The first eLearning course I enrolled in in the year 2000 was a nightmare because I couldn’t find all the required pieces of the course on the website. Granted, LMS (learning management systems) were in their infancy at that point, and I honestly don’t recall which, if any, LMS was use. Nonetheless, the course left such a horrible impression on me that it took many years before I attempted another online course.
I always remember that experience when I design my courses. I’ve worked primarily in Moodle and Blackboard, and each have their pros and cons, but no matter which LMS is used, making the course as learner friendly as possible is always at the forefront of my layout.
In the Blackboard example used here, the site is laid out by module. The Course Documents page contains all documents the learners will use, including the course syllabus and assignments, in addition to links to useful sites. These documents are added to the modules in which the topics are addressed and assignments “handed out.” The multiple postings allow learners to quickly find what they are looking for.
Every module includes four elements, and they are always presented in the same order in every module. These elements are the link to the Adobe Connect classroom, a brief introduction to the module, a comprehensive To Do list, and finally, module documents.
The Adobe Connect link is every module so learners can quickly find the link if they have not bookmarked it. The introduction is short, and is essentially an explanation of the module title.
At the heart of the module is the To Do list, which contains the videos to watch, what needs to be prepared for the work, readings and assignment reminders. I also include the length of each video so learners can make an informed decision about when to watch them and the time invest required. All links open in a new window, which allows learners to quickly resume the To Do list.
A different university I taught at used Moodle, and this is where I discovered that if I didn’t set the video up to open n a new window, then the every time a learner opened the course all videos would automatically play. Learners had to click pause on every video each time they opened the course. Just imagine 3 videos per week starting … and it was a 12-week course. I was unaware of the havoc my videos were causing because the automatic playing didn’t happen in the facilitator’s Moodle platform.
Also, as you can see in the Assignment section of the screenshot, I tell learners where they can find the assignment and the due date. I found this is important because it reminds learners that the Course Documents page holds all the assignments and helps them keep track of time. In the subsequent modules I also post the assignment and the due date.
Multiple reminders and multiple means of finding information saves the learners time and aggravation. Yes, it is time consuming for me as I have to post all items multiple times, but, all material is loaded weeks before the course goes live, so I can spread out this over several days or weeks.
The most important people in a course are the learners, and as instructional designers, we must remember that if the learner does not have a positive learning experience, it reflects on the facilitator, the instructional designer, and the university.