Last year, the university undertook a pilot initiative to make some of its classes less expensive and more accessible across income levels and lifestyle, turning to Brightspace to do so.
To create a single master class for the Introduction to Sociology general education course that could be adopted by multiple faculty, Dr. Henderson-Ross, alongside senior instructional designer Teresa Potter, created a template organized around weekly topics. All relevant publisher material and custom content was made available through Brightspace (which helped save students from having to purchase access to expensive publisher platforms) in a beautifully designed user interface. The page is more than just a list of links, she says: it’s a visually appealing way to learn.
It can be copied into multiple sections offering up an immense amount of time and resource savings, she says, allowing the university to provide it at a fraction of the cost of a normal class. While there was a fair bit of upfront work to get the course ready (Dr. Henderson-Ross and Potter worked with third-party experts and reviewers to create the course) now it’s a simple matter of tweaking it year-over-year, she says, which has hugely freed up her (and her fellow instructor’s) time.
But, more importantly, the tools built into the platform mean she’s able to create an academically rigorous class that supports student success without compromising academic integrity.
To start off the year, she has students take a syllabus quiz (thus ensuring they actually understand what’s expected of them), and they aren’t able to access any of the other course materials until they’ve achieved at least an 80%.
“It sets the tone right up front,” she says. “It also gives students an early opportunity to orient themselves with the basic features of the course and practice taking a quiz.”
Then, quizzes pepper the class ensuring students keep up with their readings, serving as the backbone of the course. All subsequent content is locked until they’ve taken the quiz, which has been integral to keeping students on track, she says. (Even when a quiz is past the point of counting towards grades, the content remains locked until a student takes it, which forces them to read the material and not simply skip ahead.)
“It also means that students can’t just log in late the night before something is due and breeze through an entire module,” she says.