Organizing course content to encourage engagement
Recent studies have suggested that students’ emotional connections to courses are key contributors to successful online learning, alongside other more traditional elements such as the effective use of technology and access to the assigned content. In their latest article in the EDUCAUSE Review, Melissa Fanshawe, Katie Burke, Eseta Tualaulelei, and Cath Cameron offer three general recommendations for encouraging emotional engagement among students learning online:
- Focus on the teacher-student relationship.
- Let students know that you care about their progress.
- Organize the online platform clearly and logically.
While the first two recommendations seem fairly straightforward, the potential benefits of well-structured course content and activities are more easily overlooked. Fortunately, learning management systems like Collab and Canvas include handy tools to transform your syllabus or other materials into interactive pages—which streamlines navigation, reduces confusion, and prioritizes progress and learning.
If you use Collab for your course sites, you can use the Lessons tool for this purpose (also known as the Activities tool in some of the site templates available in Collab). Lessons includes options to add direct links to items in other tools in your course sites, including Resources, Assignments, Discussions, and Tests & Quizzes, allowing students to access everything in a single location. You can also add and embed text, images, videos, and checklists to track the completion of important requirements, and more.
If you’re familiar with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), you can customize the design of your pages even further. Check out the video below for a brief introduction to custom CSS in Lessons, and contact the Learning Tech team for a sample CSS file if you’d like to try it out.
If you use Canvas for your course sites, you can use the Modules tool for this purpose. Modules also allows you to add direct links to items in other tools in your course sites. Check out the video below for an overview of Modules in action.
- Kahu, E., & Nelson, K. (2018). Student engagement in the educational interface: understanding the mechanisms of student success. Higher Education Research & Development 37:1, 58-71. DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2017.1344197
- Wrigley, C., & Straker, K. (2017). Design Thinking pedagogy: the Educational Design Ladder. Innovations in Education and Teaching International 54:4, 374-385. DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2015.110821