In Teaching at its best: a research-based resource for college instructors, Linda Nilson lists key learning principles that have complementary instructional principles. Each month, I will take one of the instructional principles, explore how the principle can be applied in an online setting and provide one or two examples and/or resources.
Use Advance Organizers
“Give students the big picture – the overall organization of your course content. The clearest way to show this is in a graphic syllabus.”
Nilson, Linda Burzotta. Teaching at its best: a research-based resource for college instructors. 2nd ed. Bolton, MA: Anker Pub. Co., 2003. Print.
Application in Online Learning
Essential documents such as a syllabus and schedule provide students with an overview of the course. Once students are immersed in the activities of week 1, the ‘big picture’ can get lost. To help with this issue, consider that the overall organization of the course can also be represented visually. Faculty can use Microsoft Word and its SmartArt feature to show processes, hierarchies, and diagrams that represent the logic and structure of the course.
In some rare cases, faculty have used specialized tools to build graphical organizers into the welcome page of their course, representing the course as flow chart or iTunes-like ‘cover flow’.
With either a high tech or low tech approach, faculty can help students establish a mental picture of the course and thereby help students organize and reduce cognitive load and anxiety.