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Why Create Modules in Canvas?

Photo by Nadim Shaikh on

Just Hit the Ball

I remember taking up golf years ago. You would think that hitting that little ball that is planted on the ground was easy. However, it wasn’t about the ball at all, but how the club or iron struck the ball. Moreover, it came down the how well you mechanically swung the club. Little things like hip rotation, lifting your head too soon, your grip and the list goes on and on. Nevertheless, I gave up on golf as I just did not want to spend time practicing to become a decent golfer. What does this have to do with creating a module on Canvas you ask? Just name the module and that’s it. Refining how and why to use modules takes practice. Even after years of using the platform I am still learning about best practices.

Students First

There are reasons that modules are used for course design. It all comes down to the students who will using the platform. Will they understand how to navigate through the course? If they don’t guess who will be answering all their questions? In using a well designed modular course, students will seamlessly move from one assignment to another understanding the why. They will understand the dates and titles of the work. All of this seems obvious, but I have seen courses where the first question I ask the designer is, “if you were a student would you understand this?” Initially the designer might seemed surprised, but when considering who their students are they begin to think some more about the question. Soon there is a realization that there needs to be some modifications.

Keep It Simple

I prefer to set up my modules by week. I know that others prefer by unit. My rationale is based upon the past two years of instruction in which the pandemic greatly affected the fluidity of the school environment. Below is an example from my 8th Grade US History course. Since my students met with either twice or three times weekly depending on our block schedule the module was set up for a twice a week session.

Module Design

I preferred to title the module with the week of the semester and then with the focus of the week. The reasoning behind this approach was so that the students would know what the the weekly focus was, and so I also could move the modules once they were finished. Assignments were then added to the module with the dates the work was assigned. A better approach is to actually name the assignment with the day, in my case Day 1, Day 2 etc. as demonstrated below.

Modules with Day Title

Other Module Approaches

There are other approaches that are more progressive in nature. For example, students can move ahead through the modules with the prerequisite of completing the previous module. This method correlates well with personalized learning practice in that students learn at their own speed and develop mastery spending as much time as they need on a particular area. This is not one I have utilized, but I see tremendous potential in that it promotes student agency as students choose the topic that most interest them and proceeds accordingly completing the assignments. That being said, constructing modules that involve mastery approaches involve time, trial and error.

Module with pre-requisites

Back to Hitting the Ball

The very few times that I connected cleanly hitting a golf ball were exhilarating. I knew when the club struck the ball and watching the ball travel through the air at a reasonably straight distance that I had done well. Lesson design is much the same. Creating a module that student engage with and the outcomes of their work meet your expectations is shot in the arm as a teacher. Practice in the development of modules is necessary to fully engage students. So keep swinging away.

Photo by Centre for Ageing Better on

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