One of the items that appeared in the Fall 2020 Course Standards was that courses must:
Using Modules is likely to be unfamiliar to many of us, but they can have positive effects on student satisfaction, participation, and organization well beyond the effort it takes to create them. This effect may be invisible–fewer student questions or requests for more information, less confusion, fewer students who never participate–but they are important.
Good basic modules look something like our instructional “model” module in the template:
This kind of module for each week makes it easy for students to see at a glance what will be expected of them. You should add anything pertaining to that week, even if it appears elsewhere on Canvas, like readings stored in Files, assignments, discussions, quizzes, and other content. Modules are simply an organization tool, so these are all “shortcuts”, not duplicates.
Leveling Up with Modules
Modules can do a lot more, though, particularly for flex-hybrid, virtual, or fully online teaching. They are especially useful if you are “flipping” your course or using a lot of asynchronous participation tools like discussions or quizzes. Modules allow you to provide not just a way for students to easily see what they need to do, but also a guide for how they move through a week or unit’s content and activities. A really robust module might look something like the first image, with a guide to the week like the second image:
In the following drop-downs, we describe types of things you could include in your modules to have a really great course.
Your summary of the outcomes and goals for the module here.
We highly recommend you include a weekly overview in your modules, even if they are otherwise very simple! The overview gives you a place to:
- Frame the week or unit by making connections to the previous week or unit
- Clearly restate the goals for the week, which brings transparency to your rationale for the assignments and readings
- Summarize what students need to do
This might include a bulleted list, timeline, infographic, or some other form of roadmap. You could even include a video introduction to the week.
Sample: This week we will explore _________. You will build upon the concept/skill _______. If you need a refresher, click Here. Reread the class notes you all created and take the self-graded quiz. You will read chapters 3-4 of ________ and watch the demonstration I provide. There is a reading guide for you and your small group to use collectively online. Also, I have included a second demo presented by ____________. You will be introduced to some new vocabulary and procedures. Your goal for the week is to analyze the techniques. You will discuss the differences between this technique and _____. Ultimately, you will make a decision about which technique is best. We will meet on _____ and debate the two. Remember: Debate requires careful thinking and planning. In the resources section, I have provided a help page to remind you of the aspects of a good argument. You will be graded on ability to support your decision.
An alternate sample is available in the screenshot above.
Sometimes also referred to as “activating prior knowledge,” this optional but recommended section could include a start-of-week survey, pre-test, or reflection, or a more detailed discussion of how this week/unit connects to the previous one.
In this section, you help students activate their prior knowledge. This serves a few purposes:
- It can inspire and motivate students.
- It provides them an opportunity to help generate content and contribute to the teaching and learning.
- It allows them to express what they already know and gives them confidence.
Brain science teaches us that we look for patterns and connections. When we activate a memory and recall related information, we welcome and create space for new information. Connecting prior learning to new learning increases long-term memory. Preparation pieces also support Universal Design for Learning and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Your readings, videos, instructor-created content pages, etc. go here.
You should include all your content in the module, even if it is uploaded to Files (the Canvas Files area is often confusing for students to navigate.) Content could include materials uploaded to Files as well as links to required videos or resource pages online. You can also create “text headers” in the module reminding your students to read chapters in a course text that is not on Canvas.
Note that you don’t have to separate content from practice and assignments in this manner. Many fully asynchronous courses disperse activities through the content (e.g., students watch a background lecture, then do the reading, then participate in a discussion, then do a shorter supplementary reading, then write a reflection). However, in a course that also has synchronous components that are central to the experience, organizing content, practice, and assignments in their own sections can be beneficial.
Could include homework, quizzes, discussions, activities, etc that might normally happen in person, especially if they are ungraded or low-stakes and count towards participation. Depending on how your class works, this section might be merged with Assignments (the next section).
Teaching students to think like a professional and to be life-long learners means giving students several opportunities to process new information, think deeper, and do significant work. Formative quizzes, collaborative meaning-making using concept maps, practice problems, reading guides, note-taking strategies, designing drafts, discussions, and peer review are all excellent ways for students to process and practice.
Examples might include:
- Quiz: Review previous content (0 points)
- Quiz: Check your understanding. Take until 100% (5 points)
- Study Guide: Work with your small group to complete the reading guide (5 points)
- Online threaded discussion: Write a post providing 2 pro’s and 2 con’s for each of the techniques we are discussing this week. Post your answers as bullet points by Wednesday at midnight. Respond to two other posts by writing why you agree with one or more of their points and by writing why you disagree with one or more of someone else’s posts. (10 points)
Major graded assignments, including tests, papers/essays, artistic productions, lab reports, etc. You might choose to have a separate section for project components, if you have an ongoing project, or you might include those here.
Assignments provide students an opportunity to express what they have learned, and give you an opportunity to assess their progress and mastery. Providing a rubric and giving students some choice of expression supports Universal Design for Learning. Summative assignments can be case studies, essays, projects, and exams.
Rubrics are highly recommended and should provide a list of criteria and their point value within the assignment. You can set up a rubric in the Canvas assignment that you use for grading, and that students will be able to preview.
Scheduling information and links to live sessions and sign-ups for one-on-ones. Including the live meeting links in the module does not substitute for creating the event in Google Calendar and inviting students.
Consider using synchronous time for transformational experiences such as debates, case studies, service learning, problem-solving, and field work. Students who are participating online can engage in a similar experience in their locations. You and students can live stream, video conference or video record experiences. Encourage students to take a few minutes to reflect on their experience and summarize what they have learned.
In the module: consider creating a page with detailed information about what to expect during synchronous time, including a description of activities (especially if advance preparation is required), assignment of special roles, if there are any (timer, moderator, recorder, note-taker, chat manager, teams, etc), and so on.
After the live session, add a link to the session recording to the module and post any shared notes. (You may choose not to record some discussions, but all live lectures or review sessions should be recorded.)
Any pieces of a final or ongoing project relevant to the week, especially components due that week. In weeks when you release particular content or assignment descriptions related to the project, or a project component is due, you may wish to set this off in a separate section rather than including them in the Assignments section.
A final project should measure if the student has developed or mastered the content knowledge, skills and attitudes to meet your course vision and objectives. Each module should support the students’ growth toward mastery. Your weekly modules can include advice or highlights related to the project even if there is no component due that week.
Example: this week you will learn that there are several techniques that you can use to complete the final project. Each with strengths and weaknesses. In the upcoming weeks we will explore a few more techniques. Part of your project will be to choose the technique that will work best for you. This week start a storyboard for your project, Use words, images, sound clips, etc. that expresses your values.
Opportunities for students to challenge their skills. These might be required or not (make the distinction very clear!). Including this section is optional and will serve some classes better than others.
Level up opportunities might include applying the skills and content of the module to a case study, or independently finding and analyzing an example. These exercises should encourage looking beyond the class itself. This is an ideal way to offer extra credit!
Recap or review of the week/unit, or preview of the next week/unit.
You may optionally include a page, and possibly an activity like an end-of-unit survey, that wraps up the week/unit. This supports transparency by highlighting the course’s trajectory and foregrounding outcomes.