Laura Gibbs

Fall Courses Up and Running (gasp!)

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Jul 20, 2018

I usually don't prep my Fall classes until August... but this year, because of InstructureCon and family stuff next week and the week after, I realized I needed to get my classes prepped NOW to be ready for the soft start on August 13. And it feels both very nerdy but also very cool to have them all ready to go even though it is just July 20! I still have a ton of things to do in terms of revising and improving the assignments, but I think I got all the Canvas work done. Whoo-hoo!


Here's are some items perhaps of interest to others:


JAMES JONES, API EMPEROR. James Jones and his Adjust-All-Dates is the most amazing Canvas magic I've ever seen. Not only does it help me manage my dates, it also helps me be thoughtful about assignment titles. I use a microassignments approach with over 200 assignments per class (students choose around 6 assignments to complete each week, or more if they want)... so being able to edit all my assignment titles and dates in a spreadsheet is ideal.
Adjust All Assignment Dates on One Page 

I use the same course design across all three classes, with just the titles of the modules being different, so I fix up one course with James's tool, and then I just copy it twice. It works perfectly for me! I had some assignment title changes this semester, so I really made good use of the API spreadsheet this semester.



MODULES. Thanks to a great discussion here about all-caps and the Modules page, I did a little adjusting of my Modules page layout: I put the link to my assignments information (at my class wiki) in ALL-CAPS and indented, just to help it stand out a bit better from the other items in the Module, which are all just declaration quizzes that the students complete to record their work in the gradebook. I like how it looks now, and I think the students will too.



screenshot of Modules page


And I will also reiterate what I said in that discussion about the Modules page: the Modules page is just sleep-inducing. When you design it well (i.e. consistently), it becomes really monotonous to look at. So, in order to make the actual assignments page both more functional AND more fun, I use a class wiki powered by PBWorks (free for educators). I keep thinking I should move from this old wiki to a newer platform, but I sure do like the way it works, and I've been using it for what must be 10 years... or even more? Anyway, a long time; PBWiki has been a good techno-friend. You can see a typical week here: Week 4.


screenshot of Week 4 class wiki


That's a random graphic there each time the page reloads, plus my latest class Twitter. every time the student visits the page (which is often during a given week), I want each visit to be a potential learning adventure, in addition to the ho-hum of finding assignment instructions. With the random graphic and the Twitter sidebar, there's always something new along with all the assignment info and links.


DAILY NEWS. I found an even better way than before of having my students access the class announcements blog in Canvas: I set up a Redirect Tool called "Daily News" in each course, and then I link to that from the course homepage... presto, the right-hand menu disappears and the blog gets all the page space (none of that wasted space at the top of the Page from the embedded version I have to use on the homepage). My left-hand menu is nicely trimmed down now too, just waiting for me to add things as the students' own blogs and projects become part of the course content. Here's the India course with the blog redirect for the daily news.


screenshot of India course: daily news page



PERMANENT URLs. Finally, when I was all done getting the Fall courses ready to go, I updated my URLs, and, to go to the latest versions of my classes; specifically, to that new Daily News link since that really is the best landing page for visitors who are not actual students in the class.


I am so fortunate that my school has Reclaim Hosting and Domains so that I have webspace of my own and subdomains I can control. That way I have a stable URL I can use for my recurring classes. It sure would be nifty if Instructure supported that kind of URL continuity for people who teach the "same" classes semester after semester. It takes me just a minute to set up the redirect to my classes each semester, and meaning that all the places where I've linked to my classes will take people to the latest version.


Okay, it's been a super-long day so I'll sign off now... excited about having my courses in place before making the big trek to Keystone next week. Happy travels to those of you on the road, and happy tweeting/blogging to those of you at home! :-)