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.

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