Structure Your Course
If you’re to the putting it together stage we’re going to presume you already have the following:
- Clear and measurable learning outcomes
- Assessments that can show to what extent your students have met the learning outcomes
- Activities and other active learning strategies to allow students to practice doing what you describe in the learning outcomes
- Content that provides sufficient information, explanation, and demonstration, in both written and visual form, for students to successfully reach the learning outcomes.
Consistency is the Key
While there are many different ways to organize your course, once you choose your strategy the best thing you can do for your students is to implement it as consistently as possible. Making sure that assignments are always due on the same day of the week and modules always begin on the same day of the week goes a long way to providing structure.
Students also benefit from consistently having an overview of each module describing what they are to do and learn. By placing an overview (in person, written and/or on video) at the beginning of each module as an advance organizer, students are better prepared to complete it. The overview should also include a list of reading (identifying chapters from books or linking to digital resources) and brief assignment descriptions or links to Assignments, Discussions, or Quizzes where the full descriptions are. Some faculty members like to put the overview description or video on one page and then readings and resources on a subsequent page and then have assignments and activities follow individually in the module. Either way is good as long as you pick one approach and use it consistently.
Even if you are working from a strong constructivist frame, when putting your course together make sure to keep in mind the scaffolding provided by the three phases of direct instruction .
- I Do: How are you modeling and explaining new material and the ways in which new material connects to previous concepts? See the Multimedia module for ideas on presenting these think-alouds and walkthroughs.
- We Do: How are you guiding and coaching the learning process? Providing prompt and actionable feedback is one way but preemptive checks on understanding and formative feedback can help support learners before misunderstandings are documented in assignments.
- You Do: How are you providing independent practice? Keep in mind, independent doesn’t have to mean alone. Group work can provide collaborative practice independent of the instructor.
The Long and the Short of the Modules Tool
Using Modules in Canvas to organize your course content makes organization and navigation easier for yourself and your students. It is the place where you organize your activities, content, and assessments in the order in which you want your students to progress through them. Having all instructions, content, activities, and assignments in the Modules tool avoids the problem of telling students to “go there and do this” and then “go somewhere else and do that.”
A very important benefit of the Modules tool is that, by organizing all your content, assignments, quizzes/tests, discussions, etc. in Modules, you can hide the Assignments, Quizzes, Discussions, Pages, and Files tools in the left navigation list from student view. This gives students one and only one place to look for everything. That means fewer “where is ____?” questions for you and less frustration for your students.
The more doors students have to the same items, the more confusing it is for them and the harder it is to be sure they are in the right place. This is because in Canvas, all of the other tools organize these items differently than you do in Modules. For example:
- Discussions are in order by time of most recent comment, so if an earlier discussion is still attracting comments it could even be automatically placed above the current module discussion
- Assignments are in a list in the order created unless you grouped them by assignment groups and put them in chronological order manually
- Files are grouped in folders to the extent that you build a folder structure for them
- Quizzes and Discussions will appear on their own tool page and also on the Assignments Tool page if they are graded, so you can see how easy it can be for students to get out of place in the course which causes more confusion and delay.
There are two schools of thought about how to organize items in Modules: the long version where every item is a separate part in the module including links and readings as well as activities and assignments and; the short version where each module begins with an overview Content Page that includes a list of the books or chapters for the module as well as links to other items the students are to read, watch, and explore.
Making each item a separate module element can significantly increase the length of the module and long modules can appear overwhelming to students and reduce motivation. On the other hand, instructors are concerned that students skip over readings and don’t explore links unless they are required to progress through them one at a time. Having a separate module element for each and setting the module to require students to move through each item individually in sequential order to reach the activities and assignments can mitigate that concern.
The content found here was designed by Indiana University and adapted for use by the Institute for Faculty Development at Vanguard University. This material is offered under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license and should be considered under this license unless otherwise noted. The original content was imported from “Designing and Teaching for Impact in Online Courses” from within Canvas Commons.