What are your top 5 design must-haves?
Hi all! I hope you don't mind me popping in, I have instructional design experience, but only briefly, at my previous job. I'm now working for a tiny liberal arts college and as I was researching the trend in instructional design I encountered an interesting article on the importance of instructional design, but also the role in such positions in widening the gap between high and lower budget and sized schools.
My current school has no instructional guidelines at all and no one on staff to officially create them. My position is as close as we have, so I'm looking into it. I've stumbled upon two others on staff in different (non ID related) roles who have previous experience in this area, and as we're about to launch a curriculum overhaul, it seems the perfect time to pitch adding at least a baseline few elements.
So here's my question: for a school that is likely years away from a single dedicated instructional designer (much less a full instructional design team), what are your top 5 must-haves in a course before it goes out the door? Where is the highest impact in instructional standard or design that will get us thinking about the most important things and seeing an impact sooner rather than later?
I can't launch into a full one on one ADDIE analysis with each faculty member on every one of our nearly 300 courses, nor would I get any support from the faculty or dean in doing so, but if I can pitch a few specific, high impact practices, and ask that they be included in the redesigned courses, I think I might be able to find traction.
What are your thoughts? To be clear, we currently have no requirements for course elements at all other than a basic template for the syllabus. Courses are not yet required to have any online presence.
Here are some of my initial thoughts for instructional and general design, in no particular order, after a day or two of thinking casually about this:
- Incorporate a branded (or at least on-brand-ish) home page for the new courses based on if they are core or specialization to give the new curriculum a unifying theme and connection to the new branding and initiatives
- Prioritize at least one activity per course (could be flexible, based on course objectives) emphasizing social learning to make the most of our small size, on campus classes and close community
- Require the basic learning modalities be present in all new courses
- Encourage (or require?) some competency based elements to allow for individualized learning
- Assist building faculty in doing a backwards analysis of each new course in the early stages
- Standardizing a few key course components to assist in ease of use, especially for later in life learners (we're a brand new Canvas school), thinking course navigation, a few set of set up options such as modules or a home page or both, etc
Basically, I just need your thoughts of things I can promote to a culture that doesn't see the importance of instructional design (and won't require a full support staff to implement) but can make small, high visibility/impact changes.
What are your top five in a class before it goes live, if you could only have five? Assume you're starting at a baseline of word documents on a professor's PC (MAYBE dumped into the Canvas files, if we're lucky) that are often printed or emailed to the students, and in-person lectures and discussions with traditional papers and tests.
amandabass, this is going to be a very helpful discussion. Our large K-12 school district has adopted Canvas teachers and administrators at all levels will be building content to be shared with students and staff. One thing our district did was provide templates to help users get started. The templates include several of the elements you listed: district branding, outline of suggested components, resources in Commons.
You also had the good idea to suggest elements to allow instructors to make choices that make sense for their instruction. Our district is recommending that teachers include calendar items, a syllabus and one posting (discussion, quiz, link, etc.) to begin the first quarter. (It will be different for higher ed.)
When I build a course I like to have checks for understanding that are self correcting - even when I can monitor, participants get the feedback needed.
I'll look forward to seeing what others recommend here.
That's a great thought, can you tell me who created those templates? We have our communication people who cover branding, are they the ones in your district who helped with that? I didn't mean to leave out the K-12 folks, I know lots of small Canvas K-12s are in the same boat! You may not be able to share, but if you are, can you share a screenshot of one of those templated pages to give me an idea of how and what was customized?
What a great discussion topic! I would like to second what Nancy said: feedback. In addition to feedback for learners about their learning, I would add that having ways to gather feedback ABOUT THE COURSE from learners throughout the course is essential; don't just wait until the end of the semester to find out how things are going. Think of ways to get feedback from the students continuously in order to be ready to make improvements to the class when the re-design moment arrives.
After all, re-designing is the key: you design once; you re-design many times.
I just shared a blog post yesterday (written at request of another online instructor at my school) about one simple way to gather student feedback at any time during the course:
That is a great one-word tip, and I'm hoping something that will easily resonate with faculty and administration. We *are* a google school, so I'm thinking (hoping?) the google form integration could be even easier. That's a brilliant idea, especially while doing a curriculum re-imagining. Thank you!
This is a great post and I think your starting ideas sound like good ones. I wanted to weigh in with my own thoughts, but these are not so much five things a course should have as it is five things that will help your faculty get started on the right foot:
- Provide a Canvas course template – you can browse the commons for these or make your own. But I strongly recommend you try to establish a consistent structure that makes it easy for faculty to create an online element that allows them to flip the classroom or go hybrid or online later. We have templates that my department created for our school and it’s standardized to meet Quality Matters standards.
- Strongly encourage a modules/pages structure for Canvas – you’ll get this if you use somebody’s template, but I think the biggest mistake of newbies is not understanding why this structure is better than just dumping into course files area and making disaster of a digital filing cabinet available to students!
- Introduce Quality Matters or some other information re designing and teaching quality courses, especially as more technology gets leveraged– like I said, we reference QM in everything we do, but you can use some other rubric like QOLT rubric or something else. The idea being that it introduces faculty to the idea that when they do decide to leverage Canvas and other educational technology, it’s really important to do so in a way that employs universal design strategies, addresses accessibility, and hopeful fosters active learning. Collect a few basic documents on best practices on a webpage somewhere and link to those in your template. John Martin, however, has started compiling some good stuff in this thread. Make sure to check out his Google doc on this, maybe you can share that. Even though your school doesn't require using Canvas, people will start using it and I think it's important to avoid people getting started off on the wrong foot.
- Import a Canvas training course for faculty from commons – instructure has created one with videos already embedded and Kona Jones created a good one (you’ll need to edit out the references to her school). This is a great way for faculty to get excited about all the things they can do with Canvas and start adopting things.
- Create an accessible syllabus template – You indicated that you have a template that says what elements all syllabi must have, but we've found providing a pre-formatted one that is fully accessible is a good idea.
Thank you Bethany, I'll review those resources. Right now I'm just building a case, without institutional support it'll continue to be piecemeal, but I'm hoping!
The @johnmartin recommendation was great. I found through his references the James Paul Gee video on Gamified course design and put it into an annotation software that I'm going to send out to my faculty. Anyone else who would like to do so is welcome as well!
Does anyone have any other really good video resources like this, espeically if given by faculty members? I can't figure out who produced this video and how to find more
@asatkins -- great topic! My top five would include many of the ones already mentioned by you and others but here they are:
- Definitely create an accessible syllabus template and go one step further to explain to faculty how simple it is to create a Word document that "looks exactly like their syllabus" but by making some easy changes become accessible and help them to understand why accessibility helps not just those with disabilities but all students. I've attached a sample Word document that I've annotated for our undergraduate faculty to guide them in creating standardized, branded, accessible syllabi.
- Strongly suggest Quality Matters, something like it, or implementing some of the sound principles they recommend such as providing a home page in Canvas that introduces students to the course, the instructor, where to get help, and where to get started in the course. While it often seems perfectly clear to us that -- you start "there" -- students often flounder.
- Strongly encourage instructors to use the same Canvas tool set (when it makes sense to meet their learning objectives) and to keep the tools in the menubar in the same sequence. Our faculty always like to keep all the tools exposed, but I encourage them to think of Canvas tools like building blocks -- they can use as many blocks as they want/need to create a good learning environment for their students, but just like a carpenter doesn't leave all her tools around when the building project is completed, put the tools in their correct places in the Modules tool so students can move through the "house" without unnecessary impediments.
- Read up on Mary-Ann Winkelmes's work on creating transparent assignments https://www.unlv.edu/provost/teachingandlearning - this is a study that faculty can choose to be part of, but take the time to explore the site. I've attached one of her samples to show you how she fleshes out the assignment. Winkelmes has done some fantastic research on assignments and how students often think of assignments as busywork. By building assignments showing the purpose, the skills the learners will build and the knowledge they will gain, the steps for completion and what it will take to be successful it serves two purposes. Students understand there really is a purpose to the work and how it will further their knowledge in their field. It also helps faculty to focus their assignments, to see how they fit into the goals of the course, and occasionally causes them to realize that something really is just busywork. Students reportedly love the transparent assignments and it's something faculty can implement with, say one major assignment, and get some feedback from students then gradually work on others. Not to say that every assignment needs this much, but the "big ones" will benefit.
- Start slow. Don't try to get faculty to use all the cool tools that Canvas has or can link to. Pick out something that you know will help that faculty help the students to reach the learning goals and implement that well. After that flies for a while and lands without a bump, pick out another one (or encourage the faculty to choose something). From the baseline you described. I think setting up an (a) accessible syllabus, (b) creating a template home page introducing the course, faculty, technology and course navigation (I've attached a screenshot of our model page), (c) dropping those files into Modules, and (d) creating a transparent assignment for the course's biggest project will make an amazing difference and not be particularly arduous to implement.
Hope you find these helpful. Feel free to chat sometime if you have questions or want to bounce ideas around.
Cynthia, what a great and resource heavy reply, thank you so much! My old school had quality matters, but to my understanding it can get fairly costly. Am I missing some outward facing standards or basic tools that are not part of their subscription?
I am already requesting that they have at minimum a syllabus presence in Canvas for every course, but I like the idea of the home page as well, with a few minimum elements (course, instructor at a minimum?). Faculty are resistant to using submissions and grading in Canvas, so I might work on syllabus, course home page, and getting information into modules. I'm going to review the transparency study now, it looks really interesting, thank you for directing me there!
Unfortunately QM is pricey and they deliberately do not have outward facing resources. However, it's been my experience that if you study up on sound online principles, you are learning what QM teaches -- they just assign values to it, annotate it heavily and make it easier for peer reviewers to review consistently.
I understand the faculty's hesitancy in online submissions and grading -- and much of depends on whether they are strictly face-to-face or have totally or partially online content, in my opinion. For our face-to-face classes (most of the undergraduate program), we encourage our faculty to post the syllabus in Canvas at a minimum so that students can access textbook requirements and get a broad overview of the course prior to walking into the classroom the first time. We also encourage faculty to require an online introduction (to start them off slowly) -- the rationale is that when students are new to one another and hearing in-class introductions, they are busy thinking about what they will say. Later on, when they are looking for a study buddy or need clarification about an assignment, they can look for kindred spirits in the introduction posts.
When I first read this thread yesterday my thought was to encourage using a rubric with the hope that some of the items brought up there would generate further conversation. I agree that QM is pricey relative to Amanda's situation. For that reason I would recommend re-purposing the OSCQR rubric. It is openly licensed and raises some good points. Our institution is in the process of adopting a modified version of OSCQR and early feedback has been positive.
cholling That is a great secondary requirement, especially for first year and transfer students! I think the students would really appreciate it. Honestly, *I* would really appreciate it, lol. I see students around all the time and I could do some name-learning homework by wandering through classes
I'm wondering if having the students fill out their profile pages would be more functional, as it goes with them from course to course? Or have you found that having it within the course has its own value?
sethgurell thank you for that, I'll look into that as well! I'm trying to start slowly, but I need to have an idea of where I'm trying to lead people before we start walking, so that's a great resource!
If you want to get into course design help (not just tech), I might put together a simple "backward design worksheet" for faculty to use when planning courses. For example:
What do want students to be able to DO?
Summative Assessment -
How will students show they can do that?
Formative Exercise(s) -
How will students practice that skill?*
Content Delivery -
What content do they need to learn the basics?
|Differentiate between fruits and vegetables||Fruit/veg questions on final exam||Drag-and-drop practice quiz||Read Chapters 6 & 7, "Fruits" and "Vegetables"|
|Plan healthy meals||Present a week's menu of healthy meals (group project)||Food pyramid game||Web quest: "what is 'healthy'?"|
|Eat a new vegetable||Write reflection on 3 new vegetables they tried||Farmer brings in veggie snacks||None|
* Note that this step, which is where the bulk of the actual LEARNING occurs, is the step most often left out of course design
For classic backward design, you work this from left to right - but it can be very helpful for faculty to take what they currently have and fill in the boxes. My faculty invariably have tons of stuff for the right-hand column, some vague wording for the left column, hit-or-miss for the summative column, and zilch for the formative column.
Thank you, Emily! That is way less complicated and involved than anything I've seen in my initial glancing around. Filling out spreadsheets is definitely something our faculty can handle!
This is a terrific conversation, Amanda! There is a big difference in the process between courses designed with an ID team, and those that are developed by faculty, but I think you're well on your way just by thinking about what faculty can and will do.
In the California Community Colleges, we've developed an Online Course Design Rubric to guide faculty course developers. It has 4 main areas: Course Design, Interaction, Assessment, and Accessibility. You can access the Creative Commons licensed rubric on the Online Education Initiative's website: Course Design Rubric
Best of luck to you!
What an amazing discussion! My background is as a high school teacher, and now I work with faculty at a large University as an academic technologist. We are just beginning our conversion to Canvas, and are using that to encourage better design as well. I'll admit my take on your discussion is tempered by our context, that we had to take small realistic steps that would maintained by our faculty.
- A graphic on a home page that quickly identifies the course. (We are also using it the Dashboard card, but will admit that in use, most people click on courses and choose from the list rather than using the dashboard.)
- Consistency! This is all about modules set up the same way or pages set up the same way within a class so there is a pattern to the order, instructions and pacing of the course. The modules/pages choice is a rampant discussion here. My take is that for courses where the instructor attempts to put explanation with resources, pages are better as more text can be used. For instructors that simply dump resources, modules are easier to manage.
- Proximity. We have some historical artifacts in our classes that have resulted in resources for assignments (including instructions) being separate from the place where the assignment is submitted. As we are transitioning, we are merging those. It reduces the scroll of death and helps prevent students that use calendar and the todo list from missing things.
- Set due dates. Our old LMS made it really difficult to change the dates year to year, so many instructors did not set dates. Canvas makes that much easier so now it is very worthwhile.
- Use announcements. One of our units is encouraging instructors to use the announcement tool. Often they simply use email, and even if it is in the canvas inbox, those emails can be lost. The functionality of the announcements to have a list of previous, put announcements on the front page, and allow replies to announcements make it a much better tool.
- Accessibility. During our transition we are doing what we can to improve accessibility. Right now that is about using headings. With improved transitions between word processing programs, and improving acceptance of Google (we are a Google school), our next attempt may be to get instructors to stop making inaccessible PDFs and just use the files as resources. Closed captioning is an ongoing battle.
These are just site design and usability issues. What we really hope to do in our work is improve teaching practice. The realism there? Lecture is the old way, try something new. Really its not about ending lecture, because that is a difficult thing requiring the development of many skills that faculty simply have never used. One step towards something else, and then another, and then another is how we make slow progress. First steps are usually in-class polling, then maybe an online discussion or an authentic assessment. We have a increasing number of instructors moving towards active learning in the classroom, and they are so innovative, we just help with whatever they are trying.
Really enjoying this whole conversation and looking forward to learning new things!
Thank you so much, @kbink , that's about where we are as well. We were a Moodle school, but that was a very loose association. I looked back into fall 16 and we had only 17% of courses with any Moodle presence at all. After half a semester in Canvas, we're already at 36% of courses published for the semester, which is huge!
As for the modules/pages discussion, my old school went back and forth on that too. From what I've seen, it seems like even if you have heavy content more appropriate for pages, it still makes sense for you to put those pages in modules so they're organized and set in place. Do you think it makes sense to leave them in the pages location? I've always been pretty pro-module, so I might just be missing something!
Consistency is also close to my heart, but it's going to be an uphill battle here. This school was chartered in 1901 and one of the core principles is a fierce individuality that translates up through the instruction. Faculty have always had complete freedom to teach their courses however they choose, which has great elements, but certainly has drawbacks too. I can't imagine how chaotic that must feel to students, especially first years. Do you have any tips for pitching the positive side of consistency without losing individuality?
Ah, the consistency I pitch is consistency within a course. That course image and home page is our only attempt to get any consistency between courses. So yes, everyone does their own thing, but as we are touching the courses we are trying to encourage the same headings in an overview page or the same order and type of items in a module. And the same instructions for repetitive assignments. Between courses - yeah, no consistency here either, though we are usually using Modules as a standard which gets a bit closer. That will disappear before long, I'm sure.
As to the pages and modules, I think having can lead to confusion for students. Is the Assignment 1 on the page the same as the assignment 1 in Modules? More importantly, I think if you do it both ways, students will simply go to modules and jump right to assignment 1. If instructors have important context about assignment 1 and they are giving it in Assignment 1's description, then they have no need for the page. If they are giving important context around the assignment that is not contained in the Assignment 1 description, then student should visit the page first to get to the link. Having both is a duplication and you know students will go where ever it is quickest. They will click on Assignment 1 and miss any important context given in the page. I say go one or the other. We go further and we are removing all things from the course menu except the one way into the content. If I was using pages, I would link them on the home page and not have pages show (because I likely also have content pages. I may even put the pages each in their own module so the next and previous buttons will work). If I have Modules, pages are hidden, along with assignments, quizzes, and files.
We've had one useful exception to this rule. In one course, all the lecture stuff was organized on pages linked on the home page and all the lab stuff was organized in the modules. I've had one student tell me she really liked that because it was so easy to find the stuff when it wasn't intermixed.
Thanks for the discussion! Good luck with your transition. We were at abut 95% usage of Moodle, so we have a lot of content to transfer.
I guess my thought with pages/modules was to remove the pages navigation, put the pages and the assignments in modules, and then just use prerequisites to make sure they're viewed in order? But I guess that locks out a lot of looking ahead, so that might not be preferable.
The pages/modules use case is interesting, I'll have to see how my lab courses are set up, that's a good thought.
Thank you for the conversation as well! I'm glad for the clarification, within a course is a lot more feasible for us
I just wanted to give you my two cents on pitching consistency, because it's really important. You could reference universal principles of design and talk about QM or other rubrics and how they emphasize it, but I just use the analogy of book publishing.
Nobody goes to a book publisher wanting the glossary in the front, the table of contents in the back, and for it to be made into an inverted triangle shape book with the binding on the top hoping that makes their book to stand out from all the others on the shelf. Why? Because books have been around a long time and after they evolved from scrolls into what they are today, even the digital format is in the same consistent structure as we've been using. You can find the publishing information is in the same place for all books worldwide!
The structure should be invisible to the user, period, so as not to distract from the content. Too many people are worrying about their course looking cookie cutter are wasting their time IMHO. Too often their learning objectives, content, activities, and/or assessments need some kind of attention, and that's they should be focused on. And since we're talking about where to put thing, I put those content pages in the modules. I do not think it's a good idea to have pages enabled for students. Have you ever gone looking for a page to edit in a huge class with a bunch of pages? It's horrible even when I know what I"m looking for. A student wouldn't know what to look for and when. Unless, of course, they want back to the syllabus, did some sleuthing, and maybe emailed the instructor what the name of that page is.
iNACOL - the International Association for K-12 Online Learning - has very good resources geared toward K-12. One is their National Standards for Quality Online Courses. Although it has not been updated since 2011, it offers a wealth of good advice that can be applicable to colleges as well.
I notice that others are offering good resources and suggestions for online courses, but I did not get the impression from your post that your school is necessarily building an online program. Many of the same principles of instructional design would apply if your courses are all face-to-face, but I would likely recommend a few tweaks.
FYI, the iNACOL document I referenced is meant to "provide those new to the field with a better understanding of how online content and digital tools and resources can be implemented in both face-to-face classrooms as part of a blended learning environment as well as within a fully online course."
That is a good point. I'm coming from an online school though, so I think a lot of it is applicable I am interested in specific strategies physical schools use to encourage and implement these steps though. When I was with an online school you used canvas or you didn't attend the school, and the courses were all developed by a design team. It's a whole different world here!
Hello fellow instructional designer who recently started at an institution that hasn't had one previously!
There are already a lot of really wonderful suggestions and resources above, but I'll put another punt in for clearly articulated, measurable learning objectives with formative and summative assessments as a top priority.
One thing I don't see called out explicitly above is developing some sort of online norm setting document. This will vary from instructor and instructor and class to class, but it's important that students and instructor have clear expectations about online engagement and behavior. Some questions to consider might include:
- How often are students expected to log in?
- How often will the instructor (and TAs, if applicable) be logging in?
- If the class has online discussions, what are participation expectations? (Frequency, number of posts, quality/content of posts, etc.)
- What does a good post look like?
- What sorts of participation should students expect from their instructor and/or TAs in a class discussion board?
- Will posts be evaluated? If so, how? When?
- What kind of tone is expected/acceptable in discussions, chat, etc.? Is this a board where less formal communication is fine, or should students be practicing their formal academic discourse skills?
This was just off the top of my head--I'm sure someone else on here has something a bit more polished. This is something that I've been recently thinking about and have on my docket to do a bit more research on. (Not to threadjack, but if anyone has some leads on this topic, but would love to see them.)
That is a good thought, with all of our classes still fully residential, that's a good point. That answer may vary wildly between instructors, so it would be great to ask them to consider the answer to those questions and post expectations clearly at the beginning of the course. I'd be interested in any suggestions as well, so no need to apologize.
Part of my current difficulty is that I'm not actually in an instructional design role, as academic techonologist my main role is to find/vet software for faculty to use in teaching, which includes Canvas of course, but is technically not a curriculum role. We don't *have* any curriculum roles officially, however, so I'm trying to make a pitch to allow my position to fill a bit of that need. I don't hope to transition to it full time, my interest has always been more on the technology side than the pure curriculum side, but I can't do my side well without the instructional design piece
I'm sitting here with a canvas trainer, and here are her top three design things she suggests sharing with all faculty that are building their own courses.
- Clean up the course menu - take away everything you aren't using.
- the home pag - engage, inform, guide navigation. Engage but putting some kind of visual - a banner, an image. Inform - choose the most important information used throughout the course. Navigation - Guide them where they go: "
- Leverage modules - customize when things open automatically, organize, set prerequisites.
Those are all manageable, great advice, thank her for me! I think all three of those are going to make the final cut. I have to be careful not to poke too close to the actual curriculum design too often (I'm not faculty and not officially in any sort of curriculum role) so although I think I'm going to share @emily 's simplified backwards design chart, and other than that, stick to just Canvas changes, so I'm not seen as overstepping into the curriculum world too early.
You bring up a very good point about overstepping your role at your school. I am in the enviable position of being the Canvas Admin at my school with 20 years teaching experience at other schools and still currently teaching. I guess the new aged term would be, "I gots cred, Man". Cannot tell you useful this is.
You can, lol, I'm quite aware Fortunately I have a line to the curriculum committee via a bit of a back way, so I'm hoping that this will go to my boss then the president then come back (in whatever edited form) as part of the curriculum change, vs something from me I guess we'll see though, wish me luck!
Thank you so much everyone! I'm still looking for suggestions and loving the conversations here, so please keep posting if you like!
After reviewing the suggestions and looking at what might be feasible for my school right now, I boiled it down to four main recommendations, which I linked to as part of a larger proposal. Most of the rest of the letter is pretty specific to my school, but I thought I would share the recommendations, since you all helped create them! Feel free to copy/edit/use any of this if it helps you!
EDIT: I posted this above, but since this is sort of the 'summary' comment, I'll repost it here. @bethany_winslow suggested the @johnmartin resources, which led me down a rabbit trail to this awesome gamified course design video. It's 23 minutes, so I annotated it for easier access. Feel free to pass it along if you find it interesting! I'm hoping to do more videos like this, but they have to be on youtube (Canvas video tutorials are unfortunately on Vimeo). If you know of any great ones on Youtube let me know!
amandabass - I was looking in the community for something and happened to stumble your discussion. Thank you for posting your question! On my wish list for the longest time (3+ years) was the idea of creating a checklist of what should be included in a quality Canvas course. I've been working on that project for the past few months with a couple of other amazing colleagues, @erin_keefe and Deactivated user and I'm happy to report Course Evaluation Checklist was recently posted in the Canvas Community. I've added the link here in hopes that it helps you and others! I'd love to hear your feedback.