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Prototyping in order to navigate the online course site and syllabus

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Helen Crump
8 February 2013

 "In the online classroom, students will seize upon your syllabus as if it were a map. Students will want to know how to proceed and where everything is located. So, one of the first things you must do, whether through the syllabus or in an introductory message, is to explain the “geography” of the course (Ko and Rossen, 2012 ,p.20).

I need to design such "geography" with the hypothesis in mind that students will be able to navigate the online course site and syllabus with ease and efficiency as a result of my design.

To best design for the "navigational" aspects of the course syllabus, namely the hyperlinks, taxonomies, drop down boxes etc, and to ascertain how students would like to interact with such functionality, I think that a paper based prototype tool will best serve my purpose. 

Then, having undergone the exercise and designed the prototype, I'd seek to collect feedback on the design experience by asking a group of students to undertake a "trial run". After which, I'd invite them, in pairs, to discuss their experience. I'd record the discussion and analyse their feedback. 


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Jane Challinor
12:34pm 10 February 2013 (Edited 12:34pm 10 February 2013)

Hi Helen

I piggy backed on this to do my prototyping.  Navigation is the one thing my students always complain about when they get introduced to the VLE. I think they also find it irritating that different tutors have different set ups for their Learning Rooms.  I'd like to see this prototyping extended to find the optimum topography for the home page and then offer this as a template for the whole course.

Getting student views is crucial. I think this is a great idea overall :)

Helen Guerin
2:46pm 10 February 2013

Hi Helen,

I really like your project. I'm involved in a similar project in real life and I agree with Jane's suggestions above. Also, it might be worthwhile piloting this project with a group of your fellow teachers. Usually, you'll get great feedback and almost every possible criticism;-)

Best of luck. Regards, Helen

Helen Whitehead
4:28pm 10 February 2013

I'd like to see the paper version of your prototype. I also think it might be useful for all of us planning courses that need this kind of resource.

Another Helen!

Helen Crump
5:04pm 10 February 2013

Erm, such a simple little thing as navigating the course site, or syllabus, is proving to be an extremely interesting, and worthwhile, exercise in terms of prototyping online learning design. At this stage, it's just a plan for me, so unfortunately, I don't have a paper version of the exercise to show for it. I like Jane's idea about trying to discover the optimum topography for course navigation so that some kind of uniformity of design might be deployed to help students navigate a whole course.

Thanks for your comments.


Marion Manton
9:10am 12 February 2013

Yes if you can crack the optimum topography you will have acheived something momentus, a small note of caution, is that in my experience you won't get consesus on what this should be, I also think when you evaluate prototypes for learning environments you tend to get feedback from people who are using it for a few minutes, when what you are designing is something which hopefully works well if they study for months, this does change some of your design choices, but is harder to get feedback on.

Ida Brandão
3:40pm 12 February 2013 (Edited 3:49pm 12 February 2013)

I think that a course outline is useful to have the global picture. In Moodle, the ebook activity serves well this purpose, i.e:

Introduction - Target participants - Course duration - Learning outcomes - Methodology/VLE  - Contents - Resources - Terms of assessment - Calendar of Activities

Then, it's important to keep the same structure of topics/weeks, it's easier for participants  to follow. I think it's important to have a design consistency along a course.

When you have different teachers running different learning units, it may interfere with their freedom to organize their  own teaching-learning process.

But even if teachers choose to have different designs in the same course, its important to keep consistency in their own learning unit.

Helen Crump
4:09pm 12 February 2013

Hello Ida

Thanks for your comments about course outline. Currently, I don't use a VLE and I don't know about the ebook in Moodle, but I'm with you as regards the importance of "design consistency". I'm almost fanatical about consitency of terminology, fonts, line spacings etc. It's all these little things, the attention to details that add up to create the right impression and help people understand your instructions and successfuly navigate your course :)


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