Another new semester has arrived at my workplace and Alma mater. We are just days(2) away from the start of a the fall 2014 semester. Many of us have moved last fall’s content over or re-purposed course materials from last spring. Copying course content from previous semesters saves us time and effort that we would otherwise spend re-inventing the wheel.
As you prepare to unleash your online course resources to your students via a course in your Learning Management System, you will need to take some things into consideration to ensure a smooth start to the semester.
Here are a few steps you can take to help guaranty a good start for you and your students:
- Get your course’s dating life straight. – Content Availability & Due Dates
- Take….these Broken Links! – Check Your External Content
- Get a second opinion! – Is Your Course Navigable?
Get Your Course’s Dating Life Straight
(Content Availability & Due Dates)
Nothing can be more frustrating for your students than having an assignment that is due in the syllabus but unavailable in your Blackboard course. Obviously this is not done on purpose to confuse the students. Some content from a previous semester could have been date specific and so a new semester needs new availability dates. Checking your due dates is also an important part of getting your course’s dating life straight. Not only to ensure that you have days and dates mentioned correctly throughout your course, but you want to ensure you don’t have things due on holidays etc..
This date checking session also provides you with a good opportunity to make changes for the better. Think back to your previous semester when you taught the course. Maybe there wasn’t enough time to complete an assignment, or maybe there was too much. Make changes to this semester’s calendar based upon issues or opportunities from the previous semester.
Blackboard provides a great tool for date management inside your course. The Date Management tool can be found here: Control panel>Course Tools>Date Management. The tool allows you to change dates based upon:
- Using the Course Start Date
- Adjust by number of Days
- List all Dates for Review
Being aware of your course’s dating life will greatly benefit you and your students.
Take….these Broken Links!
(Check Your External Content)
One of the primary benefits of posting files and content in Blackboard or any Learning Management System is that you can feel very secure in the knowledge that within reason, your content/files will always be accessible. This is NOT true with links to external content. Whether you are linking to an Internet article, a YouTube video, a SlideShare presentation or some other external content, you never know when that content might disappear.
This is why it is uber-important for you to check links to external content prior to releasing it to your students. This means checking prior to the start of the semester as well as just before your students have to use the content. Ensuring that links to external content work before your students need them will help reduce pain and frustration within your Blackboard course.
Here is a helpful (and funny) eLearning Best Practice music video to help you remember to Take….these Broken Links!
Get a Second Opinion!
(Make Sure Your Students can find Their Away Around)
So, you have dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s. Your course dates are adjusted and your links have been checked. You’ve even read through your course and feel pretty good about it. There is another best practice you can use to help ensure success for your students when it comes to your Blackboard course.
Why not have a colleague, a friend even a family member read through course instructions to make sure they make sense? Unfortunately ‘they’ haven’t invented a pill that conveys all knowledge of how to operate inside a Blackboard course yet so the importance of contextualized mechanical & academic instructions is key for any LMS-based course. Layering instructions throughout your course will help your students feel like they have way-points to guide them as they move along through their learning journey.
Your course might make sense to you the twelfth time you’ve read through it, but there might be some obstacles that people who have never seen it before could come across. So getting a fresh perspective on your course is always a best practice. Ask a colleague, your instructional designer, a family member, heck even your son or daughter could help in this endeavor.
These three steps can go a long way toward reducing consternation and frustration for both you and your students as they and you move through your Blackboard course.