By Clive Young, on 29 July 2021
A major challenge faced by our learners studying online last year was simply orienting themselves; understanding what tasks to undertake next in a module and how much time to spend on them.
As we move back into more blended delivery, students will have to navigate a rich mix of online and campus-based activities. Clear ‘signposting’ of resources and activities becomes ever more important to reduce stress and guide learners though often quite complex teaching sequences. Pre-Covid, directions could be given verbally during on-campus sessions, but over the last 18 months much of this signposting has had to be provided via Moodle. In this sense, a Moodle course becomes a ‘map’ of the student journey, displaying the structure of each module while also allowing access to its online material and activities.
We know students who are learning partially or entirely online may feel isolated or ‘disconnected’ from the learning process. It is not unusual for them to be unsure whether they have all the information they need and are doing the right things at the right times. A consistent and ‘friendly’ Moodle course design, with clear labelling of links will students help find specific resources quickly and easily. Learners also appreciate simple instructional direction, describing where, when (and why) to look for resources and how to complete activities. Students can especially benefit from suggestions on how long to spend on each task in order to prioritise and avoid overload. These simple adjustments can reduce students’ confusion and anxiety, enabling them better to focus on learning.
To make this simple redesign even easier, many departments have aligned with the UCL Connected Learning Baseline which establishes the minimum expectations, or baseline, for Connected Learning in Moodle in 2021/22. Its 10 brief sections address the practicalities of how to arrange and present a course so that it is easy to use, how to help students get the most out of it, how to manage communications, as well as a digestible overview of legal requirements, particularly accessibility. A general, baseline-aligned template (see image) was created by Digital Education which has been adapted by many departments. While there is no requirement to present the course in a specific way, your Faculty Learning Technology Lead (FLTL) will be able to advise if a local template is available.
Whether a template is used or not – and given everyone’s time constraints – we suggest focusing initially on the first five sections of the Baseline, covering structure, orientation, communication, assessment and resources. These five sections make recommendations for making your course more ‘friendly’, useable, and navigable. For example, we know that simple welcome videos that provide an overview of the module and/or sections within it are much appreciated by our students.
Beyond these basics, a real positive outcome of the last 18 months is that staff and students have become much better at using Moodle to its full potential, including for example using quizzes to help engagement and of course including pre-recorded short lectures in Moodle as a springboard for seminars (on campus or online). If you are interested these and other approaches, there is a wealth of help available online (linked from the Baseline page) and again, your Faculty Learning Technology Lead (FLTL) or Digital Education Advisor should be able to assist.