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If you use Schoology you’re probably well aware of some of the features that make the program unique in the endless field of Learning Management Systems.  But with Schoology, as well as with other LMS platforms, there are critical methods of creating and developing online instructional material that can be conducive to student learning. If you are one of the 14 million teachers currently using Schoology, below you can find some tips for building effective Schoology courses.

1. Keep Your Course Organized With Folders – Folders are the main organizational component of Schoology’s interface, so it seems like a no-brainer.  Yet I’ve seen many Schoology course where different materials, are frequently sandwiched in between folders creating a somewhat disorganized look, and a course that seems to scroll forever.  This can visually confuse students, and make it hard to navigate through content.  By organizing all of your content in folders, students will have a clean and neat interface to progress through each part of your course.

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1. Keep your course clean and organized by constantly grouping content into folders.

 

2. Don’t Forget Directions – Does your content resemble an online course or more of a file repository? It’s very quick and easy to add content in Schoology – whether it’s uploading files or creating short assignment or quizzes. But don’t forget to provide some instructions on what to do with these materials.  Just take a look at some of the course located in the Public Resources. You’ll see folders with a collection of links, documents, and other materials. But where are the directions? Effective directions are a key component of any type of online instruction. So instead of just adding multiple files or videos in a folder, specify exactly what your students are expected to do in order to complete the assignment or task.

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2. Don’t just throw materials within a folder.  Explicitly provide some directions and expectations so your students are clear on how to complete your objective.

 

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3. ABOVE:  Here’s an example where randomly using many different colors on a Page can be a distraction to users.

3. Go Easy on the Color…Please Schoology provides many options for users to customize the look of their course. You can easily change the color of the folder or the text or add images in multiple places. But just because these options exists, doesn’t always mean its beneficial to use them. It can be tempting to change the color of each folder in Schoology, but to a user it might be distracting and visually overwhelming. Research shows the more colors and font styles on a page increase the cognitive load for your learners.  When changing colors in Schoology, be purposeful about it. Perhaps you have a certain scheme (I.e. all of your folders are blue, the current unit is yellow). Or maybe you select you use a certain color on each Page to denote directions.

 

4. Break Up Your Course Into Instructional Units – This one might depend on your content or perhaps the age of your students. However it seems that the sequence of a blended course is much easier to follow if you divide your course into units (potentially lessons inside of units) as opposed to sorting material by type. For example, in figure 1A this teacher has folders that are grouped based on the type of material (Readings, Homework, Assignments), as opposed to units of study or lessons. Grouping your content into units of study can help provide focus and sequence for students.

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4. LEFT:  This English Course is divided into tasks such as “Writing Journals” and “Poetry.”  RIGHT: The Course located on the right is divided into concise folders with instructional units.  This makes the course much more organized and easier to navigate.

 

5. Devise a Consistent Numbering System- Knowing the order of assignments can be very helpful both for students, as well as any other colleagues or parents who might have permission for the course. By developing numbering systems for your units and materials, members can quickly locate or identify the contents of course.

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6.Make An Introduction – It can be helpful and inviting to users to have a brief introduction on the main page of the course. It shouldn’t be a huge description or any text that would involve scrolling deep down the page, but a brief overview can sometimes be helpful.

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To an introduction, create a Page from your Add Materials menu.  After designing your introduction at the bottom of the window you’ll find the “Create Inline” option.  Your page will now display on the main course page.

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In closing, the beginning of a school year is a great time to slowly start using a Learning Management System into your curriculum – whether your district uses Schoology or another LMS platform.  Hopefully these suggestions will help you reflect on delivering electronic instruction for your students.

So…what do you think of these tips?  Feel free to share any of your own!

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