There are 3 goals for major change of my courses I want tackle before the beginning of the Spring
- First contact email sent to students at the time of their enrollment with the first directions for the access to the course and link to the introduction of the course video. Although it is not specific component of the course, this email is very critical since I can send it to students and their parents/guardians, allowing all of them to have a first taste and feel for the course. Parents/guardians are not yet able to access to my Canvas courses with an observer account - this might change next year - so this first video will allow parents/guardians to have an understanding of what the course is about right away.
I think that this piece of information will allow parents more understanding of the learning environment of their kids and will empower them in asking the right question to the students whenever they want to know more about their progress.
I am also considering the option of creating a video specific for parents/guardian for guiding them through the course and show them how and where they can monitor the progress, activity and score of their kids in the course, as well as seeing my feedback to their work. This idea is becoming more relevant due to a feature present in Canvas: the "what if..." option in the grade book. Students indeed can use this feature for changing their grades (not on the actual grade-book) and see what they would need to score in a particular assignment for changing their final grade. Great feature, right? Well, recently I was told of a parent who was completely blown way when she realized that he son was lying to her and showing her the "what if" grades instead of the actual scores of his work. The discrepancy between the reports shown by he student and the concerned emails from a teacher moved the parent to call our office for figuring out what was going on. It was just then, when the parent was able to access to the course and go to the grade-book that realized that something was very wrong and that what she was seeing at that moment was far different from what she was shown regularly by her child.
Now, this episode is pretty iconic of how great tools can be used in the wrong way and you never know what to expect!
- Redesign the first section of the course for being more user friendly and making sure that all the important information are provided to students. This process will include the remake of the navigation video and the use of Google Docs as repository of content shared by multiple courses, such as the students tools.
This goal is very important to me especially considering the major failure to launch I had with the Fall semester. I have made a list of all the possible things that could go wrong - not that I can be 100% positive that nothing else will pop-up, but at least I can beat the odds! I have been researching various Canvas sites for gaining more ideas of functional and well designed courses to use as models.
Something that I would like to keep on target is the accessibility of the site especially to hearing and vision impaired students. This is certainly a great challenge because often it conflict with my creativity drive. Finding the right balance between functionality, accessibility, and aesthetic is definitely challenging, but it is something I want and need to address since I would like to have my courses being accessible to all our students. Last year for the first time I have seen the tool used by a blind student for navigating the Internet, and that experience was a wake-up call for the code barriers we create in our e-courses when we start paying with fonts, colors, and all the very cool visual effects.
I am planning to have one of our district vision specialist to test my courses for accessibility, and I would like to have a few students testing my spring courses for user-friendliness during the Christmas break.
- Review my assessment program. This will benefit my students and also myself in the way that at this time I have a graded task with need or re-grading almost every day, which times 120 students makes my life a nightmare! I am sure that there must be a better way to assess my students. I really want to look into how to streamline my assessment program for making it more relevant to students and less grading-intensive.