Organizing a Course

Organizing a Course

Organizing Course: Man Thinking

By providing students with clear and organized structure in your online course, you help to mitigate logistical questions your students may have concerning where an assignment is located, when a due date is, where they can find your course readings, etc. Here are some ways to get started or to check that you are doing a great job already.

Organizing Your Course for a New Semester

Consider breaking your online course into modules or another kind of self-contained unit. Each module or unit can be organized around a major topic, course theme, assignment, or overall course objective. Start each module or unit with an overview, showing students what they will be doing and the overall goals of the module. This will help orient students and keeps them on pace.

Give students a clear route through the course content and consider how you will signpost important due dates and materials. Organization is important for every class, but it is essential to an online class. Be sure to post due dates early and clearly label the different elements of your course.

Chunking materials into units or modules can help students navigate the course. Here are some tips on chunking materials and a worksheet to help you create a unit/module cycle in your course:

  • Lecture videos should be short (ideal is about 4 minutes). If you plan on recording a lecture video that is longer, consider breaking it into multiple videos. In between each video, think about having a short quiz or another activity to help reinforce the content you covered. This will allow students to check their understanding before moving on to the next chunk of lecture material. Our faculty are accomplishing this in a variety of ways, such as by using EdPuzzle, putting your video into a Canvas quiz, having a worksheet students fill out through the lecture or have them pause your video to create a reflection activity or other writing assignment. 
  • If sections of your Canvas course have long texts, consider chunking those texts into short paragraphs and use bullet points, images, and videos to break it up. When you present the material through multiple mediums and medias, students are more likely to persevere through the material and maintain engagement. Think “short attention span” and plan accordingly.
  • It is a best-practice to have a regular “cycle” or “rhythm” to your course. For example, organize every week into a module and have assignments and other course activities due at the same time every week. This helps students get into a pattern and be able to anticipate when important course items are due. Below is an example of a course cycle for an online course.

Example Course Cycle

MondayInstructor opens new module. Modules can be opened manually, or instructors can time modules to open on a specific date. Each module begins with a landing page with an overview section taking students through the specific steps they need to complete in that module. This overview can be a short written document or video.
WednesdayStudents complete a short assessment that helps them check their own understanding. If possible, the instructor provides prompt feedback, or sets their Canvas quiz to automatically provide feedback, to help students prepare for the higher-stakes assessment at the end of the module.
FridayStudents need to complete the final assessment in the current module. After that, the instructor opens the next module. 

Tips & Tricks for Course Design and Facilitation with Donna Marvel

Tips & Tricks for Course Design and Facilitation with Donna Marvel, Instructional Designer
Part I
June 22, 2020
Tips & Tricks for Course Design and Facilitation with Donna Marvel, Instructional Designer
Part 2
June 29, 2020

Additional Course Organizational Resources:

ACUE Videos on Organizing Your Online Course

Backward Design Graphic: Based on a Thematic Unit

Course Development Template: For Online Courses

Course Planning Grid: For Hybrid or Blended Courses

Sample weekly schedule for an online or blended course: Showing Student-to-Content, Student-to-Student, and Faculty-to-Student Interaction