Always-Up-To-Date Course Map
By Scott Tanaka
During the F2020 semester I am teaching the course “Legal Computer Applications” to all of the first semester students across both our graduate certificate and diploma Paralegal programs. As a group, these students have diverse educational and professional experiences at the outset of their paralegal studies. I anticipated that my students would need help keeping track of their coursework and important dates as we continue to work remotely this semester. It is easy to imagine a student asking the question: “Where should I be in the course right now?”.
Online learning can leave some students feeling lost, but I was also concerned with providing reassurance to all of my students by creating certainty wherever it is possible to do so. Although I have made the traditional course outline available through the LMS, I chose to supplement it with an HTML webpage that I call the “Always-Up-To-Date Course Map”.
At the top of this page I prominently display the date of the most recent update. (I know the orange-red colour is ugly – but I wanted all of the dates to be especially prominent.)
The page is divided into three sections:
1. You should already be finished these items
This is not displayed on the first day of the course because my students are not expected to complete any tasks until the end of Week 1. On Monday mornings I update this area to show students which coursework should be complete for anyone to consider themselves “on track” with my plan for the class.
2. These items are available now
I show students the coursework that is available to them organized chronologically according to the order in which they should complete these tasks. Students may work ahead of the weekly schedule to help them manage their time and workload. Evaluations are important to everyone, so I chose to emphasize the next item that “counts for marks” (to be plainspoken).
3. These items are not yet available
Students can easily see the plan for the rest of the course before I have electronically “unlocked” the remaining content. In addition to showing the forthcoming due dates, I have also indicated when students can expect to access the corresponding instructions.
I have received positive feedback from my students so far because this webpage serves as a straight-forward “go-to” for them whenever they are working on this course. I include hyperlinks wherever I can to assist students with navigation, but they can also access all the materials through the “content” section of the course homepage. This is a synchronous course, so I often refer to this page early on during our live class meetings, which gives me a chance to provide further verbal updates.
Using this strategy requires some comfort with basic HTML, but I think the time investment of learning how to do this is well worth the improved accessibility this brings to my course so I plan to continue using this approach in future semesters.