Karla Swanson is an Associate Professor of CIT and Department Chair at Navarro College.
Do you find yourself struggling in your Learning Management System (LMS)? Have you simply copied your course semester after semester? Are you scared to redesign your course and not sure where to start? Do your students feel overwhelmed and just quit on you? If so, here are five LMS tips you can try today to make your course more effective and boost student success.
LMS Tip 1: Create an introductory video for navigation
Creating an introductory video has been pivotal to the success of my online students. I make sure to keep it short and sweet—less than four minutes to hold their attention—and give them key navigation points to help them get started and feel more comfortable in my course. My video also includes a review of the syllabus, how to register and get started with my online learning platform and how to complete the first assignment to be active in the course. Most of my students are new freshman, who tend to be overwhelmed with all the new aspects of college, so this little intro video goes a long way to help ease their minds. It also opens communication lines, so they feel comfortable asking me questions about the course or college life in general.
LMS Tip 2: Get organized
Being organized is key to student success. Really analyze your pages and the organization of folders in your online learning platform. If your content is spread haphazardly across pages in your LMS, students will likely get confused and frustrated. Also, many of my students view content on their mobile device, so if it’s too dense—where they must scroll and scroll—they will get tired and quit. In my online learning platform, I have learned to utilize the rolling week view instead of the folder view; I have found students need the condensed version to avoid getting overwhelmed. If you prefer the folder view, just make sure all your content is in the order you expect students to complete it in. Yes, this may seem time consuming up front but trust me, it’s worth every minute.
LMS Tip 3: Be clear and concise
Let’s face it, most students don’t like to read lengthy content. They want short, sweet and to the point. I have learned to grab their attention by using my bitmoji. Yes, I said it, my bitmoji. Since so many of today’s students live on Snapchat and social media, this is something they can relate to, and it grabs their attention long enough for them to read whatever I need them to. Even if you don’t feel comfortable using that sort of technology, think about length for everything. For example, my lecture videos are grouped so no video is longer than five minutes, so students stay engaged.
LMS Tip 4: Use buttons or graphics
I started using buttons about three years ago when we transitioned from Blackboard to Canvas. I found this was a great way to be organized while remaining clear and concise. I can attach a page or module of information to the button quickly and easily. My buttons are free to make and download. Sometimes I even use pictures or graphics as the button. I make sure to arrange them in a table and label them properly for accessibility purposes.
LMS Tip 5: Deep link your assignments
Deep linking my assignments straight into my online learning platform has worked wonders for my students. For example, they click a button labeled “Word” and then click straight to the textbook portion for “Word Module 1.” They use this same button to click into each of their assignments due for the week. With less clicks to access their information, this has improved completion rates across my course.
Working in your LMS can seem daunting for both you and your students. But by taking the extra time upfront to really focus on organization, concise content and adding a few personal touches, you can make your online learning platform an invaluable asset to your course.
Want more tips and strategies for designing an engaging and effective online course? Download our latest ebook, The Cengage Guide to Teaching Online.