||Research suggests that the following elements greatly increase the effectiveness of
an online course. While you ultimately decide what to include, we encourage considering
On the Home Page
- A Header and Footer section adds much to the sense of identity as well as add a pleasing
aesthetic to your online course. A Banner can be placed in one of these sections that
engages the student from the very beginning. Other information for the Header and
Footer would be the Course Name and Number, the instructor contact information, and
- A Welcome section is a way for the students to connect to you and the course. This
would be the area for you to give a short bio with an image or short video of you.
It’s a way to set the tone of your course, whether it’s formal, informal, or a blended
environment. Video goes a long way in setting a tone especially if you plan to use
humor because text does not convey humor very well. This is also where you can give
students instructions on how to get started, what to click first, etc.
- A Start Here module is designed to introduce the student to course policies and other
matters BEFORE instruction begins. This would be the area for your Syllabus, communication
rules, student introductions (or another icebreaker to get students talking to each
other), a place for students to ask and answer introductory questions, and technology
requirements (will they need microphones, or particular software to play videos, etc).
This area can also contain a quiz to test their knowledge of the material in this
On the Left Navigation
- Your course content area is basically where instruction begins. This is where the
knowledge is organized into different units of learning (chapters, topics, weeks,
however you prefer to break it up). This is where you would put your handouts, audio,
Vista tools, etc. Using learning modules adds structure for the students but also
helps you as the instructor to think through the instruction and decide on how to
sequence the instruction.
- Mail– This allows you to send and receive private emails within your course. By enabling
this tool you also allow students to send private messages to fellow students. This
allows easy automatic organization of mail specific to the course instead of getting
mixed up in all the other email. Guarantee that you will get it, it does not go to
junk box. This promotes GTP #1 and #2
- Discussions– Enable this tool if you want students to work together in groups, give student presentations,
or review each others work. You will be able to read, search, compile, or download
class discussions. You will have discussion topics that notify you if there are new
messages waiting, and can hide messages that were already viewed.
- Chat– Use this tool if you need to archive chat sessions, communicate with students in
real-time, and have online office hours. You may have more than one chat room (so
multiple chats can happen simultaneously).
- Who's Online– Another real-time text chat tool. Even if you choose not to use, enabling it will
allow your students to IM each other.
- Calendar– Very effective tool in emphasizing time on task. Info can be exchanged about class
events, entries can include links to course content or external websites. Notifications
serve to remind students of new entries.
- Announcement– This also allows for emphasizing time on task. Can also be delivered as a pop-up
window to emphasize the importance of a certain deadline coming up.
- Assessment– Enable this tool if you need automatically graded quizzes, practice quizzes, self-tests
or anonymous surveys. If you need class statistics and reports based on student performance.
If you want to include graphics, charts, tables, links to other websites, video, audio,
etc. in your tests. You can use this tool as an aid to accomplishing 4 of the principles
(faculty-student interaction, communicate high expectations, active learning, time
- Assignment– Enable this tool if you want to create and distribute assignments, and be able to
download, evaluate and assign a grade to the completed work. This needs to be turned
on in order to have a dropbox where students can “turn in” their assignment in an
organized way instead of sending you email with attachments. This provides extended
and meaningful feedback that the students cannot lose and can access anytime.
- My Grades– This must be turned on in order for your students to see their grades, including
quiz results and assignment grades. This provides students with prompt feedback so
they can know what they don't know and better target their learning.