E-Learning Instructional Design Politics and Law

Communicating Expectations

I’m continuing to reflect on how to better encouraging student work in online Politics and Law (guest access allowed) through better communication.  All of my students passed the course in the recent finished trimester, but that may have been due to  frequent reminders to students and parents.  In a larger class I might have the time for so much specific communication.  The course wasn’t finished when the trimester began, and much of the work to be done is simply completing it using the principals that I learned in Instructional Design. Most of the improvements that I envision are extensions of the class, as are most of the componentes that worked.

In a telling forum exchange in Instructional Design several classmates and I commented on how the variety of means to keep track of what was to be done: Learning guide, grade book, check list, course news, and module listings in the content menu.  We all used a slightly different mix of these methods to stay on top of our work.  I was able to replicate this on the P & L Moodle page, but it took a while to get it up and moving.  I built redundancy into the page:

Screen shot of the top center of moodle page for Politics and Law.  Show image of Supreme Court building with protestors, list of student reminders and the link to announcements forum
Top, middle section of Politics and Law moodle page
  • Announcements forum that listed work for each unit with hyperlinks, messages listing work for the unit were e mailed to students
  • Upcoming events and a calendar in the upper left
  • Learning guides for each unit, an example
A few weeks into the class I posted a reminder on the top of the  page for students to check each of these items, and it took a few more weeks to get the reminder and the image arranged for clarity.   At the suggestion of a student, I will augment this system with a printable check list with due dates for each module. Students reported having the most difficulty remembering to post on forums throughout a module, so I will add reminders to post to the calendar/upcoming events.  Also, I wasn’t always able to post hyperlinks to learning objects  in the announcement forum and learning guides at the beginning of the modules, because I was still creating them.  That should be better next time.
Students in my district can access live grade books online, and many use this as a method to keep tabs their work, albeit often late.  Initially a glitch in the data management system kept students from seeing grades for Online Politics and Law.  Work completion did improve a little after students and families could view this information.  It is confusing to students how they have a grade book on Moodle that is separate from their grade book through the District’s official data, and I will need to be more clear with students about how to use the two grade books.
Finally, I need to insert bridges to connect the activities in each module.  Creating these transition statements takes time, more time than I realized at first.  Being explicit about the connections between activities, however, should both help students know what to do next and make the content more coherent.  I wrote some bridges this summer for the first couple of modules, but was not able to keep up as the course moved forward.  Another idea for next time.

By Eric Beckman

I am a veteran high school history teacher interested in decolonizing history curricula, anti-racist pedagogy, and e-learning.

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