Kicking off a new trimester with CloudFirst Learning Design


MAR, 2020

Teaching & Learning

Learning Innovations
Getting Started

The start of a new trimester can be a stressful time for our students. There’s a lot to think about, especially for new students – how to use our systems and platforms, where to find learning materials and support resources, what to expect in class. Even continuing students can feel overwhelmed sometimes – what is this trimester going to look like, how do I study this unit, how does it link to what I’ve already studied (and what I want to do when I graduate)? Luckily, we can ease some of these concerns – good learning design can help!

In our February DLF Lunchtime session, Jo Elliott and Darci Taylor from the CloudFirst CoDesign team shared some strategies for applying CloudFirst Learning Design to support students in the first few weeks of a new unit. You may find that the points below come naturally to you when you meet students face-to-face the first time, but CloudFirst asks you to consider how you might do these online in the unit site.

Right: student enjoying online Cloud study

Start by knowing your students – Who are your students and what are their motivations for study? Where are they in their study journey? What else is going on in their lives? What do they know already? Thinking about these questions will help you identify some of the things they might be thinking or feeling, and what they might want or need to know.

Scaffold learning by introducing the big questions addressed in the unit and what students will know or be able to do by the end of the unit. Put the unit in context in terms of the course and your students’ career journeys to help students link their experiences.

Make learning active and social early, by inviting students to introduce themselves in discussion forums. You might like to include a prompt such as asking what they are most looking forward to about the unit – thinking about this can prompt students to engage with the learning outcomes. Make sure you introduce yourself first to kick things off!  Responding to students’ posts, even with a summary post, will show that you are reading these and encourage future posting.

Set clear expectations by discussing what students can expect in the unit, what they can expect from you, and what you expect from them. ‘Discuss’ is the key word here – make sure you ask students what their expectations are and address these early in the trimester. This will help your students feel like active, valued members of the learning community, increasing engagement.

Support students’ learning by letting students know where they can get help and support throughout the unit, and referring back to this at key times. Students value the advice of more senior students too – why not invite previous students to feature in a video, or write a short blog post, sharing their tips for success in the unit?

We’ll be sharing more strategies for applying CloudFirst Learning Design, and examples from your colleagues, in CloudFirst 102 – coming soon!


For more on getting started with CloudFirst design see the slides from the above Lunchtime Series here.

Register here for DLF’s next Lunchtime Series – Where are we now and where to in the future? Enhancing student learning with digital tools, with Joan Sutherland.

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