Adapted from the project report by Fawei Geng, Joanna Wild and Jill Fresen
Following recommendations from the Student Digital Experience (DIGE) project, a small project was run in late 2012 to investigate how students currently use WebLearn in support of their learning, i.e. we focused on gathering information about student behaviour in finding, navigating and interacting with their current WebLearn areas.
Recommendations are listed in terms of those for the WebLearn staff user community, and those for the central WebLearn team to consider, depending on resources and priorities.
Recommendations for the WebLearn staff user community
REC 1.1 Where feasible and relevant, consider uploading lecture slides, notes and images into WebLearn regularly and consistently (preferably in advance of a lecture), for students to access at their convenience.
REC 1.2 Lecturers are encouraged to make recorded lectures available in WebLearn. This can be done using various tools and techniques such as WebEx, audio commentaries on PowerPoint slideshows, students making audio recordings of lectures (with permission), sourcing existing relevant podcasts etc. Contact the IT Services podcasting or WebLearn teams to find out more.
REC 1.3a Consider using a discussion forum as a place to hold conversations with students or present FAQs about the subject matter, assignments and practicals.
REC 1.3b Inform students about the existence of the Forums tool and encourage them to use it in a self-directed way, even if there is no intention for it to be facilitated by the tutor or lecturer. This can be done by creating a separate topic within a Forum, e.g. ‘Student café’, or ‘Student lounge’.
REC 1.4 Provide students with access to a shared folder in the resources area, with the required permission to ‘create new resources’ [see REC 6.3]. Alternatively, a student-driven discussion forum could be set up [see REC 1.3b], as it also provides an easy way of sharing learning resources in the form of attachments.
REC 1.5 Consider making consistent use of the WebLearn Schedule (Calendar) and tutorial Sign-up tools to support organisational aspects of student learning; advertise these tools to the students at the beginning of the term.
REC 2.1a Departmental induction sessions at the beginning of term should briefly inform students about the existence of the array of tools in WebLearn that might be of use to them and, subsequently direct students to a WebLearn follow-up session for more detailed information.
REC 2.1b Liaise with the central WebLearn team to offer support in developing a WebLearn follow-up session to be offered later in the term. Such a WebLearn follow-up session should be short (30-45 min) and tailored to the courses offered in the department or faculty.
REC 2.1c Use WebLearn follow-up sessions as an evaluation opportunity to collect any feedback, comments or issues raised by students with regards to course sites and tools, and to inform future design and redesign of course sites by staff members [see REC 6.4].
REC 3.1 Make use of the templates developed and provided by the central WebLearn team for various purposes, e.g. for tutorials, a lecture series, to provide content, or to focus on assessment.
REC 3.2 Subscribe students only to those ‘Active sites’ which are of direct relevance to them.
Recommendations for the WebLearn team
REC 4.1 Divide the Welcome page into two separate areas: one for staff and one for students.
REC 4.2a Make ‘Getting started’ the main part of the student Welcome page. The content should be tailor-made for students, e.g. finding my course material; communicating with others; sharing resources; FAQs for students, etc.
REC 4.2b Produce a series of 2-minute student help video demos, and feature a different one on a regular basis in a prominent place.
REC 4.3a Make most important links and tools easily accessible (e.g. one click away) from the Welcome page. These include: list of ‘Active sites’, past exam papers, ‘my resources folder’, profile and calendar.
REC 4.3b Improve navigation on the post-login WebLearn page, e.g. bookmarking favourite WebLearn pages, links or files, customising layout etc.
REC 4.4 Enable students to have more control over notifications from sites which are not directly relevant to them.
REC 5.1a Highlight useful tools that students can access from the ‘My Workspace’ area, e.g. uploading resources, setting up a profile, connecting with others, accessing aggregated announcements and schedules.
[Suggestion from WebLearn team: for new student accounts, prompt them to carry out ‘sensible’ set-up activities to get them started, with help on how to do it, e.g. Have you done these three things: 1. Upload your photo to your Profile; 2. Set your Preferences for receiving notifications; 3. Subscribe to your global My Workspace calendar.]
REC 5.1b Supply update prompts if an active student has not carried out the set-up activities, e.g. We notice you haven’t uploaded your photo into your profile. This would be really helpful so that your photo is displayed in forum posts and in the site members tool [this is how to do it…]
REC 5.2 Enable students to click on a name listed in the ‘Users present’ area to see a person’s profile or instigate a chat session with them.
REC 6.1 Publicise existing templates for setting up course sites to departments and academic staff [see REC 3.1], in order to encourage consistency in site design and structure.
REC 6.2 Improve the usability of some WebLearn tools, in particular the Forums tool.
REC 6.3 Build more structure into all the templates, e.g. Forums tool, more folder structure in Resources [e.g. work done for the Blavatnik School of Government], student shared folder in Resources.
REC 6.4 Provide tools to enable easy feedback from students about their course sites, e.g. similar to the ‘Contact us’ link at the foot of every site.