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Creating good courses in itslearning

Courses are one of the most frequently used features in itslearning. But how do you create great courses for your students? Use the tree structure less often and the dashboard more often, says Janniche Øyen, itslearning's usability expert.

Janniche says making a good overview in the course is one of the keys to creating a good experience for students. Remove unnecessary content, decoration and navigation. Ask yourself what you want to achieve with the course and whether you are supporting the student's most basic tasks.

Less decoration and more relevance

"Teachers want to achieve different things with a course," Janniche says. "Some want their students to finish tests and assignments while others want to publish weekly lesson plans or use the course to give an overview of homework."

Supporting the students' most basic tasks is also important. A survey of Norwegian Grade 9 students reveals that they want access to homework and information about relevant subjects, as well as timetables and pictures.

"Feel free to use images in your courses, but make sure they are relevant and not merely decoration," Janniche says.

Many teachers rely heavily on the tree structure, but Janniche says moving some of the information from the tree menu to the dashboard can significantly improve a course.

Use My web files
Upload files to ‘My web files' instead of using the file tool in the tree menu. ‘My web files' can be used across courses and even outside itslearning. Use the Link tool if you want to add files to the tree menu. When clicked the links will open directly in itslearning.

"Try hiding the left-hand menu and see whether the students have everything they need without it. The menu should, of course, not be hidden for the students, but navigation is easier if they can find what they need on the dashboard."

Start with the dashboard

A user-friendly course should have a clearly laid out dashboard. Janniche encourages teachers to remove content blocks that are empty, unused or that contain old content.

"Remove resources that are relevant for the whole year from the dashboard. Instead, put them in notes or pages, and link to them from the dashboard. Say you are using a photo album. You can have several photo albums on one page, and when adding new pictures you can link to the page in a bulletin on the dashboard. Remove the bulletin after a while," Janniche says.

Another useful tip is to use different colours for the content blocks to group regular items such as messages and polls. Teach your students that yellow content blocks are bulletins and red blocks are polls.

The most advanced itslearning users use the planner. A planner content block is an important element on the dashboard. Another important element is the ‘Latest changes' content block that gives students an indication of what's happening in the course.

But what should be included on the dashboard, and what should be available in the tree structure in the left-hand menu? Janniche says tests, assignments and other learning tools should go into the tree menu. But the structure has to be relevant, easy to navigate and make content available in a simple way. Read more about organising the tree menu in the itslearning-help.

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