Organizing Course Modules, Part 1: Standard Modules


This is a fun exercise we go through each semester. I love the fact that it allows us to integrate our left and right brain – after all, every course needs a bit of logic and a bit of creativity! In this first part, I’ll go over the “left brain” which represents the standard modules—basically modules that can benefit every single course.

I. Left Brain

For the logic part, in my opinion, every course can benefit from having three standard modules:

  • Start Here – the first module that students see upon entering the course; serves as:
    • repository for a course orientation
    • introductions/ice-breaking activity
    • administrative documents (syllabus and the like)
    • activity for students to confirm their understanding of the overall “nuts and bolts” of how to succeed in the course
  • Student Resources – a module with resources that can benefit students during the course
  • Faculty Resources – a module with everything the faculty needs during and beyond the course. Access to this module is only allowed to faculty members teaching the course.

Let’s look at them one by one.

1. “Start Here”

If you’ve taken online courses, you’re likely to have encountered a module serving the purpose of repository for essential course documents. You may have seen this module called a variety of names, such as   “About the Course”, “Course Information”, “Course Documents”, “Syllabus”, “Unit One”, “First Module”, etc. Note that, while some of these names are more descriptive, others are not giving any clear indication of the purpose/contents of the module.

For a consistent learning experience, I recommend calling this module “Start Here”. By using an intuitive action verb, the module title draws students in and lets them know that this is where they need to begin. If students encounter the same terminology for this module in all their required and elective courses, they are less intimidated and feel “at home” right away. Here is an example taken from my FDEV-1 Online Course Design Fundamentals course:Start HereAs I mentioned earlier, this module is a repository for all the introductory information that students need to get off to a positive start. It is a place to house the four essential ingredients for hybrid and online:

  1. a course orientation to help students understand:
    • overall course logistics
    • your module organization
    • how to get started
  2. the student and faculty introductions (serves as an ice breaker)
  3. the administrative course documents (e.g., syllabus, printable schedule, weights, professionalism form, self-evaluation forms, learning contracts, etc.) — in the case of face-to-face courses enhanced with a D2L component, this is the only necessary piece to provide for the students.
  4. a comprehension-check activity (typically a quiz or a scavenger hunt) through which students revisit key course components (e.g., course structure, policies, grades, resources, etc.).

2. “Student Resources”

Another must-have module, “Student Resources” provides students with links to the University services and resources. Rather than just providing these links in the syllabus (where students have to “dig” to get to them), why not also put them in their own module, for convenient access?

If you prefer to only have one place to update (should anything change in our services/resources/providers), I’d recommend keeping this module and eliminating that section from the syllabus. Here is an example taken from my FDEV-1 Online Course Design Fundamentals course:

Student ResourcesIf your course incorporates team or group work, you could add a “Student Resources” submodule dedicated to team resources. This is where you could provide:

  • not just administrative documents (i.e., team charter, team evaluation form, and communication log)
  • but also articles covering best practices for working in teams (e.g., electing a team leader, taking a team skills inventory, choosing team policies, fair distribution of labor within teams, handling conflict within the team, etc.).

 3. “Faculty Resources” (access restricted to instructors only)

Whether one faculty member teaches or an entire team coordinates the teaching of the course, this is a great module to have, as it allows for important administrative documents to stay with the course and be accessible to all those who are teaching. It can also come in handy when the course changes hands and the new instructor(s) have all the documentation they need. Here is an example taken from my FDEV-1 Online Course Design Fundamentals course:

Instructor Resources

Since the example above comes from my own course, I did not include links to the three instructional-support services (I am one of the providers and the other two are my office mates). I do recommend, however, having the following standard links in every course you teach:

  1. design services – and a blurb on who the designer for your college is and how to contact him/her
  2. technology services – and a blurb on who the instructional systems analyst for your college is and how to contact him/her
  3. library services – and a blurb on who the librarian for your college is and how to contact him/her
  4. D2L tutorials – a link to tutorials provided by Brighspace/D2L for faculty.


Still have questions? Feel free to contact me or book an appointment for us to set up your course(s) in D2L.

Related Article

See also Organizing Course Modules, Part 2: Course-Specific Modules.

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