The following short series of articles is meant to provide a few low-effort high-impact changes faculty can make to their upcoming courses to increase student success. They are largely organizational in nature, ways to make sure students spend more time learning material, and less time learning how to navigate a specific course. We also include a section on determining weekly student workload, which links to a tool faculty can use to calculate the total student workload for their class assignments.
Each suggestion below is linked to a more in-depth article. Most are simple tweaks, but if you need technical assistance with implementing them in either Canvas or Blackboard, and you work at Washington State University Vancouver, contact WSU Vancouver’s Academic Services.
- Publish your course while you tweak it by adding a “start here” module or folder. Instead of waiting until the class is done to publish it, publish it with at least a minimal module outlining the basics of the course (weekly meeting times, textbooks, Zoom link, etc) while you work on the rest of the course (keep the materials you are still working on hidden). This allows students to log in and prepare for the course while you tweak, and can ease the anxiety of some students.
- Organize the course for week-by-week clarity. Use a folder (Blackboard) or module (Canvas) structure for the course that organizes all materials by course week rather than material type. Make sure students have all the links to the materials and pages they need to complete that week’s work in one place. Try to have a set sequence of activities each week, and send a short (3 or 4 sentence) outline of the week’s work to students each week.
- Double-check student workload. Use a student workload calculator to double-check your estimates of how much time per week the course will require of students. If the amount is more than the credits require, consider reducing the size or scope of some assignments or assessments. If the pandemic makes some tasks more difficult for students, you may choose to account for that as well.