Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to speak to two adult students who are taking online classes with YC. Both are returning students after several years, both are also working full-time, and both are excited to be working toward their dreams. Unfortunately, both of them are also experiencing difficulties with at least one of their online courses because their professors have failed to properly set up and organize their classes in Canvas. In both cases, these students have logged into their Canvas course (two different courses and professors!) to simply find a hodge-podge list with no rhyme or reason.
Having an organized course in Canvas helps students to succeed and is of primary importance when teaching online classes. Students need to know exactly what is due, when it is due, and how many points each assignment is worth.
In my courses, I present this information to students in several ways. First, I have a detailed Course Calendar that lists by week what assignments are due. Each assignment also lists the number of points possible, so students can keep track of their grades. In recent semesters, I have also added grade calculators so that students can easily calculate their grade several times throughout the semester.
Next, I’ve set up the assignment due dates on the Canvas calendar. Not only can students see what is due at a glance by looking at the calendar, but they also receive e-mail notifications from Canvas if they have signed up for that.
In the actual course, I have created a separate Module for each week of the course. Each module includes a clearly organized schedule, which includes a reading, a discussion, a writing assignment, and a grammar activity. For my ENG 101 students, there is also a website assignment periodically. (more on that another day!)
In the modules, assignments are linked so that students can simply click to read and/or submit an assignment. This takes all the guesswork out of the class for them.
Finally, I also try to post an announcement each week reminding students what is due and giving them feedback and/or tips on the work due that week. This is e-mailed to them, which gives them a reminder to check in and complete the work for that week. (Did you know you can schedule out announcements?!)
Together, all of these steps helps me to ensure that I have provided a well-organized classroom for my students. Students should NOT have to GUESS what is due each week. If your Canvas classroom looks like a list with no organization at all…If your Canvas classroom lists a bunch of assignments and readings without telling students when they are due… It’s time for you to take a day and organize your course! Yes, it takes a little work, but the beauty of Canvas is that you only have to do this ONE TIME! 🙂