Today we continue our exploration of how Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles of good pedagogical practice can be achieved and supported through use of the Brightspace learning management system (LMS). You can access the entire blog series here, or start from the top with Blog #1.
Principle 5: “Emphasize time on task”
**We will be making reference to the Classic Content Experience, so please note that your own environment may look and act differently if you are instead using the New Content Experience, also known as Lessons.
Chickering and Gamson begin tackling this pedagogical practice with a discussion surrounding the importance of effective time management in society today: “Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike. Students need help in learning effective time management.” One of the simplest yet most effective ways to teach this skill using Brightspace is to add the Calendar widget to your classroom homepage! Students will then always be able to view upcoming tasks the minute they land on your class.
Additionally, for older students, you can encourage use of our mobile app, Brightspace Pulse, which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play. The Pulse app will sync up with students’ calendars from their Brightspace classes, and includes views such as week-at-a-glance, upcoming tasks, and more! Your school district may also be making use of our Brightspace for Parents functionality, so that parents/families can also support time on task.
Let’s Make a Date
Adding date restrictions to your lessons is quick and easy in Brightspace. Within any Module or Sub-Module, select “Add Dates and Restrictions” (for Topics, you will first need to click on “Edit Properties In-place”), and you will be given three options: Start Date, Due Date, End Date. Let’s take a moment now to distinguish between these three terms.
- Start Dates allow you to hide content or assessments until a specific day (of course Quizzes are an important use case here), but students WILL be aware of what is coming when. For example, many teachers choose to divide their lessons into manageable time blocks to facilitate advance planning. Knowing that the work for Unit 2 will be made available on October 1st will guide students towards estimating how much time to spend on Unit 1.
- Be especially cautious when incorporating End Dates, as they mean that students will no longer have access to this content/assessment, so we encourage full transparency here in order to reduce learner anxiety. However, the use of End Dates may in fact encourage students to streamline their efforts towards the most urgent tasks, knowing that these are time-sensitive since they will “disappear” after the specified End Date.
- Due Dates, technically speaking, have no effect on hiding/displaying material in the actual system, so you can treat them as more of a guideline for students to rely on for their organizational planning. That being said, do note that Assignments and Content Topics both require Due Dates in order to show up in Pulse (Quizzes require End Dates), so the more the merrier!
Tracking Student Progress
In addition to tracking student achievement by way of concrete numeric grades and mastery of learning outcomes (assessment of learning), Brightspace allows you to monitor students’ progress while they are still working through your class, in order to address potential concerns before it’s too late, and cater to overall student success in the long run.
When on the Table of Contents page (still in Content), under the Related Tools drop-down menu, you will discover a little-known link called View Reports, which will take you to a detailed page entitled Statistics (you can easily export these figures into a CSV file for reporting purposes). Here, you can browse important details by Content or by User: exactly which content topics students have accessed, and how much time they spent where. In terms of encouraging students to allocate realistic amounts of time to their learning, these content statistics provide a fantastic bird’s eye view that allows educators to keep an eye on where students are spending their time; you may then choose to reach out individually or globally if necessary, based on how these numbers compare to your own expectations. If you are using the New Content Experience, you can either temporarily flip back to Classic Content, or conveniently create a custom link on your navbar!
Another useful tool for monitoring student achievement is Class Progress, where you can easily get a sense of how each student is progressing on a variety of indicators (to name a few: content completion, assignment submissions, grades, learning outcomes, discussion participation, and class access). Hide or display any of these indicators in the Settings menu to avoid overwhelming students, and don’t forget to click the print button the next time that a student (or parent/guardian!) wishes to discuss their performance. Remember that students themselves can access their own progress page at any time by clicking on Progress under their name in the navbar, allowing for full transparency during the entire learning journey.