Standard 1.1 focuses on making sure that learners know where to get started and find various components via the course introduction.
At the most foundational level, before learners can proceed onto to tackling your carefully constructed lesson plans, assignments, assessments, and other course activities, they need a well-crafted launching point. Accordingly, QM General Standard 1 challenges instructors to create the kind of course introduction that “sets the tone for the course, lets learners know what to expect, and provides guidance to ensure learners get off to a good start.” Standard 1.1 specifically deals with the very first content that students will be experiencing as they log onto your institution’s Learning Management System and start exploring your content. Keeping this in mind, it’s crucial that you’ve established priority points for your students to engage prior to getting to the “meat” of your modules and units.
In order for this standard to be met, QM says that instructors must “provide a general course overview, present the schedule of activities, guide the learner to explore the course site, and indicate what to do first, in addition to listing detailed navigational instructions for the whole course.” Although that might seem like a lot at first glance, here are three easy steps to follow to make sure that you’re creating a quality first impression for the learners in your course:
- Show the Way: Think of your students as learning tourists and yourself as the tour guide. Since you’ve constructed the scaffolding, you’re the most qualified to show people around. Even though students will ultimately have to find their own way through the course, it’s your job to at least show them the milestones that will help them through the remainder of the content. The very first thing students should be seeing is a general overview of the course, what links to click to get to the main attraction (the content), but also peripheral stuff, like where to go for technical help or to submit a frequently asked question.
- Prioritize Tasks: Now that you’ve got your students gathered at the starting line, let them know, step-by-step, how you would like them to proceed. Like in a face-to-face class, reading the syllabus is important, right? Instruct learners to read the syllabus and include a link to the syllabus for them to download. Maybe next they should understand the technical requirements and skillsets they will need for the course. If so, make it a priority! Including these priority points will communicate your expectations to students and contribute to their overall success in the course.
- Consolidate the Content: As a best practice, it is most helpful to include all of this information in a centralized place that students encounter within a couple of clicks after logging into the course. Consider creating a ‘Start Here’ page or ‘Getting Started’ module that clearly steers students in the right direction. Also, feel free to think of some more creative ways to link learners to course startup information, such as a course tour, scavenger hunt, or syllabus quiz assignment that leads learners through an exploration of the different parts of the course. While these instructions can sometimes be a drag to get through, make them memorable by adding a gamification element to it.
AP Guidance: Make sure your learners get off to a quality start by showing them around, providing priorities, and placing all of your “Getting Started” information in a clearly marked, consolidated spot!
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