By Steve Wright
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers, opened his first team meeting each year with the same line: “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Then, walking the team out to the field, Lombardi would point out the boundary lines and the end zones, and he would remind the players of what they obviously already knew: the football is to go into the end zone.
Vince Lombardi stressed the fundamentals of the game and the need to never forget them. This focus on the fundamentals helped Lombardi to earn the title of the greatest coach in all of football. In recognition of his greatness, the Vince Lombardi trophy is given to the winners of one of the most important football games each year.
This need to focus on fundamentals, though, isn’t just important in football. A car owner needs to check the engine oil and air in the tires. A home owner needs to keep up on maintenance so that the little things don’t grow into bigger issues. And teachers, who strive to help students reach their educational goals and be successful, must focus on the fundamentals as well.
As I work with our Learning Management System, Blackboard, each day, I have the opportunity to help many users of varying skill levels. Some problems are quick and easy to fix, while others can be very complex and require a bit of reverse engineering to get at the root problem. What both of these types of problems seem to have in common is the need to always check the fundamentals first.
Missing some small detail can be the root cause of so many larger problems. Sometimes, while adding new tools and content to a course, we lose focus on our primary goal—student success. If the goal becomes to design a course that is “new and improved” rather than to design a course that fosters student success, the results can be frustrating and stressful for the student.
Just imagine how unimpressed a new student will be with our latest and greatest embedded super video player if they can’t find where this week’s assignments are because the design of the course is too complicated. Feel the frustration of a class full of students who can’t access an online exam that is due in a few hours because it was never made available by the instructor.
Focusing on the fundamentals—making sure the basics are all working—will help our students reach their goals. From my view as the LMS administrator, here is a short list of some basics to keep in mind as you help students become successful through effective course design:
- Can your students see your course?
- All instructors can make their course available as needed. Put up a welcome message and invite them in.
- Can your students navigate your course quickly and easily?
- How many clicks does it take for your students to find this week’s assignments?
- Can your students see their grades?
- Can students easily find the course email to stay in touch with you and their classmates?
- All instructors can add menu items and tools as needed.
Course Entry Point
- What will help your students the most as they enter your course each day?
- All instructors can set the entry point as needed. The Course Home Page would seem to be the best, it has all the info for the course in one place
- A well-designed test or quiz will improve outcomes for our students
- Does your course design encourage a sense of community?
- Discussion boards, Blogs and video tools will help your students feel connected and improve student retention.
As you prepare your courses for the upcoming semester, don’t feel like you need to go it alone. Contact your local CCIT team for assistance as you focus your course design on the fundamentals of student success.