The move from UTSOnline to Canvas is underway and as this process gains momentum, you’ll almost certainly come across the phrase ‘whole of course approach’. But what does it mean? And how might it affect you? Well, have no fear, the LX team have put together this guide to the four main things that you need to know to understand the process.

What is the whole of course approach?

Basically, the whole of course approach to the move to Canvas involves thinking about the online content of a whole course, not just its individual subjects. The aim is to make sure there’s consistency across all of a course’s subject sites. In practical terms, it means that all subject coordinators will meet, make decisions and work together, often in the same room at the same time and with support from the LX team, to put their course materials into Canvas.

Why are we taking this approach?

Up to now, each subject coordinator has been responsible for their own UTSOnline subject site. This has meant that, within a single course, the online content has varied widely. Through questionnaires and in focus groups, we asked students how they felt about this and the word which kept coming up was… ‘confused’. UTSOnline subject sites are structured in many different ways, often use different terminology, and contain vastly different amounts of information. Students have told us that they spend quite a bit of time learning where to find information on each of their subject sites. By the time they’ve found their required reading materials and the materials needed to understand and complete their assessments, they’ve often run out of steam and can’t find the energy to begin the real work of actually studying.

Now, we know that, for many reasons, not all students actively engage with course materials, but the whole of course approach can help to keep the attention of students who may be overwhelmed and discouraged by, for example, four different subject sites organised in four completely different ways. After all, most students are not experts at website navigation – there’s no such thing as a digital native!

Another reason to create consistency throughout a course’s online content is that it allows for links between subjects to be made explicit. For many students, especially those at the beginning of their studies, the learning that takes place at university can feel like catching pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that are being thrown at them. While they may be collecting these pieces of knowledge, they don’t always know how to put them together. To help students engage in cumulative knowledge building, it’s often necessary for links to be made explicit. And what better way is there to facilitate this than by sitting down with colleagues and discussing the structure of your courses?

How are we going to do it?

If you’re only working on undergraduate subjects right now, you don’t need to worry too much about this … yet! But if you’re coordinating or teaching a postgraduate course in Autumn 2020, you might want to know what you’re in for. Here’s what that the next few months will actually look like:

  • August – September: Meet with your course team
    The whole of course process will kick off with course team meet-ups. You’ll be introduced to the whole of course approach. Together with other subject coordinators you’ll identify and focus on the connections between subjects and the student experience throughout the course. You’ll be invited to attend a longer session to plan subject builds and establish a consistent look and feel across the course, supported by a facilitator and learning designers.
  • September: Storyboard your subject
    Following these initial meet-ups, you’ll map out, or “storyboard”, how your subject might look in Canvas. You’ll have plenty of support from the LX team, who will provide a “storyboarding guide” and technical advice to help you along the way.
  • October – November: Build your Canvas site
    You’ll come together with your course team in a half-day session to build your Canvas sites. Again, there will be face-to-face practical support from the LX team, as well as Canvas templates you can customise to suit your needs.
    By the end of November, you should have a functional Canvas site ready to teach for Autumn 2020.

Phew! The important thing to know is that we’ll be there with you along the way, helping you do what you do best – teach.

Where can I go for help?

Your course director will be able to talk to you about how the whole of course approach affects your subject. Sign up to Futures to stay up to date with the move to Canvas, and the whole of course approach.

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