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Community Team
Community Team

Simplifying Course Design

As we start the new year I am wondering if some people have decided to simplify their course design, cutting out content, activities or communications that do not contribute to the learning process or actually act to impede it?  As New Year's is often a time for cleaning and clearing away in other aspects of our lives, I'm curious...

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This is a revelation - it almost seems too good to be true! After spending a fair amount of time learning about what can be done with jQuery in Canvas, and then being dissuaded from introducing it into designs in light of the depreciation, I don't think I can overstate how excited I am to explore H5P! Thanks cgaudreau! Smiley Happy


I'm trying to keep Canvas looking more spare using Content pages to chunk content.  No need for each reading or weblink to get its own line in a module: list them on a content page!  

And the great thing about chunking is that each item then has a web address of its own! That is one of my favorite things about Canvas compared to D2L (which we used for many years at my school). Everything has a normal URL that you can link to and share.

I use blogs for my content for the same reason (I have too much content to try to maintain it in Canvas): being able to link to a specific item of content is so convenient when you need to send students there. Just link, click, and go! 🙂


Thanks so much for starting this discussion,‌! It's certainly a worthwhile conversation to have as we traditionally kick off the spring semester.

Like you, I have never taught online (or face to face for that matter)...nor would anyone want me to!...but I do have one thought and a project that‌ and I are working on.

In our Canvas instance, we link to a Student Quick Guide in our main menu (so, theoretically, every student sees it). The thought came up awhile back that it needs some love and care...and maybe a hug or two. It's outdated, has information from when we migrated 6 years ago, and just needs to be visually updated. So Kori and I are in the process of fixing this bad boy, making it efficient, and ensuring it is actually useful for our students. Why does this page really matter? Do they even look at it!? Our Quick Guide is actually the highest viewed page in our instance according to Google Analytics! 

Reading through this thread has now got me thinking - what else can we do? It's not just a matter of what we think, but we need to know what our students think. We already have plans to survey the students to know what they are using and what they have problems with as a start to what to put in the guide - but now I'm realizing that's just scratching the surface. What can we do other than that? How else can we simplify the Quick Guide but make an even greater impact?

Asking the students is always the way to go IMO,‌! My experience is that they will give you really useful ideas.

One way I like to pose questions to students that seems to bring out more substantive comments is: What advice would you give to other students about ___? What advice would you give to instructors who are trying to ___?

There's something about asking the question that way, in terms of giving advice (instead of just "what do you think?") which brings out some good altruistic energy and more detailed responses!

Great feedback, laurakgibbs‌! Thanks for that suggestion!

Hello Tracey,

Is your presentation something you could share?

Thanks! Greg

That's a really great distinction:

Laura Gibbs wrote:

So my design mantra, instead of simplicity, is usefulness. Is each learning activity useful? Useful to the student at that moment and, ideally, useful to them in the future?

I also love that you called out "disposable assignments" -- something we've all experienced as students, and a continual challenge for teachers.

While the "Eisenhower matrix" is typically used to prioritize personal time / effort, it's also helpful in instructional design as a means of first acknowledging and then prioritizing learning outcomes or objectives:

Important & Urgent > Important & not urgent > Urgent & not important > Not important & not urgent

Acknowledging all the great learning outcomes that you could achieve is similar to the effect of writing down "to dos" -- by listing them externally it seems I am somehow less attached to them mentally / emotionally, and can then deal with them more objectively. This seems especially effective when designing learning collaboratively, since everyone has their own ideas for what should be "covered".

"Everything has a normal URL that you can link to and share."

Thanks for calling out that little (but deliberate) design choice, to make Canvas page URLs as usable as possible Smiley Happy.