Help Students Navigate Your Course with a Simple Homepage

When teaching a class online, how do you ensure your students are able to find the information they need to be successful in the course? Portuguese Lecturer Schirlei Silveira tackled this challenge by creating a simple, effective homepage to help her students navigate their online learning experience.

Silveira worked closely with instructional designers in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) to build a simple, modular homepage template that highlighted key areas of the course. The homepage directed students to their modules, displayed course announcements and included a link to contact information so her students could easily reach her with questions.

“I reviewed the analytics on my courses to see where students were going and where they were having trouble,” said Silveira. “I noticed several students attempting to complete the assignments before reviewing the modules, so I knew I wanted to draw more attention to those on my homepage.”

Silveira also removed any large, flashy images from the homepage since they took a long time to load, displayed differently on mobile devices and didn’t provide students with any useful information.

After changing up her homepage, Silveira surveyed her online students and the feedback she received was very positive.

One student said, “The modules feature is important because it has all of the material for each week under one heading.” Several other students expressed how important it was to have a quick link to modules right on the homepage.

Another student shared that “getting helpful announcements was a great feature!” Others mentioned that they were more likely to see course announcements in CarmenCanvas as they don’t check their email as often.

“If you redesign your homepage, keep in mind this is the first thing your students see in your course,” said Silveira. “Make it meaningful and give them useful course information rather than pretty pictures.”

Silveira also encourages instructors to consider every type of student who may be taking their course. Not all online learners are digital natives who are familiar with technology or web-based content. Designing with these students in mind will make your online courses easier for all students to access. She found that the Canvas Community was a great place to find inspiration when developing her simple, effective homepage.