Green Decorative Wheat

Organizing Your Course for Clarity

One of the most challenging aspects when designing your first course is organizing all of the content. The navigation bar on the left side of the screen provides a good place to start, but doesn't quite match your idea. Since so much of your course relies heavily on the organization decisions you make early in your design process, and adjusting organization as you develop can be a huge pain, it is essential to have a plan from the start.

Here are some tips that OIR has put together when organizing an online course.

    1. Module Format: A module acts as a unit of your course content. Rather than dump all of your course content in one area, modules allow you to separate content by theme, idea, week, chapter, etc. For a seamless transition between semesters, consider organizing your course into eight modules. That way, the course can be easily transformed from a sixteen-week to eight-week course. Modules could contain an introduction, module schedule, readings, video or recorded lecture, quizzes, discussion boards, and/or assignments. All modules are organized into content folders for simplicity and clarity.
    2. Clear Navigation Bars: This may seem intuitive, but it's important to think hard about how your navigation bar will appear to students. Take some time to clean up the navigation bar and remove all of the menu buttons that remain unused. Additionally, add new menu buttons that are helpful for students, whenever needed.
    3. Limited Clicking: When you are designing a course for organization, it's important to think about navigation within modules. As you are adding content and linking students to tools and resources, consider how often you are asking your students to leave the Blackboard LMS. When designing for navigation, consider the following questions as you build your course:
      •  How many times have my students left the LMS?
      • Are there other ways to include this content within the LMS without violating copyright policies?
      • Are students required to download documents repeatedly?
      • Have I made documents available in PDF form so the document is opened within Blackboard?
      • Is my navigation bar easy to understand?
      • Does it help students avoid selecting the wrong item to find information?
      • Is my module content easy to navigate?
      • Do I link directly to tools like Discussion Boards, journals, or groups?
    4. Circular Design & Directions: Remember, "all roads should lead home" when designing a course with organization in mind. While the navigation bar that appears at the top of the screen is a helpful tool for students to track where they are in a course, it is important to create navigational cues for students to "lead them home." For example, if you'd like a student to access a certain area of the course, use the "Course Link" option when creating content rather than expecting students to locate a course area on their own. You can locate the Course Link tool under "Build Content" in content areas of Blackboard. Although you might repeat directions, almost every area of your course can contain some sort of course link with information on how to access the course area.

When you begin creating your online courses, consider organization first. Your future self with definitely thank your past self as you begin loading content into your courses. Not only will good organization make you feel more in control of the content of your course, your students will thank you!