Improving Course Navigation and Clarity

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In their research on the common traits of best online and face-to-face classes, Rebecca Glazier and Heidi Skurat Harris found that clarity is a vital component of effective online teaching. Here are some strategies to enhance the clarity of our courses:

  • Create a “course tour” video where you show students all the features and where to find things in your course.
  • Hide unused features in Canvas.
  • Have a consistent naming system for specific activities and assignments throughout the course
  • Add shortcut links within the course so that students do not have to go on a hunt for materials. It also useful to create multiple ways for students to access the same materials.
  • Embed videos in Canvas rather than link them out.
  • Consider creating a liquid syllabus, which means that you are using a web tool to create a highly shareable and phone-friendly syllabus. See Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s work for more details and see her great example here.
  • Use color coding and icons to organize materials and types of activities.
  • Mid-quarter debriefs and surveys help us know what works and what does not so that we can make adjustments. Asking for feedback early in the term is also useful for adjustments.
  • Create assignments with due dates so that students will see them in their Canvas calendar and get a reminder. You can also add events to the calendar so that students will get a reminder for ungraded activities.

  • Have your course fully scheduled and planned out ahead of time and stick to a structure all quarter. Creating a weekly schedule that repeats all quarter is also very helpful. Having a weekly, predictable rhythm really helps students keep track of what is due. Here’s an example:

This is the weekly schedule that we will follow all quarter:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Draft due Reading responses on discussion board Peer reviews due Synchronous class meeting Reflection on feedback and revision

Note: Having deadlines every day of the week might be too much for students who are operating in times of trauma. While this structure works well with online classes, consider reducing the number of deadlines for emergency remote instruction.