I set up my asynchronous online courses using Blackboard's Learning Modules to organize weekly materials. If you are not familiar with using Blackboard, think of the Learning Module as a file folder that can hold files, video links, discussion board posts and assignments (and probably more) for your students all in one place. Instead of having students go to different areas of the course to find the assignments, I put all relevant materials for each lesson (in my case weekly, but yours may be longer or shorter) in one place.
I like to limit student access to the course materials in order to streamline their journey through the course. To start, I use the menu bar on the left side of the screen and set the landing page at the "syllabus/getting started" page. (You set the landing page by dragging whatever you want them to land on to the top of the list at left). It usually defaults at "Announcements" as the landing page, and I don't use announcements, so I make that invisible and move it down to the bottom of the list. I create a new section on the left side (use the plus sign at the top to add a new section) that I call "course content" and I put all of my weekly learning modules in there. I add another section called "cool stuff" where I can post information/links/stories on relevant items the students may be interested in but that aren't part of the course materials. For instance, information on live shows (not anymore...) or links relevant to a class conversation, etc.
If you prefer, you could have sections on the left for Readings, Assignments, Discussions, etc, however I find that makes students go in and out of several sections of the course and sometimes students can get lost or have trouble finding things.
Whatever way you choose to organize your course online, consistency between terms used in your syllabus and terms used online is key, so if you refer to something as a "handout" in your syllabus, try not to call it a "reading" online - try to use the same terminology. Remember, your students are about to start navigating several online courses designed by different professors with differing experience levels. Make things as easy as you can to navigate.
A bit of an overview here and then I'll share some images/sample files below:
See below for an example of a Weekly Plan and I take you inside my current Asynchronous Online Course using Learning Modules to organize materials. I hope it's helpful, please let me know if I can add anything or if you have questions.
I create a discussion board entitled "Ask Your Instructor" and I post it to the end of materials within each Learning Module - it's just a link to the discussion, so it's the SAME discussion each time, posting it in every learning module simply gives students a handy way to ask questions that come up. It is the first area of the course I check when I log in, to make sure I'm addressing any pressing matters. Often times, students will answer each other's questions here (particularly if it's a BB technical or usage question), or they find that a question they have has already been posted/answered, so encourage your students to use it (they frequently all have the same question at once, and then you're not fielding 20 questions, they have somewhere to go).
If you don't use rubrics, you should... I haven't gotten any questions about student grades since I started using them years ago (both in class and online). Using them online makes grading a snap because the points are included. Setting them up takes a little bit of time, but once you have them set, attach them to your assignments (I even make them visible to students in hopes they'll use them as a guide for doing well) and I find grading is much quicker and easier than without it. I even use a generic one for discussions with three areas:
- spelling/grammar/usage, (2pts)
- answers the question, (they don't all fully answer the question) (4pts)
- shows mastery of material (4 pts)
and then have a range A/B/C within each range.
Don't forget to include "incomplete" worth 0 points within each category in your rubric, it makes grading easier!
People across the country accessing this page - so glad to be part of this community of educators!
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