4 Tips For Organizing Your LMS

Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song

Whether or not you consider yourself an organized teacher or person, in the era of pandemic teaching, I’ve learned that it is crucial to organize courses within my learning management system (LMS) in a way that helps students who are not in class for whatever the reason. It took a pandemic to make me reconsider how I structure my activities and assignments within the LMS so that all students are clear on what we are doing, when we are doing it, and how we are doing it. I should have thought of this a long time ago, but the pandemic really brought this need to the forefront. Now that I know better, I do better.

And I’ll try not to sing out of key

During the times I’ve had to teach remotely since the spring of 2020, I realized that I have always relied heavily on face-to-face communication with students once assignments are posted. In fact, during face-to-face instruction, I have entered the only bare necessities into the LMS, then explained to the students in front of me what I wanted them to do in class that day. Absent students would not really understand what to do, even though I had an assignment title and brief description in the LMS, so they would have to find time to talk to me about it or ask a friend. This seemed reasonable at the time, and after all, it is how it has always been done. I taught for years without an LMS, having only used Google Classroom since late 2014. Changing how I structure my courses and how I create assignments within my LMS is one positive that has come out of pandemic teaching. As you think about how you have your courses and activities set up, consider discussing with your students how to improve that for them. Speak to those who have been quarantined, homebound, or otherwise located during class to see what worked for them, what didn’t, and if they have ideas on making it better. For now, I have 5 tips to share that have worked for my students based on their feedback.

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

1. Number and/or Date the Assignments

Alice Keeler has been telling teachers to number their assignments in their LMS for a while, and I started doing that in 2019. In 2020, based on student feedback, I also began including the number of the assignment with the title in the gradebook. This helped students and parents correlate missing work or low scores in the gradebook to the actual assignments in the LMS. If you are organizing by unit or module, you can use a numbering system within each unit or module, instead of a running count of all activities, if that works better for your needs.

Sample from Google Classroom

Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends

2. use dated topics or headings to organize activities

If your LMS has the ability to add topics or headings for organization, use them. If you teach elementary, using topics or text headings labeled by day may work best. This could encompass each activity for each subject you work on that day. For secondary teachers, using a topic label or text header for each week might work better. This will assist parents and students in figuring out what the class worked on and when. It helps students who are also in ISS or OSS, sick, homebound, virtual, or absent for a variety of reasons. This paired with the first tip can really help parents who are frustrated or confused too. High school students working on their own appreciate knowing what they missed.

Sample using Canvas

Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

3. Be Descriptive in your Directions

Start your descriptions with something like “On Friday, October 29th, we created fake blog #2…” and then provide as much of what you think you will say in class or would say if you were face to face with students. Then after you deliver the instructions face to face or if on a video call, go back and add clarification and any detail that your students had questions about. That piece is critically important but as a busy teacher, I often forgot to do that in the past. Now, I make a note of their questions and comments then address them in my online directions as soon as possible. If the students in front of me have questions, those accessing my content online will as well.

Sample from Canvas

No, I get by with a little help from my friends

4. Use emojis

Okay, this one may be more fun than functional, but I think it does lend itself to the organization of your activities in the LMS. If you choose an emoji or a set of emojis to post with each quiz/test, students can easily find those to check to see that they have everything submitted. This helps you find your tests/quizzes easily too. For fun holiday projects, you can use emojis to set those apart also. There is power when we combine images and text, so consider tapping into that even when it seems silly or unnecessary to do so. Ultimately, you choose what to use and what works best for your students, but having fun by using emojis with purpose in your LMS is definitely one you should consider.

Sample from Canvas

If you have other tips that worked well with your students, drop a comment here or tag me on social media.

Heading titles are partial lyrics from Joe Crocker’s With a Little Help From My Friends (originally by the Beatles).

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