So, What's a Module, Anyway?

Instructure
Instructure
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Someone recently asked me what I think the most important concept is when I'm training faculty. I didn't even hesitate with my answer; instantly, it was Modules. 

I know not every faculty member uses them, and I have seen some really amazing courses - especially at the higher ed level - that use a different structure. Regardless, I remain in the camp of a well-designed Canvas course will almost always use Modules. 

Admittedly - Modules aren't always the easiest concept to impart to new Canvas users. My favorite simile is that it's like a big folder, and you can put all of the great pieces of content inside for your students to see. I always emphasize that once a student is in the Module, the huge bonus is those previous and next buttons, so they can move through the content like turning the pages of a book. We can slow them down or cause them to reflect with Requirements, and we can even use MasteryPaths to further individualize their Module progression. All of this I usually accompany with a visual tour of a Module in one of my Canvas courses, highlighting the very best use cases of the tool. 

That usually begins to clear up the Modules mystery. I also wanted to share something else I created in the last few weeks that I'm hoping further helps Modules make sense to new Canvas folks.  Feel free to use it if you think it's helpful!

-Erin

Canvas Trainer/Training Team Lead - Contractors

Canvas Course Elements Infographic

21 Comments
Community Coach
Community Coach

Erin this is really cool. I must admit that it took me a little while to get used to using modules. Now where would we be without them!

Thanks for the visual too. Looks fab!

Instructure
Instructure

Thanks so much, bobby.pedersen@education.tas.gov.au! Feel free to share it with others!

Adventurer III

Thanks for the post ekeefe@instructure.com‌. Modules is one of the items teachers indicated that they'd like more training on in our district. The one thing I don't like about modules is that when a student keeps clicking that next button they will go into the next module whether that's intended behavior or not. I know you can set availability dates to block access, but there's cases where that may not work. I've considered the use of a template page as the last item of the module (ie. "You've completed Module 2!") Do you have any other design/configuration solutions to make it clear to a student that they've reached the end of a module?

Instructure
Instructure

ekeefe@instructure.com, this is awesome! Thank You for making this! The info-graph is so cool! I'm a sucker for a good info graph.

Instructure
Instructure

Oh - yes! That's very frustrating. I hear it a lot, too. I like your idea, audra_agnelly@hcpss.org, where there's a page they hit on to end the Module to indicate they've completed it. I've considered doing that myself, but haven't tried anything yet (or I'd share!).

Another thing I've seen is a graphic at the end of the last piece of the module to indicate the end...something like a stop sign, or a link that directs them back to Home page...

Instructure
Instructure

Thanks so much, Deactivated user! Feel free to use it if you have a need!

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and infograph about modules!

Adventurer

I work in a high school and set up the initial training of our teachers several years ago with an instructor from Instructure. We quickly decided that modules was the basis of how we would introduce creating content, as they lend themselves very easily to the "unit-based" nature of much K-12 instruction. For example, the science teacher might have a module on "Cells" while the English teacher has one for "The Great Gatsby." Modules are an easy concept for teachers to grasp in this environment. Also, setting up courses without them requires a more granular understanding of the way Canvas pages work and can be interconnected. To me, that is a bit of the "Wild West" which may lend itself better to the more advanced user. With modules, you can upload your files and organize your work into modules afterward, or create the initial structure of modules and then organize your materials into that structure. I think the popularity of using modules for course content has been born out by the way that Canvas now prominently displays the module choice on the home page for all newly-created courses.

Community Coach
Community Coach

I love the idea of adding a small graphic or a link back to the homepage. Then, when they reach the end of a module, there's an easy way to regroup!

Community Coach
Community Coach

I rely on modules when designing my visual arts courses. While I have designed courses without modules, I prefer how organized modules are and how students have a visual roadmap of the activities and resources. ...I have even gone as far as disabling navigation links on the left-hand side during the early weeks of a semester so students become accustomed to the module format. The real benefit of modules, I think, comes when you increase their "super-powers" with requirements/prerequisites and Mastery Paths. 

 

I wish more K12'ers embraced modules. Like Erin, I explain modules to colleagues like a 3-ring binder. It may take a bit of extra time to build, but based on the feedback I've gathered from my students, the extra effort is appreciated and helps everyone stays organized.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Good points kristin.lundstrum@delasalle.com I'm keen to see how people will use them in the earlier years K-2. Loads of potential.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

I totally agree kristin.lundstrum@delasalle.com‌!  I have had so many people tell me, "I don't use modules."  When I ask why, they tell me they just aren't ready for them.  I am not sure why the concept of using modules seems so difficult to some people.  They are a great way to organize everything that you want your students to see.  On the other side, I work in a large K-12 district and there are many teachers that are using modules at all levels.  I really think that it is a matter of understanding.  Once it makes sense to them, they get it.  I was trying to explain modules to someone a few years ago.  I was using words to describe modules such as chapters, themes, units, concepts, topics, etc.  This person just wasn't buying into them.  Then a few days later this teacher came to me and said, "So, they're like folders?" I agreed and now use the word folders as well when I am explaining what modules are.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

ekeefe@instructure.com I love the graphic organizer.  It is done in a way that is so simple and will help people understand what modules are.  I am wondering if it might be helpful to add a comment about being able to use assessments in modules as well.  The "Pages" section and the "Everything else..." section specifically state they can be added to modules.  While the entire graphic is about modules, I sometimes work with people that are very literal and if it doesn't say that they can be added to modules (when other sections do), they either question the fact, or just assume it isn't so.  While we all know we are not supposed to "assume" things, we also know it happens quite often.  lol  Either way, I would love to use this graphic with the staff in my district. ekeefe@instructure.com Thank You

Instructure
Instructure

Thanks, ryan.corris@lakotaonline.com‌! I see what you're saying - I can make another version of this being more specific about the Assessments section - will post it here when I do that! I'll tag you as well. 

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Your the best ekeefe@instructure.com!  I think people in my district will really like this!

Instructure
Instructure

Here you go, ryan.corris@lakotaonline.com‌! Do you think this will help?

Canvas Elements with Assessments

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Definitely ekeefe@instructure.com‌!  It looks great!  And thanks for keeping me posted.

Community Member

Thanks so much for sharing this. Yes! I also believe that Modules are the foundation of a well-organized course in Canvas. Moreover, I strongly urge faculty to design their course so that each module corresponds to each week of the course, if possible, laying out what the expectations and relevant assessments are for each week. This chronological orientation on the Modules page, rather than one focused on topics first, allows students to plan well.

One ID colleague of mine came up with the metaphor of Ikea -- the Modules page is the "showroom" and the Files and All Pages are the warehouse, etc. (thanks, Brian Gothberg). That metaphor sometimes helps my faculty understand how the Modules page works better.

Also, putting assignments (quizzes, assignment and discussions) right on the Modules page by week allows them to be oriented to the correct module on the Assignments page itself:

263874_pastedImage_1.png

I might not agree with the final yellow graphic, though, that recommends links to file or URLs on the Modules page itself. As a best practice, I encourage faculty to create a content page, labelled the Required Learning Resource and Activities, where they can put all the info students need each week and labelled also by what they need to do chronologically related to in-person classes - Before Class Meeting, During Class Meeting (PTs or whatever) and After Class Meeting (if relevant). For Online weeks or Online only courses, it is labelled Online Class Activities. And, so on.

263875_pastedImage_2.png

Anyway, a very interesting design conversation and thanks so much for sharing.  Jill

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Thanks for sharing the screenshots. I like the idea of having a place with required readings. If there is content to be read in the modules is that put directly in the module? 

Thanks,

Shelly  

Community Member

Yes, all content to be read or any other activities, is to be included in each Module, by week, in a content page labelled Week X - Required Learning Resources & Activities. Here is a sample Modules page view of two weeks in a course:

263974_pastedImage_1.png

So, the Modules page becomes a course map of sorts without going too deep.

There is a lot more design discussion to be had on this model related to assignments and much more. Contact me directly if you'd like more information.

Surveyor

I agree. I don't think teachers should put everything in modules. A module should contain pages and activities (quizzes, assignments, discussions). The text on a page should be written in an active voice, and talk about learning materials (external files, long pages,...). The module should be the students guide through the learning materials. There should be links on the pages in a module to learning materials and there should be an explanation for students so they know how they have to use these learning materials, and the amount of time they need to do this. I think the best container for learning materials (course texts, presentations,...) are pages.

I also think that pages that are placed in modules, should not be placed anywhere else. I often see teacher creating their content first, and then adding these different pages to modules. The problem is that most pages are not part of the story that you want to tell in a module.

For organisational reasons, I advice teachers to add the name of the module to the page name. A lot of modules start with an introduction, and because you can't organise pages in folders, the different introduction pages of a module do need a different name. For example:

Module 1: About this course

  • Module 1: Introduction
  • Module 1: learning outcomes
  • Module 1: learning materials (explain learning materials and link to resources)
  • Module 1: about the assignment
  • Module 1: assignment
  • Module 1: conclusion

Module 2: Writing an essay

  • Module 2: Introduction
  • Module 2: learning outcomes
  • ...
About the Author
Canvas Consultant. Eighteen years in public school education - brick and mortar, online, and school administration. I love adopting animals, vacationing by the water, and college basketball. ______
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