CTL Blog

Making It Easier for Faculty and TAs to Edit Online Course Sites

December 06, 2011 | 3 Minute Read

One of the nice things about online courses at JHSPH is that the team from the Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology works hand-in-hand with faculty to build online courses. If a faculty member is building a CoursePlus site, on the other hand, the faculty member (or their TA) is totally responsible for adding all the content and building out all information which needs to be displayed. Online courses have an entire team, led by an instructional designer, working with faculty to build lectures, course pages, and more.

There's a related disconnect, though, for faculty who work in both the online course environment and CoursePlus on a regular basis. When you sign in to CoursePlus as a faculty member, you primarily see the fauclty view of that CoursePlus site. Most faculty and TAs don't go into the student view of their CoursePlus site all that often. In the online courses, however, you primarily see the student view and go into the content editing and admininstrative tools only when you need to. For faculty and TAs, CoursePlus is tool driven. Online courses, on the other hand, are content-driven (because there is no in-class content to create and consume — everything is online).

This disconnect can be frustrating for faculty who spend much more time in CoursePlus. They will navigate over to the Gradebook page in the "Course Resources" section of their online site, and then wonder why they can't edit the Gradebook. In order to edit the Gradebook, you have to go to the Faculty Tools area and work on the Gradebook there. The same goes for the Drop Box, or the course syllabus, or a number of other tools.

Today, we've rolled out a small but very handy change which will help to mitigate this disconnect. When faculty and TAs sign in to their online courses, they will see a "Faculty Tools Quick Jump" box on the course home page which has links to the most popular tools in used in online courses. This includes the Gradebook, Drop Box, Online Library, Quiz Generator, Wikis, Course Groups, Class Email, and the Syllabus Builder. With this addition, faculty now have a shortcut to these commonly used tools. (There are a lot more tools in the Faculty Tools area, but these are the most commonly used.)

Additionally, faculty and TAs will see "Edit This..." buttons on the top of a number of pages in their online courses. If they navigate to the student view of the Gradebook, they will see an "Edit the Gradebook" button a the top of the page, which takes them directly into editing the Gradebook. If they naviagate to the student view of a quiz, they will see an "Edit this Quiz" button a the top of the page, which takes them directly to the overview page for that quiz in the Quiz Generator. Again, this provides a shortcut between the content-driven student view and the tools faculty and TAs need to manage that content.

You may notice that the course schedule and lecture and activity/assignment pages are not mentioned above. We're working on providing faculty and TAs access to editing these pages, but it's a complicated issue. Although it may seem inconsequential to change the opening date for a lecture in an online course, that could have a major impact on the lecture building workflow for that and all other online courses. LiveTalks are scheduled well in advance of the start of a course due to high demand for limited available studio space and resources to run those LiveTalk sessions. As such, changing a LiveTalk date could have significant consequences. The indivdiual lecture and assignment pages in an online course are made up of lots of components, and figuring out the easiest way for faculty and TAs to change those pages without impacting the workflow of which faculty and TAs are not normally a part is a definite challenge. We're working on that challenge, though, and you'll see changes on that front in the coming months.