E-Learning Instructional Design

Design Matters

As I get ready to start another e-learning course I’m thinking back to last fall’s online Politics and Law course.  Beyond the communication and motivation issues, I am convinced that design of the moodle site was another barrier to student work completion.  Any problems in design were exacerbated by a lower level of student tech savviness than I anticipated.  As I’ve heard and repeated, students today are more tech comfy than they are tech savvy.  This makes good design more important, especially for less resilient students.  The problem is that, unlike communication and motivation, I have very little experience with design.

Thus, I can probably better help students by first building their capacity to navigate the site.  Moodle’s flexibility also presents challenges in directing students to the next task.  The next time that I teach such a class I will include a quiz with Module Zero.  Students completed quizzes at a higher rate than other assignments, perhaps because they have been conditioned to treat quizzes as must do assignments.  Having a retakable quiz on the course elements is common in the UW Stout e-learning classes that I have taken and would be a good way for students to process course elements and expectations.

The one tip that did seem to help some students was suggesting they keep all of the side blocks minimized when on the site.  I typically work with the blocks open, like this:

Screen shot of online politics and law with navigation blocks on either side of the central content area open.  Creates a lot of text for students to decode.

Online Politics and Law, blocks openStudents indicated in their post course survey that they did not always know where to look for information.  This frustrated me since I put explicit descriptions about the multiple ways to access course activities on the front page.  With all of these blocks open, it may have been difficult for students to find the required information.  Closing the side blocks presents a clearer field to navigate.  I think that these two small changes will help students get off to a better start as independent learners.

Screen capture of Online Politics and Law with side blocks minimized.  Blue rectangles on either side of the main content area are much less distracting.
Online Politics and Law, side blocks closed

By Eric Beckman

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

Let me know what you think!

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