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Help students plan with a visually appealing overview

Last updated on 17 August 2022
The multitude of teaching methods in active learning courses can cause confusion for students, they might lose their overview of a course. In this teaching tip, you'll read how to visualize the structure of your course to make it comprehensible and attractive. This helps students to plan their learning activities more effectively.

The great thing about active blended learning is that you, as a teacher, can provide a wide variety of teaching methods. For example, you can alternate between challenging online preparatory assignments, discussion forms, and physical labs. After on-campus meetings, students can continue to process the subject matter online and in their own time by completing a writing assignment and concluding with an online quiz. 

For students, however, it is sometimes difficult to get an overview of all these activities and how they are interconnected. They may lose overview of the bigger picture.

If students are offered a visually attractive representation of the structure and composition of the course, it is easier for them to plan their learning activities. In this teaching tip, you'll read how to design a comprehensible visualization of your course structure.

Tip 1: Put the course structure in a comprehensive timetable

Most teachers choose to include a simple table in the course manual, listing the various assignments, meetings and turn-ins of the course. A table can be effective, but is likely not the most attractive.

View an example of a comprehensive time table (.pdf).

Tip 2: Make sure the course structure is properly visible in Canvas

It is important that the course structure in Canvas properly reflects the different steps and time paths of your course. This must be in line with the table of the course and can be created as a so called castle top or battlement plan. In the plan example below you can provide an overview of the contact hours on the left side and on the right side an overview of what you expect from the student in terms of preparatory and processing assignments.

View an example of a castle top plan (.pdf)

Get more tips on designing student friendly Canvas courses here.

Tip 3: Ultimate - create a storyboard that depicts the student's learning journey

A storyboard can attractively visualize a student's learning journey. With this, students can see at a glance what is expected of them before, during and after the lecture or work group meeting. In addition, students can see what can be done online and what they may physically visit the campus for. The chronological order is also clearly displayed in this storyboard. Step by step, the preparation, teaching forms and processing of the learning matter are shown over time. The example below includes learning activities focused on a campus visit. But you can also set this up for a study week or even the entire course period.

View an example of a storyboard of a student-centered learning journey focused on a campus visit.

Tip 4: Use colours!

In the example figure we shared in tip three, you can see how colours can be used to visualise the interaction. Teaching methods where interaction with the teacher occurs, are yellow. The orange-coloured teaching methods are designed so that students learn with and from each other. The teaching methods in which students work independently with the learning content are shown in green.

Tip 5: Flipped Classroom

If you want to spend the time in the classroom on campus efficiently, the Flipping the Classroom principle works best. By completing a tutorial before the physical meeting, well-prepared students get more out of a class than unprepared students, because they will have obtained a knowledge base to build on.

You can encourage students to prepare well, by visually emphasizing importance within a learning journey. This learning journey visualizes how before entering a class with physical learning materials and intensive guidance from junior lecturers, students have already gone through an entire preparation process with tutorials, response lectures, study assignments, and Canvas quizzes. As a result, the students have a solid knowledge base, making the class and the challenging assignments in this meeting even more valuable and insightful.

View an example of a storyboard according to the Flipping the Classroom-principle (.pdf)

Would you like to create a storyboard like this as well? Feel free to use this PowerPoint template.

Literature
Last, B.& Jongen, S. (2021) Blended Learning en onderwijsontwerp. Van theorie naar praktijk. Eerste druk. Amsterdam: Boom uitgevers. ISBN 978-90-2443-746-7

This teaching tip is provided by VU NT&L en LEARN! Academy.