For Blackboard and Beyond: The 5 C’s of Content Presentation

Do you want students to feel more connected with your course?  Student connectivity and success begin with a learner-centered course design. Don’t let the jargon overwhelm you; regardless of your discipline and instructional modality, implementing a learner-centered design is more intuitive than you think.
 
The course materials that we make available for our students (and we expect them to navigate) should be intuitive, engaging, informative, understandable, and relatable.  This is the basis for learner-centered course design and can dramatically improve the learning experience for both students and instructors.
 
A great place to integrate and maximize learner-centered design elements into your course is within your Blackboard shell, but these strategies apply generally and can enhance the overall student experience as they interact with your content outside Blackboard as well.  For example, providing a rationale that briefly explains why certain information is provided, why the details are important, and what students should do with this information is a simple and time-saving way to make materials more accessible and easier to navigate.
 
Here, we share the 5C’s for content presentation: Clarity, Consistency, Content Accessibility, and Community.
 
Clarity:  Content should be presented in a clear, concise manner. 
  • Naming conventions for assignments, files, videos, etc., should reflect what the item is in as brief of a manner possible. Ambiguous names or inconsistent naming conventions should be avoided.
  • Instructions and overviews should be in present tense and concise. Say what is needed in as direct and straightforward a manner as possible.  Omit excessive use of filler words.
  • Place like-information together and in a logical order.
    • For assignments, provide an overview of the assignment, why it is important, and how it relates to the content being learned.
    • Follow with a clear set of instructions, requirements, rubrics, and expectations.
    • Break information into categories through the use of spacing to increase readability and arrange like items together.
 
Consistency:  Details and information provided should align cohesively.
  • Information found on the syllabus and throughout the Blackboard course should connect through the use of consistent titles.
  • Point values provided in the syllabus, found throughout the course, and inside the Blackboard Grade Center should all match.
  • Due dates, rubrics, requirements should all be the same regardless of where the information is provided.
 
Communication:  Information shared and how it is shared sets the tone for the course and influences student success.
  • Authentic communication is a critical way to stay connected to your students, keeps them focused, on track, and motivated while letting them see your personality.
    • Written communications should reflect your own writing style and personality while remaining clear, concise, and consistent.
  • Regular emails and announcements are a great way to provide direct touchpoints to your students and show them you are present and available.
  • Reminders and task lists can help students remain on track, ensure due dates are not missed and lend valuable assistance to students who struggle with time management and priority setting.
  • Recordings of yourself giving weekly updates and reminders, providing topic overviews, or offering encouragement and positive affirmation add another way to allow students to get to know you and share information with them. When added to emails, Blackboard Announcements, and within course content, recordings will enable a student to feel connected to you, especially in an asynchronous format course.
 
Content Accessibility:  Courses with students who cannot access and use content and information as intended (with or without a documented accommodation) create an unfair advantage to those who can.
 
Community:  A class where students feel valued, heard, and successful are all elements of a learning community.
  • Create opportunities for students to collaborate and learn from one another.
    • Find creative ways for students to interact with the content rather than passively read or watch. Seek student input and opinions on content and topics – even the challenges they are encountering in the course.
  • Set the tone for the class by posting positive messaging and reminders. Let students frequently know you are there and available for questions.
  • Add live class meetings via Teams or Webex so everyone can connect and interact.
    • Creating a purposeful agenda that asks questions or seeks out opinions to ensure participation and attendance is also helpful for managing the interaction that accompanies such live sessions
 
Additional Resources: Finally, take advantage of the resources that follow to help shift your course to be learner-centered, and implement those 5C’s.