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Getting started

When designing any blended or online module, it is often tempting to jump straight into moving your content online. However, it is useful to take some time to plan how you are going to design and delivery your module. Start off with the following questions: 

(1) What are the learning outcomes for your module? What do you expect students to be able to do on completion of your course? [hyperlink to LO doc] 

(2) What types of content and activities might support students in achieving these learning outcomes? 

We will talk more about these in the sections that follow. For now, consider this VLE Baseline when planning and setting up your VLE module. These recommendations are underpinned by digital learning research, and they provide a useful framework for planning and designing your VLE module and activities.  

VLE baseline

Module Essentials

Create a folder in your VLE module which provides the following key information: 

  • Welcome message: create a short welcome message (text, video, or audio). This could include a brief module overview, summary of expectations & key introductory information.  

  • Staff information: Include names, photos and additional contact information as needed (e.g. telephone, email, location, drop-in hours).   

  • Link to module descriptor and learning outcomes: upload these into your VLE module or link directly to the relevant document(s) on the departmental website.  

  • Provide a communication statement: describe how you will communicate with students and how you expect students to communicate with you. Include your availability, response time, “virtual office hours” (see 4.1.), contact information and netiquette i.e. acceptable standards for communication and participation. Click here for a sample communication statement.  

  • Assessment overview: provide a clear assessment schedule which includes submission details and deadlines. 

 

Module Structure

To make your module as easy to navigate as possible, organise your content, activities and   assessments clearly and consistently. 

  • Minimise cognitive load from the outset: avoid overloading the module homepage by placing module content off the main page in themes, topics or weekly areas. (Link to these from the module navigation bar.) Hide unused items. 

  • Chunk your content: break down your content into smaller units or chunks (e.g. according to week/theme/unit.) Consider releasing content incrementally (e.g. week by week) if appropriate.

 

Preparing for live classes

  • Class schedule: prepare and share a schedule of classes in advance. Include dates, times and links to online classes. Ensure that lectures do not overrun their scheduled time and for classes longer than 2 hours, build in a short break.   

  • Link to recordings: If recording live classes, add links to the recordings within your module and notify students when they are available.   

  • Orient students at the outset: consider allocating time at the start of your first live class to orienting students (particularly first years) to the new environment. E.g. Include time for icebreakers, key orientation information, initial troubleshooting etc.   

 

Communication

  • Communicate regularly and clarify expectationsthis is important particularly at the outset of a module. Tell students how you to contact you and how you plan to communicate with them.    

  • Use the Announcements tool to communicate updates weekly. Avoid overload however: communicating too often, and via multiple channels, can lead to student disengagement.  

  • Consider hosting a regular online “office hour” (E.g. via the virtual classroom). 

  • Facilitate peer communication: use VLE tools (such as discussion boards) to give students an opportunity to ask questions which may be answered by classmates and/or staff. In addition to nurturing a sense of community, this can also reduce the time you spend dealing with common queries. 

Assessment and Feedback

  • Consider timing and balance when planning your assessment schedule. Consider the timing of assessment submissions across the programme of which your module is a part. Avoid clashes and overload for students.   

  • Ensure that students know how to submit and receive feedback online. Clarify any technical requirements for submission. 

Resources

  • Provide a reading/resources list with links to online content. (Bear in mind that students may not have access to the physical library.)  

  • Avoid overload: consider the time that it will take students to read/engage with each resource and plan student workloads and reading lists accordingly. Clearly identify and label “Core Reading” and “Supplementary Reading”.