I have been teaching one of my online courses since 2004 at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. In the first years it was offered twice a year – Guelph being a three semester institution. In recent years it has been offered in the Summer semester only. In all, I have taught it probably fourteen or fifteen times up to and including the Summer of 2013. Each term, students rate the course and it has always rated highly. There are always one or two who dislike everything, but the the average, if I and the course structure were given a grade, has been in the A- range. Except last summer, when that rating fell to the B range.
One of the common complaints from last summer were students who did not know when assignments were due. They made suggestions due dates be made available and that warnings be given a week or two ahead of these due dates. This is, of course, sensible. What bothered me is that this information has always been provided in all my online courses. There is a timeline or schedule that lists readings, assignments and links week by week, including a warning posted at the beginning of the week prior to an assignment due at the end of the next week.
My first reaction was that these were just poor students who did not bother to familiarize themselves with the site during term. Recently, my thinking has changed. Perhaps there is too much information provided on the course site’s main menu – that primary information is being lost in the jumble of links provided.
I have decided to see if the techies can do something to give prominence to primary sections of the site, perhaps using different fonts or font colours or font sizes for the weekly schedule, for example. Or perhaps to order the list of course links differently. The D2L format used by the University of Guelph does include a ‘start here’ link which gives students instructions on how to navigate the course. But it occurs to me now, when I look at the site pretending I am seeing this form of pedagogy for the first time, that even this is lost in the clutter.
So, my goal: Reduce Clutter!