Online Course Design Pitfall #1: Upload your course materials, then call it a day.
It’s easy to blame students for their inability to find the assignment, or for making “lame” excuses for why they didn’t do the reading. However, since I never used a CMS as an undergrad, I have no idea how to assess whether my course organization makes sense; since I LOVE to read and go down rabbit holes (don’t all academics do this?), I have no idea if the assigned readings are too complex or too long or seemingly “unrelated”. Yes, I get excited about the latest article the compares “resilience” to “adaptive capacity” because it’s what I am currently researching. IRL, though, students may not be able to pick out the nuance or history behind the different terms (nor should they, as it isn’t important to the learning goals of the course!), they have other courses, they don’t have time to mess with a disorganized Canvas site, and they increasingly rely on devices to send them reminders of when things are due. Sooooo, to counter this I have two goals for this term: 1. Revise all course content for updated materials and media (e.g. I want to include podcasts as sources of information, and may expand the acceptable format for participation in an “outside seminar” to participation in an “environmental activism or community-based activity”. 2. Work collaboratively with my new grad student (who also happens to be the course TA and who only months ago completed her undergraduate degree) to check the Canvas site for structure, how enticing it is, and to see if there are any “secret tech tools” I can use to better connect Canvas and course work with their everyday devices and activities (e.g. can Canvas notifications be synched to an iphone calendar??). I suspect that by specifically tackling these issues as a instructor-TA (who happens to have recently been an undergraduate student) team, we should be able to come up with something good!
A third point of action would have to be participation in this Hybrid Course Learning Community. As faculty we (I!) tend to get caught up with other “very important” things, and often don’t (never!) prioritize updating course materials and keeping up to date on technology. Thus, although a far cry from totally jumping on the tech train… I certainly care about designing a course that is exciting for students, and streamlined for ease of teaching and interacting with students; especially when I see them in person once per week. The Learning Community is a great way to hold myself accountable to making those changes and learn along the way. It is my hope that these three strategies will help me to never ever again have to say “It’s all on Canvas!” in my most exasperated voice. And that instead I will find technology to be the unifying factor of the hybrid course delivery.