After you have identified your course learning outcomes and determined how you will assess students, you can begin to start planning the learning activities that support students in achieving those learning outcomes.
The best way to approach the design of course online learning activities is from a module approach. Moodle is organized into "sections", which is where all the activities related to one topic are organized, and there is a clear separation from one section to the next. These sections are typically organized in a weekly format; however, without the confines of a usual academic week, instructors are free to organize these sections into modules that span as little or as much time as needed for the specific content.
For example, you may choose to have 6 modules over a thirteen week course, with one week at the end for review activities. In this case, you may only meet students synchronously once every two weeks, or you might decide to meet once briefly at the beginning to introduce the topic and follow up with some discussion or problem-solving activities the second week.
Create a Template for your Module
It is recommended to consider implementing pattern structure for your modules to help with consistency and set expectations for students. This will also make it easier to plan each week. For example, you might know that each module will look something like this*:
An introductory activity
4-6 instructor-created videos
1-2 Other videos (external sources)
Reading/video quizzes OR reading summaries/responses
a one-hour Zoom lesson (to clear up fuzzy concepts, and do practice or discussions in break out rooms)
2-4 Practice Activities (Discussion forums, practice problems, group tasks, etc. - see below for more information on what those might look like)
1-2 Application Activities (see below for more information on what those might look like)
*This is an example only, and individual course templates will depend on target content and skills, learning outcomes, etc.
You do not need to have all modules of your course ready to go on Moodle before the first day of class. Many instructors develop their Moodle activities on a week-by-week basis, staying ahead of the class by a week or two. This is feasible if you already have plan for the modules.
The CTL recommends that you have a minimum of 2-3 weeks ready on Moodle by the first day of class. This will ensure that you have enough time to work on subsequent modules, but can make adjustments as needed for activities that are not working.
While your course learning outcomes are broad statements that cover the entire course curriculum, it is good practice to break those down into more discrete outcomes for each week/module when possible. This will help you target a subset of the knowledge, skills or values in your course-level learning outcomes that will build as the course progresses each week.
2. Determine how you will introduce the topic
The main purpose of the Introduction is to:
establish what students already know about the topic and help them access that knowledge in order to prepare them to build on it. This is an important step in order for the constructs to be efficiently formed in students’ schema
pique student interest. It’s important to provide context for students to explain why what they are learning is important or valuable, how it relates to the field, and how it applies to everyday life
3. Determine & plan how students will engage with the content
This phase should be approximately 2-4 hours of work per week in a usual three credit, 13-week course.
In this phase of instruction, students will be engaging with the content. The typical ways students are introduced to new content is by: reading, watching a video (demonstration, simulation, worked problem, etc.), watching a video lecture, and participating in an experience.
Regardless of the instructional strategy you use to present your content, it should support the learning outcome and any extraneous or “nice-to-know” information should be kept to a minimum to help manage the cognitive load.
The best way to determine how students will engage with the new content is to pinpoint exactly what knowledge, skills and values students need in order to achieve the learning outcomes, and then start to find content that helps support those outcomes.
Tips for developing content activities
Discrimate between need-to-know and nice-to-know for achieving the outcome(s)? This is your chance to omit unnecessary pages from readings and trim down your video lectures.
Do not reinvent the wheel. Find out what resources already exist and integrate them. (i.e. videos, books, articles, software & simulations, images, learning objects, etc.)
Keep content pieces as short as possible so that students can digest pieces at a time.
Make sure you content is accessible to all learners
This phase should be approximately 3-4 hours of work per week in a usual three credit, 13-week course.
In university teaching, the presentation of content is commonly the focus of instruction. However, the Practice and Application phases of instruction are equally, if not more important, in the learning process because they target the students’ understanding of the specific content and performance skills.
When designing these activities, keep in mind that they will need to focus specifically on new knowledge and skills and should be relatively simple but sufficiently challenging. Remember - we are not assessing their knowledge here, we are helping students develop their knowledge and skills in this phase, so this is the ideal time for instructor support and feedback.
It is important that they have the opportunity to practice several times before consolidating it with other knowledge.
Tips for planning effective practice activities
Model and scaffold skills (i.e. give examples, use smaller tasks that build)
Practice might include repetitive problem-solving activities and practice using equations. It might also include knowledge checks on specific terms, definitions, etc.Here are just some of the types of activities:
Group Grid [Collaborative Document (i.e. Google Doc)]
Practice in Social Sciences & Humanities
The practice phase also relates to “practicing” content, such as theories, concepts and ideas. In this case, students are engaging with content and negotiating meaning of the content through analysis and reasoning. The following are only some of the types of activities that can be used:
Writing a letter assuming the identity of one scholar to another who holds a different perspective or a dialogue between the two [Moodle Assignment/Discussion Forum/Collaborative Document(i.e. Google Doc)]
This phase should be approximately 1-3 hours of work per week in a usual three credit, 13-week course.
In this phase of instruction, students apply new content and skills and integrate these with previous knowledge. The activities should provide opportunities for students to incorporate new and prior knowledge and apply it to new situations. The goal is for students to practice using the new knowledge and skills in tasks that mimic real-world applications.
Tips for planning effective application activities
Deign activities that mimic authentic tasks in the field
Design activities that provide students with opportunities to draw from their own diverse backgrounds and experiences
Build in opportunities for student reflection
It is possible that you will not have an application activity each week or in each module. You may design your application activities to help students integrate content and skills spanning over a series of weeks or modules.