Saturday, March 12, 2011

What are we doing again?

    A key problem when working with kids online/blended is communicating what you want them to do.  In K12, the traditional online tools don’t work as I would like.    

    Most Course Management Systems like Moodle have some sort of course news feature.  With Moodle, the news is the first module at the top of the stack of modules.  But it doesn’t show the actual news, unfortunately, just the link to the forum that holds the news. It takes 2 clicks to get to content.

    D2L, another CMS, puts the actual news right there for students to see as soon as they open the course.  The downside of this is that students must then navigate someplace else for discussions, course content, uploading assignments, and so on.  With Moodle, all of that can be in one central spot (great for focusing distractible kids).

    But my kids never ever read the course news.  Ever.  They would look at me and ask, “What are we doing?”  Fortunately this happened in the computer lab so I could learn right away that putting news in the course news was pointless.

    I’ve made course news invisible so it isn’t cluttering up what student see, and I’ve added a label with Directions: and a short, numbered list which is the first thing students see.  This agenda, like the sample shown, tells students what they need to get started. 

    Now, I put what I want my students to see front and center.  Zero ambiguity.  This is extra work for me (and there are definitely days when I think wistfully about D2L’s news function), but my students focus, so it’s worth it.


  1. If you have the latest news block included in the course view you can easily show the most recent "assignment instructions". I know it's less "in your face" than putting the information up front and center, but you can also use the flex page course format to allow the placement of blocks anywhere (which would accomplish exactly the look and feel you describe that D2L offers).

  2. Joe - I have the news block but keep it hidden because kids won't use it - too many clicks to get to the actual info. I will look into flex page - sounds interesting. Thanks!