Over the past few months, we’ve received a great deal of feedback from instructors and students on site features and capabilities. In general, both groups want to ensure they can quickly and easily use the site to communicate with others, and each course’s internal message function has become the primary mechanism for most course-related communications. While the message function has worked well, the discussion board has not. We placed it on the course homepage so the discussion would always be present and accessible, but the design doesn’t seem to have impacted usage rates at all. In fact, it appears students and instructors have shied away from the discussion board, and they’ve done so precisely because of its location and design. It’s just too small and difficult to use.
We’ve recognized this, and are working on a few changes that should make it easier to have text-based discussions. To start, we’re removing the discussion board from the homepage and placing a ‘Questions’ box in it’s place. Students will be able to use the ‘Questions’ box to ask general course questions, and instructor answers will be accessible to everyone in the course. Next, we’re creating a new ‘Discussion Board’ content module that instructors will be able to employ as they create their syllabus. The module will join the other site content types – Video, Assignment, Quiz, eLearning, Document, Content – and will let instructors create and place specific discussion questions inside course blocks. Each discussion board will sit on its own page, which will eliminate the size issues with the current discussion board and make it easier for courses to conduct block-specific conversations.
In addition to the discussion board changes, we’re also working on a message update that will help keep instructors more aware of course issues. Right now, instructors only know about enrollments and student messages if they login to their course, and we’ve received multiple requests to add an external notification system. We’re doing just that, and the system will notify instructors via email when a) someone enrolls in their course and b) when someone sends them an in-course message. This new feature will help keep instructors connected to their courses without forcing them to login.
As we continue to add courses, instructors, and students, we’ll keep gathering feedback and improving Law Enforcement Learning. Through this set of updates, we hope to improve site-related communication, and believe that these updates will foster increased discussion board useage and smoother student-instructor interactions. If you have items you’d like changed or updated on the site, let us know. We’re working to build a responsive, effective learning community, and we’ll do our best to make it happen. Look for these updates over the next several weeks – we hope you find them useful.
The Law Enforcement Learning Team