Online Learning Management System
Last summer, I checked into a handful of online “learning management systems” as I was toying with the idea of developing an online physics course. Coursesites by Blackboard has one significant advantage over the others: it is free! Of course, there are disadvantages to a free system, too, such as lack of support and occasional downtime. But so far, I have found Coursesites to be more-than-adequate for my needs.
Coursesites is a password protected, secure website, so the students can feel comfortable making posts, taking tests, and accessing grades; none of their personal information…including grades…is accessible to anyone else. When the students first log-in to the site, they will be asked to create a username and password for Coursesites. Once they become a “student” on the site, they can choose to log-in each time via Facebook, Yahoo, Google, etc.
Coursesites provides an all-in-one online base for my students. I introduce all course documents through the front page of the website and then archive them in folders easily accessed through a sidebar menu. This menu organizes materials by quarter, so the student clicks on the appropriate quarter to find a needed document. The labs are organized in a separate folder.
This sidebar menu also highlights other helpful features on the website. The “Physics Forum” links to the online discussion board where students have the opportunity to ask questions, make comments, share pictures, etc. The “Links to Physics Helps” gives direct links to physics aids, videos, and applets found on the internet. The “Course Description” provides basic information about how the physics course is run. Finally, the students may access their personal record of grades through “My Grades” and find answers to technical questions through “Help.
Front Page of Site
There are two modules on the front page of my physics website.
The first module is called “My Announcements”. It keeps a running list of all general announcements that I post for the class. Announcements from the previous seven days are visible on the front page, but the students may click on the link to access all previous ones. At the end of each week, I make a “snapshot” announcement that outlines the assignments for each day of the coming week. Coursesites has the option available to email announcements, so I email the snapshot out each week to students and guests (parents).
The second module on the front page is “My Tasks”. These tasks are posted daily and provide easy links to morning messages and other assignments for each day. I keep the each task available for a week after it is assigned, and then I delete it.
These are just a few highlights of the Coursesites learning management system. I plan to write posts about the online test feature, discussion forum, gradebook, and class meeting “room”, so stay tuned!