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eLearning is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

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The Best Browser for Blackboard Learn

Jacob and his MinionSo last week I went on a trip to visit a very good friend of mine.  He can’t see very well and he is addicted to wearing overalls, but he is a great dancer and is the life of the party wherever we go (especially with the younger set).  Any-who, we were walking down Fremont street together and he asks me a fairly straight forward question.

“Jacob, what is the best browser for Blackboard Learn?”

I smiled back at my friend the minion and told him that was a question we get often at our Technology Support Desk for SHSU Online. We strolled along together while I tried my best to answer his question. Well, my friend the minion liked the answer so much he asked me to share it with you.  So, with this blog post, I shall attempt to do so.

Traditionally our support desk has leaned heavily toward one particular browser, Mozilla Firefox when answering this question.  While I still think that Firefox is probably the best answer from a stability and fails-the-least-with-all-of-Blackboard’s-bells-and-whistles standpoint, the real answer is more nuanced than that.

While visiting with the minion last week in Las Vegas, I had the occasion to make a small side-trip to the Blackboard World 2014 (#BbWorld14 – for those that tweet) conference.  One of the sessions I attended on supporting Blackboard’s user community was put on by the University of Knoxville, Tennessee.  During the session they stated something that we here at SHSU Online always knew, but never put into words:

“The best browser for Blackboard is every browser.”

This zen-like statement on viewing Blackboard via the lens that we call our Internet browser is almost mind-blowing. It seems like something that “the Dude” would have uttered.  If you think about it though, it is true.

Internet browsers are on an accelerated development schedule.   They receive updates sometimes weekly in order to be sure that they are safe & secure to use for netizens across the globe. Blackboard, on the other hand, receives updates officially twice a year for the most part (not counting any cumulative patches your institution decides to apply).  The update disparity here is clear. You can already see where the pain points might happen when a browser is updated as often as they seem to be.  If one browser’s update messes with how you interact with Blackboard Learn, then try another.

Sometimes you may be on a deadline and “It’s my Blackboard and I want it now!”  In this case, just being able to launch another browser rather than making sure you clear your cache, delete your cookies and cleanse any temporary Internet files, makes life easier.

This is why it is important to have a stable of tools you can turn to when the need arises.  For PCs, your browser list for Blackboard should be: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox & Google Chrome.  For Macs: Safari, Mozilla Firefox & Google Chrome.

Blackboard even provides a supported browser list that will work with your particular version of Blackboard Learn.

Well, the minion and I had a great visit.   I also visited a few more of my friends and they too had some questions that might interest you, but I’ll save those for another blog post.

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BbWorld Session Blog: Trends in Online Learning

Murano 3301
Jason Rhode Director of Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center – Northern Illinois University
Melissa Stange System Application Administrator Shenandoah University
Karen Yoshino, Principal Strategist, Blackboard Conuslting

Session explores how the use of collaboration tools, mobility, and more will be changed by shifts in student demands and the fight to attract and retain students.

Agenda:

  • Student Expectations
  • About Our Presenters
  • Review Trends in Online Learning Report
  • What’s Next
  • More Info

Context –

Definition of Student is changing.  Non-traditional students are about 85% o learners int the US.  Old student journey linear pathway with few choices.  New pathway is “swirling”  (1/3 of students transfer between students) average student has credits from 2.3 institutions.

Now they are Post-Traditional learners:  Attend multiple institutions, listen to peers, pursue skills and competencies, like to interact with services via apps and not websites.  Consumers of Data/Info, Goal is Job placement.

Trends – Report

  • Conducted in 2014 Feb, (survey)
  • 200 Participants
  • voluntary participants 100%

Where are you today in offering courses online? – 88% have courses online of those who do not already, half intend to have courses online.

How many Courses Currently use a blended learning model? – half the institutions surveyed are using a blended model for at least 25% of their courses.  22% offer more than half their courses in-class and online.

What Annual Growth in online programs do you forecast? Most responders expect growth in their online learning programs (59%)

What are the goals that drive investment in online programs? – 79% Ability to attract new/different students, 67% – Increase Revenue, 62% – Improve Retention, 60% – Better engaged students, 57% – Improve learning Outcomes, 17% – Other

What is holding you back from growing your online programs?  Growth of online programs will depend on improved online strategies and faculty support of putting courses online.  (35% said nothing is holding them back, but 33% stated lack of coherent strategy).  Faculty Resistance, lack of funds, lack of talent/resources, technology programs and chaos are other obstacles.

What Challenges are you facing regarding online learning? – Gauging impact on retention and engagement 52%, Faculty skepticism is a top challenge 51%, Ensuring level of academic Challenge 44%, Measuring faculty/student interaction 41%, Developing benchmarks for success 39%, Lack of Resources 39%, Assessing active and collaborative learning results %39, not viewed as budget priority 19%.

What Trends do you see in how your faculty is putting their content online? – Increased faculty content development is driving growth. Develop their own content – 84%, Use captured lectures -43%, use open content – 34%, license commercial content – 26%, contract with 3rd party vendor – 19%, other – 5%

How do you think Most of your faculty are using your organization’s LMS? – 94% – Posting course content, 74% Grading, 67% Engaging students, 60% Assessment, Reviewing course/student analytics 24%

What features in an LMS system are most sought or valued by users? – LMS functionalities with the highest value: ease of posting -80%, and grading workflow ease of use -67%, Having Mobile Access – 55%, Integration w/other Systems -55%, Analytic tools embedded in system – $1%, Social tools embedded in the system %29

What Collaboration and/or communication tools are you currently using in the classroom?  90% – email 81% – LMS 57% – Lecture Capture, 55% – Social Media 52% Video Conferencing 45% – Mobile Apps 40% – Web Conferencing $31% – texting

How do you foster a sense of connection an community across student population. 52% – Electronic Newsletters, 46% – Targeted Facebook pages, 39% – Webcasts,

How important are strong online programs to attracting and retaining students?  Critical – 34%, Very Important – 30%, Important – 14%, not very important – 12%, unimportant – 6%.

What would be the primary advantage to your college having more robust online offerings?  Attract more non-traditional online students – 71%, Expand geographical presence – 62%, improve student retention – 42%, academic quality improvement – 36%, reduce costs – 28%, greater communication across departments – 19%

Next steps? – Shenandoah University

  • More hybrid and blended courses to meet student needs
  • Continuation of articulation agreements
  • Develop & Deliver online courses in specific fields to meet national recommendations
  • Focus on online 7 Hybrid course quality
  • faculty training & support
  • Infrastructure improvements

Next Steps? Northern Illinois

  • New niche programs
  • attract new students, increase revenue, improve retention
  • Coherent online strategy
  • investment in central support infrastructure.
  • focus on student career success
  • articulation agreements
  • mix of online and blended/hybrid programs
  • Accelerated courses – 8 week
  • Faculty content development
  • Ongoing faculty training & support

 

 

Fight Unit Fatigue – Chunk it Like a Boss

Chunk It Like a BossWe have all experienced a first glance at what looks like an insurmountable obstacle in our learning endeavors. Maybe is was the practicum for your Masters degree, maybe it was your dissertation, maybe it was all the grading you had to catch up on after you returned from vacation.

Undoubtedly, there are strategies that we as instructors can employ to make the amount of material seem less ominous. Whether we distribute our course across, weeks, units, topics or lessons, chunking our content makes it more digestible for our students.

In this day and age many of our students are viewing courses through the lens of multiple devices, many of those with the display real estate of a tablet or smart phone. Why not take the extra step and chunk our units as well?

I like to take the extra step to organize my units across a content item and 2 content folders (depending upon the amount of coursework). Each of my units contains three things:

1. Unit Objectives
2. Unit Content
3. Unit Assignments


Example of Chunking It Like A BossObjectives (Content Item)

The objectives are a great way-stone for my student in the course. They remind the student why they are learning what they are learning and what they should be getting out of each unit. The objectives are generally a content item that the students see immediately upon entering the unit, so they don’t have to dig any deeper to see what they will be learning about.

Unit Content (Content Container)

The Unit Content container contains all of the readings, videos, articles, links and lecture materials for the particular unit. Putting them in the same spot each time leaves no room for second guessing by my students as to where the content will reside. I also place a download link at the end of the container for students who don’t like to read content on a computer/device.

Unit Assignments (Content Container)

The Unit Assignments container contains all of the assignments for a particular unit. I do this to avoid having the assignments show up at the bottom of a long list inside a unit. It allows me the flexibility to order my assignments as I see fit and utilize more folders if the assignments include large projects that work through multiple submissions. By chunking the assignments, the students will see 2 or three assignments per unit rather than 3 assignments added to what may be up to 9 other content items from readings/lectures.

At the end of each of the Unit Content and Unit Assignment container, I provide a link back to the main unit page in case the students need it.

I know that multiple clicks can turn off some students, but have found via student feedback that they appreciate this layout and are secure in the fact that they always know where to look in my online courses for course materials.  Hopefully after reading this you may want to start Chunking it – Like a Boss!

Want to take your Blackboard Course to Next Level? Be Graphic!

bestpracSo, you’ve been at this Blackboard thing for a couple of semesters and you are starting to feel comfortable with the learning management system.  You’ve mastered the art of uploading and attaching files to content.  The discussion board is your boon companion and you are collecting assignments digitally from your students via the assignment tool.  Navigating the grade center is like riding a bike and you feel good about it!

What now?  Learn a new tool or technology? Live inside your course for the next 6 months?  Well, you could do those things, but let me suggest a slightly different approach.  Have you considered adding an important layer to your Blackboard course by inserting images?

Importance of Images

  • Convey course information in an alternate method.
  • Students pay more attention to articles/readings with graphic content.
  • Breaks up monotony of “text-only” Blackboard pages.
  • Increases student engagement by making them use a different part of their brain.
  • It just looks better!

Below are examples of a Blackboard content area without graphics and a content area with graphics.  Which one looks better?  Which one would you rather read?

Blackboard Course Content Area Examples
In this example the graphics are more of the decorating variety, but they do add color and continuity to your course.  Imagine having your course banner at the top of every major content area in your course.  In this case there are examples of images in a content item, learning module and content folder descriptions. Almost anywhere you use the content editor in Blackboard, you can place an image.

Inserting an Image

  1. Click the Insert/Edit Image button on your content editor.
  2. Browse to where your image is saved and attach it.
  3. Type an Image Description (for screen readers).
  4. Click the Insert button.Insert Image dialogue

Editing an Image (Alignment, Spacing and Size)

  1. Click on the image you have placed in the Content Editor.
  2. Click the Insert/Edit Image button.
  3. Click the Appearance tab.
  4. Adjust your Alignment, Spacing and Size.
    Insert - Edit Image - Appearance Tab

With a few clicks of your mouse, your Blackboard course can go from black and white text to a colorful tapestry of text and images that convey meaning to students in a number of different ways!

Resources – Free Images For Your Courses

#bestpracticemonday 5 “Resolutions” for Online Instructors in the New Year

New Years ResolutionsEach new year brings new growth, new ideas and new commitments for us to do things to make ourselves better personally and professionally.  Whether we are inspired by too much turkey over the holidays or an urge to start with a clean slate, no other time of the year seems more appropriate for these determinations. Perhaps this year, we may consider some New Year’s Resolutions for our online courses!

Let’s face it, online teaching, like too much turkey, can really weigh you down. During a long semester, we can get buried in grading assignments and responding to discussion posts, and the lofty goals we started off with for engaging our students can seem dimly out of reach.

With a holiday break and a start to the new year/semester fast approaching, now is a great time to resolve to adopt a few pedagogically sound teaching and learning best practices for our online courses. While there may be several measures we can adopt to improve the overall quality of our online teaching environments, here are five easy to follow, easy to apply techniques that will make our online courses that much more engaging. Remember you don’t have to do all 5!

1.  Model How the Course will go for Students with a “Getting Started” Unit

Getting StartedA smart move for any online instructor is to implement some kind of ‘orientation unit’ for the online student.  This unit can serve the purpose of introducing the student to his or her online course environment, as well as other important course information.  Expectations, rules of the road, and an operator’s manual are usually communicated within this unit.

It is important to set this unit up just like every other unit in the course.  Model orientation content and activities in such a way as to reflect how the rest of the units will be structured.  The student will not only gain the benefit of understanding how the online course operates, they will get the added practice of going through course units as they would normally throughout the course.

2.  2-4-6-8 it’s Time to Differentiate

Differentiated Instruction GraphicWe would be hard-pressed to negate the notion that are our students are not identical. Each of our learners comes to us with varying degrees of abilities, aptitude levels, interests, learning experiences and needs. While it may not be feasible to get to know each of our students on a personal basis, we can make some general deductions about the learning diversity that is present in every course we teach.

This is where Differentiated Instruction comes in. For those of us in the field, the term refers to the theory that since no two students will learn exactly the same way, instructors have the opportunity to structure and design their teaching environments using a variety of instructional methods that may reach a broader swath of the student body. The online environment really lends itself to this approach. With the advent of various technology tools, we can now choose to diversify our approach to lectures, activities and assessments and more.

If you are wondering how to add more diversity of instruction to your course, start with the following. It’s as easy as A-B-C!

a.      Realize your students are unique, and discover ways to get to know them.

Realistically speaking, we may not get to know our students as well as we would like. But we can implement an activity or two to catch a glimpse into who they are and what their learning approach may be. For instance, at the beginning of your course, introduce an ice-breaker discussion forum and ask your learners what they do in their free time. You will be surprised by what you can learn!

b.      Look critically at your course, and identify a few areas where you can introduce diversity of instructional methodology.

Sit back and consider your students’ learning objectives. Take a look at how you are introducing and enforcing these key concepts at the moment and select an area or two where you may introduce a different approach. Perhaps an audio lecture may be a welcomed alternative to the text-based reading. Or, perhaps you may want to spice up your course with content from the Khan Academy, Ted Talks, or NBC Learn. Often regarded as “mashups” the introduction of external collective knowledge in an online course adds variety, and piques students’ interests.

c.       Consider the Context and Role of the Online Instructor.

The online environment can present us with options we may not have readily used in our face-to-face courses…so make the most it! While having lots of choices may seem daunting, starting with one or two will help keep them manageable. Online Instructors should think differently about their teaching, because in the online environment where rich, educational online resources abound, we become more of a guide on the side, than a sage on the stage.

3.  Set Due Dates to Coincide with Support Desk Hours

This resolution is an easy one to keep!  First, learn your Technology Support Desk hours (SHSU Online is 7am – Midnight, Mon-Sat).  Once familiar with Support’s hours of operation, make sure any due dates, tests or technology oriented activities fall when the Support Desk team is available.  This is important because the students will have someone to call when the technology doesn’t work or their interpretation of how the technology should work is different from actually happened.

4.  Set a Schedule for Course Interactions, Be Consistent

SchedulePart of being available in a course, and establishing ever-important instructor presence, is letting your students know when you are available.  A great way to do this is to establish a routine for your course interactions.

  • For starters, you can let them know that you will get back to them on questions posted in your Virtual Office discussion forum a time period you establish at the beginning of the term (usually within 24 – 36 hours)
  • Hold regular “office hours” with the asynchronous chat tool (Skype, Bb Chat or Collaborate, Google Hangout) where you will be available in real-time to answer your students questions if need be.
  • Post an announcement and send it out via e-mail once a week summing up the previous week’s events and highlighting the important aspects of the next week.

By establishing a routine, you form a habit of being available in your course that your students can count on.

5. Have fun!

Remember the excitement of teaching? The opportunities to lead, change, inspire, and innovate? Perhaps you connect with the intrinsic motivation of knowing you are making a real and tangible difference in many impressionable minds. Whatever that original point of motivation is for you, we can all connect with what originally prompted us to teach.

Being an online instructor is the perfect chance to express your teaching philosophies in a number of diverse and effective ways. Make your course as exciting as your teaching. Personalize it. Make it your very own. Let it show your unique teaching style and at the end of the day, resolve to have fun doing what you do best…teach!

#bestpracticemonday LMS Skills are Learned Not Inherited – 3 Ways to Help

Blackboard on the BrainI am old enough to remember thinking of computers as something that fit into a large room and young enough to remember when my family received its first computer that sat on a desk in my father’s office. My children are familiar with touch screen interfaces, wireless internet, smartphones and tablets. With all of the technology that students coming into the university setting seem to have at their fingertips it is easy to assume that as digital natives they are already familiar with how a Learning Management System (LMS) works and how to navigate their way through an online class.

One thing I have learned through supporting faculty and facilitating online courses is that you cannot assume that students were born knowing how to maneuver within the confines of a Learning Management System.  LMS skills are learned and not inherited.  Taking this into account there are steps online instructors can take to give students the resources & skills they need to be successful in online courses.

1.  Use a Getting Started Area/Unit to Orient Your Students

Getting StartedHaving the words Getting Started or Start Here show up in your course are automatic clues for your students on where they should go and what they should do.   They immediately give the students a sense of where they should be going and what they should be doing.  Leverage this part of your course to communicate to students about how your course will work.  Explain to students where readings, lectures and videos will be found as well as how they will participate in and submit items for assignments and activities.  Communicate expectations, course policies and general advice in this unit that will help your students be successful. An added bonus here is you can use the Getting Started unit to model how the rest of your units will work.

Instructions2.  Layer Academic and Mechanical Instructions Throughout Your Course

With students, everything revolves around context.  They are becoming used to getting contextual information about the restaurant where they are eating, the traffic they are driving in, and the television shows they are watching.  That is why it is important to not just put instructions in your course syllabus.  They need to placed at the unit and assignment level as well.  A big key here is not just revealing the academic instructions that tell the students the requirements of a particular assignment or activity, but the mechanical instructions that tell the students how to use the particular tool to complete the assignment or activity.

3.  Be Sure Your Students Know How to Get Technical Assistance

Technical SupportIn order to make online courses more interactive and engaging for our students we have added new activities and technologies. We do this to ensure that students have the same types of learning opportunities as students in the face-to-face environment. With any new technology or new tool there will be obstacles, snafus and technical glitches that arise.  It is more important than ever that your students have the resources that can help them work through any of these issues. Post online support desk contact information and hours of operation prominently in your course (At SHSU Online we include a Need Help?  link in every Blackboard course).  If available provide a link to the student documentation for your LMS (The Getting Started with Blackboard Orientation course at SHSU for example).

Even though your students may not know what a LMS is, you can help them by providing the resources and information that can equip them to be successful in your course.  Using a Getting Started area, layering mechanical and academic instructions and connecting your students to tech support are practices you can incorporate to help your students learn how to operate within the Learning Management System.

#bestpracticemonday – 5 Ways to “Engagify” Your Online Course

If you are reading any commentary on online learning these days, you cannot read two sentences without bumping into the phrase student engagementStudent engagement happens when students take an active, purposeful step towards their own learning.  The challenge for online instructors is to find ways to make their courses promote student engagement.  There are many strategies, practices and tools that can help!  Here are 5 ways to engagify your online course:

1. Put yourself in the course.

Put yourself in the courseThis blog has covered the need to personalize the online experience for students.  One great way to promote engagement and get the students to know you is to make sure that “you” are in your course.  This can be done in a number of ways. Uploading a digital photo, providing a Welcome to the Course video, using audio & video to introduce assignments or give feedback and just finding ways to add your personality to the course are just a few examples.

2. Invite students to be the co-pilot on their learning journey.

Student Into CourseIn much the same way you can personalize the course for your students, your students can establish a social presence and take ownership of their learning journey.  They do so by uploading their photo, using audio/video tools and building a network of learning within your online course. They can also be content builders when it comes to providing useful content in the online course with wikis, discussions and other interactive tools.

3. Have your students get “pushy” because there’s an app for that.

Push NotificationsPush notifications are everywhere these days.  In many ways they prompt your students to interact with their work, friends and world around them.  Any major LMS like Blackboard allows students/instructors to enable push notifications to mobile devices to offer reminders about due dates, added content and to interact with each other and the course.

Push notifications are little engagifiers that prompt you and your students to interact with the course and to become engaged with the learning process.

4. Provide academic and technical instructions.

InstructionsWhen you set up your course it is easy to remember to give your students the academic logistics around their course work.  They are provided with assignment length, citation criteria and even word count to help them figure out assignment parameters.  In many cases, a major disconnect develops for students who don’t know how to use the software tool to submit the assignment.  So, remember to provide students with a one or two sentence “how-to” for instructions on uploading or participating in the course activity.  If the activity is complex a link to a full set of instructions may be needed.

5. Broaden your portfolio when it comes to course activities.

Diverse PortfolioImagine having to eat the same meal 3 times a day 5 days a week.  Not very appetizing is it?  Now, take those thoughts and apply them to your course.  Does your weekly activity look suspiciously like reading, discussion, assignment & quiz?  Mashed potatoes again?  Try to liven up your course by adding new/different tools.  Instead of a reflection paper, have your students do a blog posts instead.  Changing up the order of the routine alone can also be a primer for student engagement.

#bestpracticemonday – How to Choose Technology-Based Tools for an Online Course

Teaching online can seem like wading through a super store of technological innovation when it comes to the amount of technological aids available. There are a bevy of tools that can brought to bear when enhancing and equipping student learning.  The challenge comes in deciding which of these tools to use when putting together a course plan.  It is very easy to be mesmerized by the shiny object with all the bells and whistles when browing through available tech tools. The instructor is immediately assailed with questions.  Which tool works best? Which tool will the students like?  Is it too new?  Is it too old?

Making ChoicesWhen picking technologies to use in an online course, keep these four things in mind:

  1. Learning Objectives
  2. Know The Audience
  3. Logistical Considerations
  4. Instructor Comfort Level

Learning Objectives

Learning ObjectivesOnline instructors seem to have more options than ever when it comes to technology choices for their courses.  Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are inundated by technology products that claim to work with big ideas and catchy concepts like gamification of learning and the ability to disrupt the status quo.  The pressure of keeping up with the Dr. Joneses alone can make a teacher’s technology tool belt feel more like a burden than an aid.

It is during this maelstrom of keywords and catchphrases that it is important to ask if the chosen tool will assist in completing learning objectives.  Hold firm to the mantra that it’s the method, not the medium. If the tool assists in completing learning objectives, then it is the right tool for the job.

Know The Audience

Know the AudienceWalking into a situation already knowing how the audience will react is a tremendous benefit for anyone and even more so for an online instructor.  Knowing the student audience in an online course greatly influences the technology choices that are made.

Knowing the audience isn’t some innate psychic power that online instructors are born with.  Some of this knowledge comes from past teaching experience and some comes from working through activities as a course progresses.  One of the best ways to know the audience of an online course is to take a technology literacy survey early on in the course.  This helps to establish a basic comfort level for participants and helps the instructor know which tools fill a learning need without raising anxiety levels.

Logistical Considerations

Logistical ConsiderationsChoosing the right technology can be seriously impacted by logistical considerations.  These considerations can be student-centric like a lack of high-speed Internet or a total lack of technology all together at certain periods of time.  Military service members in particular may have stretches of time where they do not have access to high-def technology, so scheduling a web conference may not be a good idea.

There is another side of logistics that must also be thought about.  The support structure for online instructors is a huge logistical consideration when choosing technology.    If a technology in use by instructors and students stops working during the course of a term, who is responsible for fixing it?  If students need help getting the technology to work, is there a support number, web or e-mail address that they can use? Do the online instructor and students have access to a help desk?  Do the help desk hours coincide with times that the technology will be used? All of these logistical considerations need to be taken into account when picking technology to use in an online course.

Instructor Comfort Level

This last part was almost not included in that it should be an understood value when it comes to tech tool selection.  The online instructor needs to be comfortable with the technology tools they choose.  It does the online students no good if the instructor’s anxiety level is up.  Students take their behavioral queues from the teacher.  If the instructor seems like they have a firm grasp of the technology and can calmly relate appropriate usage, then the student will feel the same way.  Conversely, if the instructor is flustered and communicates stress when trying to use the tool, the students will reflect that stress and frustration right back.

Comfort with technology is gained by practice.  Before introducing a tool to students, the online instructor should work with the tool on and off line to ensure that it works and that he or she is familiar with all of the technological “bumps in the road” that may arise.   Where possible the instructor should use the tool in a current class where the students can passively view the results before trying it themselves.  For example, he or she can use a presentation software like Prezi for lecture materials BEFORE asking the students to create a presentation of their own.

Choosing Technology

These 4 items can be of assistance when deciding which technologies to use. Working through them will save time and frustration before the online course begins.

Remember, the technologies out there might seem like the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if they don’t help meet learning objectives, if the audience isn’t taken into account, if logistical considerations aren’t thought about and if the instructor isn’t comfortable with the technologies then they are much like the bard wrote, “full of sound and fury and signifying nothing”.

Giving Your Students Directions on their learning journey!

ImageWhen you travel somewhere for the first time, doesn’t it seem to take a little bit longer to get there than it does to return home?  Whether it is unfamiliar surroundings, difficulty reading the map or the GPS isn’t up to date, it can be frustratingly slow to travel to new places.

Think of your online course as that new destination for your students.  How would they describe their navigation experience?  Would they say that once they travel into your course that it is difficult to find their way back?  Would they say that the course links were easy to find and use?  Would they be frustrated trying to make it to their “destination”?

Connecting your course by organizing and clearly naming your navigation elements will save your students and ultimately you time when putting together your online course.

Below are steps you can take to connect your course and save time for you and your students:

  • Use Dividers and Subheaders to visually organize your course’s navigation menu (hint see the Teaching Online and Putting it Together Subheaders in this course.
  • Append the text (Click to Open) on titles for content folders, learning modules, lesson plans, web and course links.
  • Make the content item Blue if you want your students to click it
  • Chunk your course content as you would teach it in your face-to-face course.  For example: Put all Chapter content in chapter folder with different sub-folders for each chapter.
  • Place a Course Link at the bottom of a unit a study so that the student can navigate back to where they were before easily.

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