Designing Digitally Engaging Courses and Activities

Have you received student feedback that indicates disengagement with their Canvas activities? You are not alone and this feedback provides an opportunity for reflection and improvement, revising how your online courses are digitally designed and presented.

If you have an interest in educational technologies and curriculum design methodologies to enhance the student experience, this is a good place to start. My journey began with a desire to adopt a more rigorous student-led approach to teaching and learning. Through this post I will share what I have learnt along the way.

Often students have higher levels of digital literacy than educators. This can have implications for the design and implementation of their learning environments. To better align these levels, we can increase the support and training options for educators to enable the design of engaging, pedagogically sound Canvas courses (Engeness, 2021). So how do we do this?

Building a Digital Identity and Literacy

One way is to collaborate with colleagues who have knowledge and skills in educational technology such as learning designers. Another strategy is to develop a digital identity such as a style or tone, putting a personal stamp on content or media produced (Gorospe et al. 2015).

In the vein of the educational psychologists Vygotsky and Galperin, for an educator to be agentic in their professional roles, they need to learn how to learn, just like their students (Richards et al, 2013). What does that mean? Simply engaging with digital design and using pedagogy to re-imagine content and online learning environments helps. Create Canvas modules and pages. Where possible, co-design with a learning design team on a deeper level to create digital content and activities.

Learning Design and Academia

One technique is to design content and activities with a strong pedagogical reason that achieves a learning outcome or objective. Not every tool or page achieves this on the deepest level. But activities are sprinkled throughout the course to balance cognitive load with purpose and scaffolding.

Learning technologies such as Padlet can be highly flexible if used in creative and innovative ways. Tools can promote reflection, poll opinions, test comprehension, mimic upcoming assessment tasks, stimulate discussion and shared opinions. These tools can also cement understanding of key concepts and help students track their knowledge acquisition.

Applying Skills

Academics are able to identify traditional content or activities that would benefit from a redesign or reformatting to become more engaging, stimulating and student-friendly. A learning designer has the skills required to take this traditional content and reimagine it in the online space. Check out this example of Learning Design for Statistics.

Coming together combines skills and leads to collaboration. In fact, taking ownership of this process as an educator is an investment into professional development. This course design can then lead to the agentic professionalism explained before. To put your best foot forward, try breaking up a Canvas page into sections, chunking content from a PowerPoint slide. You can also map out a proposed module with recurring visual themes or page designs.

Learning designers who work with academics also have sustainability of course design, development, and evaluation in mind. Training is provided to colleagues without any required knowledge or experience. I may not be a content expert in this field but translating knowledge into practical activities and content is how I approach every day.

One thought on “Designing Digitally Engaging Courses and Activities

Leave a Reply