Top Takeaways:

  • When putting your course together, consider both “teacher” organization and “course” organization.
  • Organized teachers create a pattern of expectations, offer clear and frequent communication, and engage students in the learning process.
  • Organized courses create routines, are based on vetted templates, and reflect clear writing.

Timeline:

How long it takes you to organize your course will depend on the complexity of the materials and activities; however, it is essential that this is done prior to the start of the term in order to avoid any confusion about student expectations.

Imagine This…

You visit your local market to pick up some peanut butter. As you walk in, you realize that they have completely rearranged the store and your favorite peanut butter is no longer where you expect it to be. You ask three different store employees to help you locate it, but even though you feel like you’re getting closer, you never actually find it. After a considerable amount of time, you give up and walk out of the store with no peanut butter in hand.

A disorganized online course is like the rearranged market. When a student logs in and cannot easily find the information necessary to complete a specific learning task or lesson, their frustration often leads to them giving up. So what does an organized course look like?

An Organized Course

An organized course creates a pattern of expectations, which results in routines that are easy for students to follow. Instructional designers often refer to these routines or patterns as the “learning cycle.” A clear learning cycle allows students to anticipate their learning and plan ahead. Even if students enter a cycle of independent exploration, eventually, they will need to return to the established learning routines.

Clear and frequent communication with your students is essential, especially when engaging them in a learning process that is complex or multi-faceted. If your messages are coming from various sources and lack consistency, students will not be able to follow the learning cycle. They will check with other confused students, and your course will become a version of the “telephone game.” Be concise with your information, try to keep it in a central area, and keep in touch with your students.

Putting together highly organized courses allows you more time to do what you love — teach!

Tips for Organizing Your Course for Success

Instructors often use a variety of methods and strategies in their courses to ensure that students have the tools they need to meet the objectives of the course. However, when given careful consideration, how one organizes an online course becomes its own pedagogical methodology.

When considering course organization, teachers often employ a series of guidelines and/or protocols resulting in a clear pathway for learning. This includes both static elements of the course (e.g. where to find a syllabus), as well as dynamic elements (e.g. interactions around student engagement). Here are a few things to consider as you build your course with organizational pedagogy in mind.

Course Materials

Communication

  • Use the course homepage announcements tool to communicate with your students on a regular basis to create an online presence for yourself.
  • Develop a consistent routine for online discussions, including predictable deadlines for both responding to prompts as well as engaging with classmates.
  • Explore organizing online discussions using groups and sharing strategies.

Activities and Assignments

  • Use consistent terminology for describing course activities to alleviate student confusion.
  • “Scaffold” larger assignments into weekly tasks or smaller manageable chunks to make sure students stay on track.