READ THIS FIRST” - a document within Information section that welcomes students, gives a brief overview, and lays out course expectations.
  • A Welcome Video or Slideshow – Containing the same information as READ THIS FIRST, adding images of the Blackboard layout can improve student understanding. Adding your image and voice can provide a sense of connection and reassurance to students that their professor is real and available.
  • The Information section contains items to be viewed in chronological order: A “Welcome letter" or “Meet your professor page", the course syllabus, learner expectations, the course schedule of topics/assignments.
  • The Content section is organized chronologically by week or module.

It helps to have a colleague or friend take a look at the opening material - while you are still in development. Another set of eyes can help you determine if it is obvious to the would-be student what to do.