09 May 2012

Making Course Improvements

I'm in the middle of some mind-numbing tasks that involve copying/restoring every district course (some of them twice!) in preparation for the Summer/Fall sessions and the move to the new Moodle sites. In my work I get to glance at some of the existing courses and I'm noticing some things that could be tweaked to make improvements:

It's time to get rid of every PowerPoint file. 
This has become one of my mantras. Seriously, why are we still using them? My theory is that they were uploaded when many online courses were still just a collection of resources that teachers used for the face-to-face version. I'll save the long version of my reasoning for another time, but how many of you are learning content from looking at PowerPoints you find online? I don't think that this was ever an intended function of the tool but it has come to be something on which many online teachers rely. If you must, make a screencast of them and embed it. Let's move on.

Do you really need your PDF file?
It's something to consider. Is the content so valuable that your user must have his/her own copy of it? If not, embed the text in the page. If you have to use one you can embed a link to the file instead of making a link to it on the main page of your class and refer to it somewhere else. When you talk about a thing, link to that thing.

Work on that Course Intro
Does your Welcome Message or Introduction take up the entire screen? Why not take all that information and put it on a page within your course and have that be the first thing on which the student clicks? Do you really need a student who is 70 hours into your course looking at the welcome message each time they log in?

Enough with the highlighting
If you want to make your text stand out there are just some colors that don't contrast very well, nor look nice over a white background. If it's hard to read it won't get read.

In the case of online courses, good enough is not good enough any more. We have too many students who come to us as a final option and need the kind of engagement and interaction that is possible in an online setting. How many students don't get started or stop taking online courses because we're not using some of the tools at our disposal?

More improvement suggestions to follow...