Redesigning Course Orientations

A major challenge in developing online education is orienting the students to the learning environment and the resources that are available to them throughout the duration of the semester.

Many of the orientations that I have encountered have been a random listing of resources that may or may not have an explanation as to why the learners will need the information that they are being presented with.  On a slightly comical note – I can’t help but let out a little giggle when I see orientations that include a navigation video that is located halfway through the lesson.  The learner has to teach themselves how to navigate to the navigation video, so the video can show them how to navigate through the course…really?  We can (and should) do much better than this.

I feel that a well-designed orientation should accomplish three major goals:

  • Clearly communicate the structure of the course
  • Clearly present the expectations for the course
  • Contextualize the resource information

From the image that is provided on the right, you can see that similar items are grouped together, but there is no real organization or order to how the information is presented. As was discussed previously the navigation demo is listed as the third item in the navigation.  You will also notice that there are two pages titled Integrating Vocabulary.  Both of these pages likely correlate to the topics listed above them, but this brings about the question of whether the information really is different or if it could be combined into the same reference page.  There is also a page titled You Decide, which does not give us any information as to what information we’re supposed to find on that page.  If we’re looking at this through the eyes of someone who has never reviewed this course yet, I would probably interpret this as though I would have to make a decision about whether or not I want to take this course.  (In reality, it’s a quiz that accompanies the Plagiarism tutorials.)

Since this is the first interaction that the learners will have with the course, this gives the impression that it’s both lengthy and may be difficult to follow.

The actual structure of the course is this:

  • Introduction page
  • Textbook readings
  • Online Readings
    • Topic 1
    • Topic 2
    • Topic 3
    • etc.
  • Online quiz
  • Assignment
    • Brainstorming
    • Rubric
    • Creating the Artwork
    • Creating the Narrative
    • Submit the Assignment
    • Getting Feedback

If we were to restructure this orientation so that it aligns with the structure of the course more accurately, I would propose something like this:

  • Course Navigation Video
  • (living separate from the orientation – this would ideally be presented to the learners before they even arrive at the course website.)
  • Course Orientation
    • Introduction (overview, objectives, steps to completing the orientation)
    • Course Structure
    • Textbook Reading (include an explanation for the readings and guidelines or main points for the learners to reflect upon.)
    • Online Readings
      • Topic 1
      • Topic 2
      • Topic 3
      • etc.
    • Online Quiz (from the original orientation lesson (OL) retain the quiz completion demo)
    • Assignment
      • Brainstorming
        • Brainstorming Video (each lesson has one of these to help the learners understand how to gather their thoughts.)
        • Creation Process
      • Rubric (from the Orientation Lesson)
      • Creating the Artwork
        • How to create artwork
        • Artwork Craftsmanship
        • Example Artwork
      • Creating the Narrative
        • How to Describe Artwork
        • Writing a Narrative
        • Integrating Vocabulary
        • Citing Information
        • Plagiarism Tutorials 
        • Plagiarism Quiz
      • Submit the Assignment
        • Resizing Images
        • Assignment Submission
        • Directions
        • Shooting Final Work
      • Getting Feedback

You would want to refine the content to make it flow more smoothly and appear as a more cohesive lesson to your learners, but this is a much better structure for presenting introductory information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *