25 May 2012

More Course Improvement Suggestions

Well, it's done; I've looked over every online course and am back with some more suggestions.

While many of these come from looking at online courses, I've seen hundreds of Moodle spaces for face-to-face and blended/flipped courses as well. I think it's safe to say that most courses started out as a supplementary resource for students that were in class every day. Eventually all of the course resources were uploaded and then that meant that they were ready to be used as an online class. Thankfully, the courses I've reviewed are quite a few steps beyond that but I think that what is relatively consistent is that the design as content was put into Moodle stayed that way.

When taking curriculum courses for my undergrad and Master's degree I remember hearing over and over again how much color and images can facilitate student engagement, help them remember information and make things look more interesting. That's probably even more true in the online setting since there is no teacher there giving the supporting commentary as the lessons/activities are being handed out.

One of the things I've really encouraged teachers to take advantage of is to align images next to content in their Moodle courses (on and off the main page).
Moodle 2 image hack: This will allow images to be aligned within text in Headers:
course/format/topics/format.php &  course/format/weeks/format.php 
Files have been altered so that 
$summaryformatoptions->overflowdiv = true; has been changed to $summaryformatoptions->overflowdiv = false; 
Warning: There are two places in each file this edit needs to be made.
It is a shame that it now requires a hack in order to get them to embed next to text on the main page of a course. It's well worth the 3-5 minutes it takes to make it though. I would argue that images that relate to the content can help facilitate faster navigation because a student can quickly scroll (don't get me started on scrolling) if need be and not have to read the text but look for an image that means something to them. It also just looks so much nicer and why wouldn't we want that?

Speaking of Navigation, the Topics in Moodle can now be renamed so it is worth the time to take that text that was in your header and using it to name your topic because this also shows up in the Navigation Block. Better to say something about the content than Topic 1. Speeding up access to content will make it more likely that a student will find it without problem. If there are problems then the content gets ignored.

One of the things I've been working on in my own courses is to use the formative assessments as another mechanism to reinforce concepts and ideas. No matter the student response to a question the feedback that is generated is reminding them of the correct answer. I'm hoping that this helps save me some time next year when I'm trying to teach 20 students in different places within my course how to create a proper Works Cited page. If the quizzes on these topics are easy and fun then taking them is not so bad and it all helps them fill in their progress bars.

More course suggestions on the way in the coming days...