Take back some time in your day and reach more learners by getting the most out of your LMS.
I’ve recently returned from a fact-finding mission. I took to the road to speak with educators to understand how they get the most out of the time they spend in their virtual learning environment (VLE). At D2L, we have our own established best practices for successful VLE adoption, but I was curious to hear from academics who are hands on with a VLE day in and day out. Not surprisingly, the instructors I spoke to were very passionate on the matter. They had done quite a bit of experimenting over the years to learn what works with students and what was practical and sustainable for themselves and their colleagues.
Their responses to the question “what advice would you give a colleague who is not getting the most out of their VLE?” are summarised in these tips.
1. Get your Stuff into the VLE Quickly
These days, content is everywhere. It’s stored in Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, open educational resources (OERs), publisher packs, and probably (if you are at all like me) an old USB stick in your backpack. One of the toughest parts of an instructor’s job is pulling that content together so your students can find and utilise it easily.
Here’s where the VLE comes in.
If you have content on your computer’s hard drive, just drag and drop it right into the VLE those content packages as well.
2. Edit your documents within the VLE
If you see changes you need to make–and want to do them on the fly–most virtual learning environments now let you drop files right into student content areas. You can even edit the HTML files inside the VLE with easy-to-use editing tools. Trust me, if you are used to using Microsoft Word you’ll be on familiar ground.
Speaking of Microsoft Word—you probably have some great content stowed away in those documents as well. You can just paste the contents of a Word document right into your VLE and it will format perfectly. Best of all, your students won’t need to open the document files or hunt for the right app/plug-in to ensure the content displays properly.
3. Go Mobile and Accessible—and Use Templates for your Content
You have great ideas and in your head and they look amazing, right? But even after hours of effort, your online content never quite looks the way you want, does it?
Further complicating matters is the fact that your content also needs to look flawless on a mobile device and must be accessible to screen readers. It’s necessary we reach every learner, but getting there can be really time-consuming work.
Today’s virtual learning environments provide you with ready-to-use content templates to guide you in creating new content. By using these templates, you get visually appealing layouts, and you KNOW the content will be accessible AND work on all mobile devices. Plus, you’ll spend your time conveying your ideas to your students, not fussing over how to make things look good.
4. Automate your Communications
Your time as an instructor is at a premium. At the same time, your students need your attention. This is especially true of online learners who need to know someone is on the other side of the screen, and that their tutor cares about their progress.
This is where your VLE can help you with engagement. Use it to schedule smart, personalised messages to help you catch and correct problem behaviours. For instance, you might have the VLE send a message to students who haven’t logged in for last X days; or to welcome new students; or congratulate an individual on a job well done; or provide encouragement and/or intervention when a student is exhibiting signs of difficulty.
It can be especially difficult in large classes to create a personal bond without some level of automation. Using your VLE to schedule communications allows you reach everyone, while using your time most efficiently to work one-on-one with those students who most need your support.
Effective use of a VLE can make an educator’s day better. You can reduce the number of tasks that bog down your day, and you can eliminate a lot of frustration along the way.
So, the next time you’re planning a re-offering of your course, or are evaluating the “next thing” on your campus think about these tips–from academics just like you–and see if they can provide equal, if not more value, in your daily work.
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