franke
Community Contributor

Do you use Weekly Overviews?

We're thinking of tweaking our weekly overview pages and I wanted to see how other schools do theirs or if they do them at all!  We have previously done this to give students an "overview" of what's coming up for the week: includes a few paragraphs of introduction, the readings and resources they have to do, as well as the assignments they need to complete (linking to them).  I've enclosed a blank example and one that's filled in.  We often have PDF's that students need to read and will include those in the module as well as the Overview page, but sometimes that feels like too much.  What do you do and what works for your school?

23 Replies
kmeeusen
Coach Emeritus

Hi  @franke 

We don't do anything as a school (2 year tech college). We are no where near that controlling, but I oft times wish we were a bit more so.

As a teacher myself, and a Quality Matters devotee (along with five QM credentials), I always use an Intro page for every module.  My intro includes:

  • Brief Description of the modules,
  • Module-level learning outcomes,
  • How to achieve those outcomes (study, assignment and assessment overview),
  • Module Schedule.

I hope this is helpful.

Kelley

franke
Community Contributor

Thanks Kelley!  I'm sure students appreciate those Intro pages that you do!  I know our students appreciate them just sometimes think there might be too much info that they don't need:)

Emily, truth is that I suspect only my top 20% pay any attention to them, and only because they pay attention to every little detail. The bottom 20% are the ones who should read them, but don't.

You can build it, but many won't come.  Story of my life as a teacher.

Kelley

franke
Community Contributor

Yes but I'd bet they'd miss it if you took it away! Smiley Happy

Agreed, just feeling a tad bit frustrated today after two students informed me they didn't realize that an assignment was due last night, despite it being documented in 5 places in my classroom - INCLUDING THAT STINKING INTRO PAGE!

Sheesh!

tom_gibbons
Community Contributor

Hey Kelley--

Here's a strategy that I use in my own classes: 

  1. Set a module completion requirement: intro page-- student must view. 
  2. Require completion requirements to be completed in sequential order. 
  3. Create a Calendar Entry for the first day of the instructional week, with a reminder to read that week's overview page, including a link to the page. 

That's it. That's all I do for completion requirements in the modules (except for Getting Started, which is lockstep). I explain to students why I do it: to make sure that they have to read the overview before they can access the assignments in the module. I'm not sure that it would necessarily solve your problem of not seeing deadlines, generally. But it does make sure that they have to at least clap their eyes on the overview page for the week. 

Yeah, I've tried that also,  @tom_gibbons ‌, and what would happen is that those same miscreants would shoot me a message on the last day of the module stating, "My 49th dog died this week, and I didn't get time to work through the intro page, and now I need to take the test!".

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tom_gibbons
Community Contributor

I've never had that happen, since all they have to do is click through the page to move on. As roadblocks go, it's not really an obstacle.

Nope, it's really not, and especially so for students who actually start working in a module early in the module period. But for those one or two students each term who live and die by the To-Do list, click on the module exam link an hour before it's due, then find they can't access it, it is a challenge. And, it's a challenge they have a hard time fathoming, because they have not actually looked in the classroom, and do not see the restrictions.

And, besides Tom, I am just whining about the few troublesome students, and actually do recognize the usefulness of a mandatory entry page for modules. You've known me long enough to know to not take me too seriously sometimes!

How is your new job treating you, by the way?

Kelley

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franke
Community Contributor

HI Tom,

I like your idea of module completion and setting a calendar entry to view each week's overview page.  As Keeley mentioned, it does work in theory, but of course there's likely to be the student that has another excuse of why they can't get to that Overview page and needs access!  It's definitely a good method though and something we could certainly try to help things.  Thank you!

I often do this too.  It helps also to put the default view on Home page.  This issue I am finding lately is that students are using mobile devices more exclusively; this does not let us control the first things they see.  I have started putting language in how to use Canvas for MY course and recently added a mobile device lesson (and its limitations) to my Online Learning 101 class.

sethgurell
Community Participant

We've been looking into this question at my institution. What we are finding is that a number of students will look at the first week or two with sharp declines afterwards and the low rates of viewing the page continue through the semester. I think course design may shape how often they are viewed. If the students are required to do the same kind of work each week there is less incentive to look at the intro page. Certainly the more actionable information (like PDF readings) you place on the overview page the more I think it motivates them to review but as you point out that can be too much.

sethgurell

I have long suspected that you are correct in your findings. My courses are designed to be very consistent to minimize confusion, make it easy for my students to find what they need, and to help my students adopt a routine that fits their schedules in completing their course-work. By mid-term, I know that many of my students are simply working from the Calendar or To-Do list.

However, I also suspect that at least some of the time their "I didn't know" is simply an excuse like "I lost my internet", "my dog ate my mouse", or "My grandma has died for the 13th time this academic year!".

I have in the past considered changing things up, and have even experimented with it a bit, but found that the confusion it created was more disruptive than the poor study habits of a few students.

Joys of teaching!

Kelley

franke
Community Contributor

Hi Seth,

This totally makes sense.  Are you using some method to determine that students viewing the intro pages declines after the first few weeks?  I suspect this is likely the case at our college as well, but we have not found a way to really measure this.  If we were to only put PDF links in the modules view and not in the overview page, I'm not sure they'd always be viewed, since we don't know how students view them.  It's questionable if they just click next from Weekly Overview on or if they just click on the Assignments and find the assignment they need to complete for the week. 

sethgurell
Community Participant

Emily,

We used Canvas Data for the analysis. I was inspired to look based on a presentation from USU and a related one by Lumen Learning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItKn0TGQMtQ&feature=youtu.be

I will say that we are still analyzing the results. I'm hoping to have an instructional designer look over them over to better understand what might be causing the differences among courses.

tom_gibbons
Community Contributor

I use overview pages in my own courses, and I make them a requirement to access the rest of the module content. 

I've played with a few different models over the years. They just keep changing. (These are all in different instances of Canvas, too. Pardon the red link text. I don't have any real control over it.)

module overview page with sections for Overview, outcomes and why this is important


module overview with sections for overview, readings, activities, journal and help


module overview with sections for overview, graded assignments, and outcomes

Boekenoogen
Community Contributor

At the beginning of each of our Units, we have Overviews and Outcomes.

276114_pastedImage_1.png  

kyoung
New Member

You are getting some good advice here.  Summarizing the above in what my biased opinion says are best practices:

  • make the overview the default home page
  • centralize the links need with an explanation for what they are (labels, buttons, etc.)
  • put in some brief but clear and specific introductory remarks about what they are expected to do and why
  • make the overview a must view item for module completion
  • include outcomes/objectives
  • put this must-read on the calendar
  • find a consistent format
  • include meaningful and accessible graphics

I've also added to this class, which is for online beginners, a captioned video overview of the module. (OLL 101)  

276130_Challenge_3--Communicating_and_Accessing_Help_Online__15-30_minutes___Master_OLL_101_3-credit.png

One thing that may be different is that my modules are not week by week.  The nature of the subject determines how long we spend. This usually works out to about 2-3 weeks each (I usually teach Humanities and English).  I have thought about using weekly overview announcements, as reminders, which would link to the Home Page/Overview.

Just to jump on the bandwagon, here are some other overview examples.

276143_English.png

276144_Hum120.png

wturgeon
New Member

I have found the Weekly/Unit overviews very helpful for laying out a road map for that unit.  I break the week into days/groups of days to encourage them to stay active in the class and not post at 11:55 PM on the last day.  I include links to the relevant discussion forums and documents in that unit's module.  

That said, I know, as some of you experience as well, that students too often skip these as unnecessary and then end up confused as to what they should be doing.  I keep my modules in a consistent format but with undergrads, I find only a small percentage really get the active nature of online courses and are independent enough to stay on top of them.  The weekly overview can be a helpful tool for all students if they use it.  

I have not made it the home page but that is aa thought.  It would involve changing the home page every unit, however.   Thanks to those of you who shared images of your weekly overview page.  I like the formatting and have never been terribly successful at getting creative layouts here.  I do include images to break up text.  

kim_vincent-lay
Community Contributor

These are some really great questions and resources! Thank you 🙂

A few to add, we just migrated to Canvas about a year ago and have a few design resources, including course templates and other suggested. Our campus uses the QLT (Quality Learning and Teaching) instrument for course design and development. It has some elements of QM and other teaching and learning research, however, it is a creative commons licensed instrument.

I find that the weekly/topical overview pages are incredibly valuable in providing the learners with the framework and resources (what to expect) for that week/topic.  Just wrapped up a Faculty/Staff Learning Community this spring and this is how I set up the Overviews for each "session"276186_pastedImage_1.png

Here's a Simple Course Template.  Also, you can find other templates and ideas on our Canvas website.

randr2b1
New Member

Hi, I'm Rebecca, a new online student at Independence University.  I just wanted to let you know the Overview Page is real handy to me and surely others. When I have finished my To Do List for the week, the Overview Page is where I head to.  I'm able to view the next week's assignments so I can get a headstart on my notes and research. It also helps in studying all the weeks before, instead of jumping from page to page.  I like it! Thanks.

Hi  @randr2b1  , and thank you for sharing a student's perspective on this topic. Many of us understand at least anecdotally that this is a best practice, but it is nice to see those anecdotes born our in student opinion. This also helps clarify the value of this practice for new online instructors.


Your participation in this community is greatly appreciated!

Again, thank you!

Kelley

atuominen
Community Participant

I like a weekly overview page too in the Modules, but I also have a scrolling homepage that offers a looser overview of what's coming up that the students have to slap their eyes on when they log in. What they see is the most recent week's overview, and maybe some feedback about an assignment for the class as a whole or shout-outs.  Students can scroll down if they'd like to review earlier week's overviews.  It's like using Announcements as a Homepage, but I just build on the same page each week.  I find it works really well because it's a little creative, personal, and students discover a different image and message each week.  Here's a snip/sample from last spring:

277979_pastedImage_1.png