Three ways to set up your course more efficiently

Three ways to set up your course more efficiently

The semester is underway; a review of previous semesters may help you change your workflow now or prep for your next course. Here are my tips on setting expectations, managing your workflow and reusing layouts.

Set expectations

USE DUE DATES: As an instructional designer I encourage faculty to use due dates; students tend to work to deadline. Letting them know your required due dates is essential for their planning. Reiterate deadlines when communicating with students.

EXPLAIN LATE WORK POLICIES: As an adjunct, I’ve seen students turn items in late. I expect this during the add/drop period. When students have extenuating circumstances I ask them to email before the due date and ask for a specific extension time-frame. Due dates and rules about late work help me with time management; I communicate those expectations to the student. In the early years, I received a lot of late work in the last three weeks of the semester! Setting deadlines and sharing them via a schedule and announcements make a difference.

UNDERSTAND GRADING VIEWS: Recent updates in Blackboard allow the student to see four views in My Grades: 1) All, 2) Graded, 3) Upcoming, and 4) Submitted.  Now students get email notifications when they submit work.

Four Grade Center views for students

Set due dates for your assessments in one place. Look for Grade Center Due Dates. If it is not showing as an option, go to Customization, Tool Availability, scroll down to “Grade Center Due Dates” and click the box in the “Available” column.

Manage your workflow

FEEDBACK ROUTINE: Suggest to students the best times to email or call. I preschedule office hours in an online environment, log in weekly, and grade, create announcements, respond to questions. Keeping these activities in my mind during scheduled office hours helps me stay focused.

GRADING: I use three methods. Hearing what I do may help you plan your grading.

  • In Blackboard use the Grade Center > Needs Grading and select by Item. If I am doing this I try to make my way through all of the submissions in one sitting. It flows smoother and I am more consistent with responses.
  • Download the Grade Center and open it in Excel or Google Sheets. I can navigate easily, use calculations and send progress updates as needed.
  • View the full Grade Center for missing assignments. This helps me plan my weekly grading and feedback activities. Lots of missing items may mean another announcement is in order.

REDUCE SCROLLING: If you use graded discussions, assignments, and tests with many assignments, navigating the Grade Center can be a nightmare of left-right scrolling. Use the Filter button to view one category type.

Filtering your Grade Center columns by type

Simplify and reuse

I embed Google Slides in my course. When I’ve made one I like the look of, I choose File > Make a Copy and use that as my template for the next set of slides. If I have an idea of how many lecture notes I am presenting by slide, I make all the copies and name them with a convention like module and topic, and store them in one drive folder. As a result:

  • I can find my work
  • I spend less time choosing fonts and layouts
  • course materials are more consistent
Google Slide with Link to Google doc

I’m a fan of fonts and colors and images, but using different styles can fatigue the student.

This makes it sound like I am ruthlessly efficient, on the contrary I slip into “dither mode” all the time. I need to remember and reign myself in especially when it comes to fonts, colors, and graphics. By setting expectations and setting up my workflow I can focus on completing feedback while grading faster and more consistently.

Bonus Tips!

Yes, originally set for five… it needed to be cut down to save space.

Reduce scrolling by compressing the top class navigation elements

REDUCE SCROLLING: Use the navigational elements in Blackboard to compress the full left-hand navigation. Toggle the top arrow to ‘close’ and it will bring the COURSE MANAGEMENT section higher up on the screen.

USE SHORTER ASSESSMENT NAMES: When setting up your assignments or activities give them a number and title, or give them a letter and title. “01. Hello World” or “T. Client Draft.” In Fall 2014 I used “WK10: Practice Ch 11-14 due Sat. 11/08.” Which is very long, but it let me know the week and assignment in the Grade Center.

You can hover over the column and edit the column information to have a “Grade Center Name” having a naming strategy for your item names makes it so you don’t have to do these extra steps.

See the PDF for this Teaching Tip.