Step-By-Step Guide: How I Organize My Courses Via an LMS
I have used many different ways to try and keep my classes organized. It became a lot more difficult when I used technology to blend my classroom with online learning.
Hands down the best method I found was using an online learning management system (LMS). The one I found worked the best for me is Schoology.
Here is my screencast on how I keep things organized. I hope it helps you keep your blended course organized!
What My Courses Look Like Organized via an LMS
So how did I get here? Below, I'll walk you through the steps that will help you take your own online course from disorganization to organization.
Step-By-Step How I Organized My Courses
As teachers, we take the time to find the best educational material, spend hours creating lessons, and go through the trouble of copying/posting assignments all for students. It can then be frustrating when students don’t keep track of their material and ask you for 2 or 3 copies of the same worksheet.
All of this is wasted time, and it can eat away at their productivity and ours. But what can be done?
I decided to start digitizing my classroom material. The truth is, my students need lessons in organization and productivity as much as they need my class content. I scanned my worksheets and readings into PDF files and then made online versions of my assessments.
I used Schoology as my learning management system to keep everything organized. At the end of that school year, I posted about how this transition affected homework in another blog, Schoology: A Response to "What Was the Homework?"
This switch addressed:
- Student organization: everything was online!
- Missing assignments: materials were submitted online!
- Grading: online assessments were graded for me!
This not only increased my productivity but the students’ as well!
Taking My Courses from Disorganized to Organized: A Journey Over Time
I went through a couple different attempts at organizing my course, but the best system I found was organizing the material into “Folders.” Instead of nightly homework deadlines, I make a “Folder” deadline with all of the assessments due by the deadline. You can see my progression in the images below.
Phase I—The Enlightenment: A Mess
The first unit of the year was a mess. One set of assignments was for honors and one for my A-levels. There was no organization, no system of due dates, and no clarity of student progression.
There were no Student Completion Rules so students didn’t know how to proceed independently. This was haphazard and did not help me or the students see the endgame of what we were trying to accomplish.
Phase II—The French Revolution: Getting There
Here I have included more links and more organization with a clearer progression to the final test. There were still no Student Completion Rules and it was still a bit unclear what students had to accomplish or how the material built up to the final assessment.
Phase III—The Industrial Revolution: Nearing Perfection
I added a clear progression from start to finish. Everything was designed to build to the final assessment. I had multiple checkpoints along the way to check for student understanding and to perform skill checks. I added student completion rules and aligned the material in A-level and Honors. This added the clarity of purpose to what we were studying. It also gave students the ability to progress independently because it was clear what they needed to complete, view, or pass in order to progress to the final assessment.
Students were a little confused about the whole system at first, but that was to be expected given that no other class at my school is setup this way. I loved it though because everything that was needed for student success was clearly organized. I was no longer the gatekeeper to student success but someone who could help them through the process.
I have tried different lesson planning and assessment strategies over the years, and this is by far the best way I have organized my course. I know what needs to be completed and so do the students. Absences no longer matter, and the organization is demonstrated to the students so nothing is misunderstood. Everyone wins.
Blended learning is still the frontier of education and it will be some time before teachers can figure out the best practices. Good organization will make your teaching and student learning more productive, efficient, and effective!
Do you have any tips or tricks for organizing your courses? Share them in the comments below.
This post combines two articles by M.J. Linane, Founder of the Technology Professional Development organization Guildway.