OSCQR – Standard #3

OSCQR – Standard #3

Course includes a Course Information area that deconstructs the syllabus for learners in a clear and navigable way.

Review These Explanations

A course information area should break the course syllabus down into smaller chunks of information for the learners to easily access and review. Deconstruction of the syllabus enables learners to find varied, discrete course information quickly with one or two clicks, rather than reading through the entire syllabus document.

A recommended approach to developing the course information area is to create individual documents (or pages) within the LMS with descriptive titles and relevance. This information can mirror the information in the syllabus, and provide an additional means through which learners can orient themselves to the online course.

Simunich, Robins, and Kelly (2015) found that courses with high levels of findability, based on careful development and placement of course information materials, have a direct impact on learner perceptions of course quality and experience, and successful learning outcomes.

Clarity in naming conventions is key. In this introductory space it is extremely important to call content, interaction, and assessment items by their simple names – an exam should be referred to as an exam, a case study should be referred to as such, and the same for any interaction elements such as discussion forums.

Use active language to guide learners to take action – for example, course information pages can be titled, “Purchase Required Textbooks”, “Read through Interaction Guidelines”, “Print out the Course Calendar”, “Take Note of Office Hours”, and the like. These active titles act as key signposts for learners to navigate through the online course, and when the quickly want to find that information again – making for a high level of findability in your course.

References:

Simunich, B., Robins, D. B., & Kelly, V. (2015). The Impact of Findability on Student Motivation, Self-Efficacy, and Perceptions of Online Course Quality. American Journal of Distance Education, 29(3), 174-185.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

The course information area is designed to help your learners find their way through the most important details related to participating, and succeeding in the online course.

Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when designing, developing, and creating this section:

  • Each element you include in the Course Information area should steer learners to specific information. The best approach is to categorize your information, and here are some examples:
    • Course Welcome
    • Instructor Contact Information and Office Hours
    • Instructor Expectations
    • Schedule and Due Dates
    • Required Texts and Associated Materials
    • Learning Activity Overview
    • Interaction Guidelines
    • Grading and Assignment Rubrics
    • Campus Policies and Resources
    • Strategies for Success
    • Ask a Question (Open Discussion Forum)
  • If you prefer to use actionable titles, consider using the following:
    • Welcome to (list the course name and number)
    • Get to Know Your Instructor
    • Learn What I Expect from You, and What You Can Expect From Me
    • Go through the Course Schedule
    • Review Required Texts and Associated Materials
    • Discover How to Communicate and Interact in this Course
    • Explore Campus Policies and Resources
    • Understand How to Succeed in this Course
    • Ask a Question (Open Discussion Forum)
  • If you create a folder titled “Course Information Documents”, be sure to provide a subtitle or short description that will appear with the folder, akin to:

    I encourage you to explore the documents in this module for more information about the course learning objectives, grading criteria, learning activities, and expectations. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me immediately via the course messaging tool.

  • Remember to Introduce the Course Information area in your course overview, and refer back to it consistently throughout your course. For example, in your discussion forum instructions, direct learners to the Course Information are for more information about interaction guidelines and expectations.

Explore More Refreshing Ideas from Open SUNY

This video explores at approaches to orienting learners to the online course, and setting expectations through an introductory module, or course information area:

Explore Related Resources

Fisher, E. A., and V. H. Wright. 2010. Improving online course design through usability testing. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 6 (1): 228–245. Irizarry, R. 2002.
Morville, P. 2005. Ambient findability. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.

Share What You Know

OSCQR has been developed by a community of online practitioners interested in quality course design. There are numerous opportunities for community members to offer suggestions, donate resources, and help with future development.
Discuss this standard in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Contribute your own ideas or refresh resources by filling out the OSCQR Examples Contribution Form.

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