Tina E Busch

Review, declutter and freshen up your course

Blog Post created by Tina E Busch on May 8, 2019

 

Here in Australia we are four months into the school year, the weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter. Courses are now settled and hitting that nice mid-year flow, the perfect time to sit back and review where our course is at. For Canvas users in the northern hemisphere days are getting longer, the blossoms are out and the spring cleaning bug is hitting. So let’s take a breath to ‘Marie Kondo’ our Canvas courses. Here is a checklist of some of the key things you can do to review, declutter and freshen up your course:

  • Check your course structure - Take a step back and re-evaluate your navigation and course structure. Is key information easy to find? What can you change to make your course more user friendly? Some tips include:
    • Use modules to organise your content. Two successful ways I have structured course content are:
      • Grouping content by topics/units of work. This makes it easy to share resources between teachers in Commons by sharing complete modules that cover a particular topic.
      • Grouping content by terms/semesters. In Australia we have 4 terms of 10 weeks each so by grouping content in term and lesson order it is easy for students to know where they are up to and review content from missed lessons.
    • Once you are using modules, use the requirements settings on modules so students can easily track where they are up to and what they have missed.
    • Review your home page to make sure the most important information is easy to find (see tips below)
  • Review your Home Page – Do your students know where to go after they land on your home page? Some home page design tips:
    • Use your homepage as the base for accessing course content. Avoid putting everything the user needs to know on the homepage. Let them navigate to the information they require by using buttons to additional pages. 
    • Keep the layout of your homepage simple, clean and uncluttered. Simplicity and clarity = good design. I always live by the motto less is more.
    • Use ‘Call to action’ icons and buttons that stand out. If you are unable to design your own icons a site like flaticon.com has the potential to become your best friend.
    • Limit scrolling where possible.
    • Leave plenty of white space for easy viewing.
    • Chunk content into small amounts, this allows users to scan content easily, 
  • Check for broken links - like cleaning the oven it's best to do this more than once a year as links, especially to external sites, break all the time. How do I validate links in a course?
  • Check your media - Do your images convey meaning or are they just there to look pretty? Be careful not to overload your pages with unnecessary images. Users scan a page to quickly find the information they require. Images can distract from the main message they need. On the other hand, using ‘call to action’ icons on your assignments can help students scan and easily identify what they need to do. Also, links aren’t the only thing that can break or go missing. Check that your images, videos and other embedded content are still working.
  • Give it a proofread - Give your course a good proofread to check for errors and consistency. Believe me, if there’s an error in your course your students will take great joy in picking it up.
  • Check your course on the Canvas App - While instructors may spend the majority of their time viewing their course on computer or laptop monitors, students are a mobile generation who want content at their fingertips, that means using the Canvas App. Check your course on the app to make sure content responds to the small screen and is readable.
  • Do a content and file audit - When was the last time you went through your course files and pages? Some audit tips:
    • Use a folder structure that replicates your course structure. This makes finding files a lot easier.
    • Check that files are in the correct folders. When in a hurry it’s easy to just upload files and forget to allocate them to a folder. It’s a good idea to regularly check your files section to stay on top of your file management.
    • Delete any unwanted or unused files and content items (pages, assignments etc)
  • Review your course analytics and statistics to pinpoint any issues - Analytics can give you a glimpse into what’s engaging students and what might be improved in the future. It will also help you detect which students are not participating and who is falling behind. How do I view Course Analytics?, How do I view course statistics?
  • Identify areas to promote community and engagement in your course
    • Provide a help discussion where students can help answer other student’s questions. This makes students feel like they have 24/7 support and an added bonus it reduces your load if students can help each other out.
    • Add some weekly discussions on current topics to promote class chat and peer collaboration.
    • Create a Community Points Rewards system (just like this community). Give some incentive to contribute to discussions by allocating bonus points to students for each post they contribute which can tally up to receive a certain badge or other reward.
  • Lastly, view the course in student view – It will help identify unpublished content and give you a feel for the student user experience.

 

Happy spring cleaning

 

 

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