The first in our series of lunchtime webinars took place on 24 September 2015. The theme of this session was ‘Baseline use of Yorkshare’ and emphasised the main themes from Section 1 of the York TEL Handbook, where we highlight recommended practice for a ‘baseline’ approach to setting up VLE module sites and offer suggestions on how to establish these baseline approaches across full programmes to maintain consistency for the student experience.
The three main takeaways from the Baseline use of Yorkshare webinar are:
- Accessibility of module site and key content.
- Clear module structure and how this impacts on the ease of module site navigation.
- Importance of communication and instructions.
1. Accessibility of module site and key content
As a minimum, the E-Learning Development Team recommend that the following key content is included in every VLE module site:
- Announcements page
- Module outline – can be uploaded as a document into the VLE.
- Course content – lecture notes, PowerPoint slides, links to other resources as appropriate.
- Reading list
- Assessment information
- Contact details – module convener, main tutors, assessment administrators (if appropriate).
As in the example site shown in the webinar video, the left menu in the VLE provides you with a way to structure your site so that each of the key content items mentioned above can have a link from the left menu. It is also helpful if your module site structure represents the structure of the taught element of the module. For example, if the module consists of weekly lectures followed by weekly or fortnightly seminars, then having left menu sections for both ‘Lectures’ and ‘Seminars’ is not only helpful for navigating the VLE module, but provides a connection between the face-to-face and online element, emphasising that the VLE module content is an integral part of the module and not a peripheral resource.
2. Clear module structure
First impressions are key when it comes to VLE modules and a clear structure means that someone without prior knowledge of the module should be able to find content quickly without losing their way. Often, some students will have already looked at the module before the first face-to-face session of the term, so it is important that resources are clearly labelled and links on both the left menu and within content areas are clearly named. File names in particular are crucial for accessibility reasons so ensure that any files uploaded are labelled clearly with the week/topic they are related to and what the file actually is. For example:
Week 1 lecture slides – Introduction to Social Policy.pptx
Any students using screen-reading software will benefit from clear file naming, as the software will read out the name of the file and enable them to identify exactly what it is quickly and easily. An unclear file name such as ‘PowerPoint1’ means that students would need to open the file before knowing what it contains and this impacts on both the accessibility and ease of navigation of the site. Using Content Folders within the VLE enables you to organise module content and break it down into weekly ‘chunks’ so that students can find the relevant information they need each week.
3. Importance of communication and instructions
This links to the idea that having key content within a VLE module provides the connection between the face-to-face and online element of the module. Using the Announcements tool and providing clear written instructions within the module site helps to manage student expectations and pre-empt possible questions. This is especially important at the start of term when you might have students visiting the VLE module before they attend the first face-to-face session. Posting an introductory announcement with instructions for the first couple of weeks shows that a member of staff has been active in the module site and clear instructions on pieces of module content enable you to embed online activities around the taught aspect of a module. Regular announcements throughout the duration of a module can point students in the direction of key resources and emphasise the importance of checking the VLE regularly.
- The York TEL Handbook Section 1: Baseline use of Yorkshare
- Baseline use of Yorkshare – checklist [PDF]
- Show and Tell: Back to Basics – Designing effective blended courses
Visit our Development Opportunities page to find out more about upcoming lunchtime webinars.