What makes a “good AsULearn course”? What can I do to make my courses better?
Every year I get asked some form of this question. Many faculty want to refresh their course and create a well-designed AsULearn experience for their students. So they want to know what to add or improve on to make it better. It’s tough because there are no hard and fast rules for what a “good course” should look like or contain, and there are many factors to consider including the strengths as an instructor, the course content, the nature of the course and the students you teach. For example, if you’re teaching an online or blended course, the expectations will be different than if you’re teaching a face-to-face course and using AsULearn to augment your face-to-face classes.
That said, I think there are a handful of suggestions that I’d make that would likely work in any course, on any level. As a disclaimer, I’ll admit these are my “two cents” and should be taken as such, but I’d suggest my perspective has been shaped by experiences, conversations and readings of many thoughtful and skilled instructors over the years.
So here it is, a few suggestions I’d have you consider for any AsULearn course:
Suggestion 1: Be consistent.
Use one font, one color (black) and keep the design of the modules consistent. You don’t have to commit to weeks, or topics, but have a clear plan. Students don’t like guessing or being surprised by where things are. Students may even prefer a static, predictable bad design over a dynamically improving design throughout the semester.
Suggestion 2: Avoid the “scroll of death” and design for a variety of devices in mind.
The default setting for the course format is Topics, but you have other layout options in the course settings. Check out some of the options for designing your course in ways that will be easy to navigate and prevent a never-ending scroll down to the topics at the bottom. Collapsed topics is an easy way to make the scroll in the course a little more manageable. The new grid format also might be worth exploring for instructors who want a different design for the course page. You have some options for course formats that will fit your course design.
Finding the right one for you can make the site a little easier to navigate for students, especially those on devices with smaller displays like netbooks, tablets and smartphones.
Suggestion 3: Design with a variety of tools.
The course doesn’t have to be just a place to post pdfs, ppt files and post to an announcements page. There are a lot of tools available to you for online discussions, group work, peer review, online tests, live virtual communication, and student submissions. Consider the ways you’d like the technology tools available to increase the connections between you and your students and to further enable connections between the students in the course.
Suggestion 4: ...but not too many tools.
Often a few tools, used very well, are better than trying to use many tools, some poorly.
When an instructor clicks on “Add an activity or resource” there is a long list of options--maybe too many. We have all those activities and resources available to our instructors in AsULearn, and it’s because someone on campus really needs it, but in many cases you can pick a couple of tools to focus on and the experience may be better for you and your students. What’s a tool (or two) that can help you reach a learning outcome in your course? Sometimes less is more.
Suggestion 5: Design for clarity and simplicity.
Sometimes the LMS makes it too easy to pack everything into a module. In my own teaching, I’ve occasionally included resources and activities that I thought would be helpful, that ended up just confusing my students. Design for simplicity and clarity for your learners. How easy is it to find what students are looking for? Try changing your role to “student” and check. Make it clear what you want students to do in the course and how the activities and resources will help reach the learning outcomes you’ve planned (which will likely result in a more satisfied classroom).
While results may vary, those are my suggestions for a better AsULearn course design this semester. If you have questions on some of the above, feel free to reach out to our team of Instructional Technology Consultants.