As an infinite universe of information, the internet is a pretty good place to find educational resources. However, with so much content to sift through, it can be extremely time consuming for teachers to find relevent and engaging materials to use. Many teachers opt to use their own content, much of which started life as physical worksheets and essay assignments, often making it ill prepared for online learning.
In the same way that newspapers and magazines have adapted their content for online readers, teachers must also take into account the medium they use and how their assignments are recieved by students online. Adapting your content properly for online use could mean that students engage more, are more punctual with homework hand-ins and are less likely to be intimidated or confused by the work you set.
Unlike the traditional classroom setting, which affords you with the forgiving wipe of the board when the bell rings, online homework assignments are a much more permanent fixture. It does, however, provide you with the flexibility and capacity to effectively translate your ideas onto paper in your own time.
How to adapt learning materials for online use:
1. Break up Blocks of Text
Studies have shown that students disengage when faced with a mountain of words, so keep text to a minimum and remember that formatting is key. Where you can, use bullet points, numbers or short paragraphs. The more concise you are, the greater clarity your students will have.
In our current world of microblogging and social media, everyone's concentration span is diminishing, even parents. Creating smaller chunks of text will make it easier for parents who want to help their child with school work.
2. Punctuation is Paramount
Take extra care with spelling, grammar and punctuation. As is the case with all homework, it's vital to give students clear instructions. Being careless with grammar will leave you with confused students, disgruntled parents and a lot of work to do
Take the age-old example of 'Let's eat Grandma!' and 'Let's eat, Grandma! - Punctuation really matters. Remember that you can always edit your work, but putting in the effort now will mean that it’s perfect to reuse time and time again.
3. Take Care with Hyperlinks
Ensure that links are always well-spaced, underlined and are hyperlinks. You can embed them within the text for a cleaner finish, and you should always ensure that the link works (and takes students to a trusted site) before publishing a homework.
Don't overclutter documents with too many hyperlinks, if you have a lot of sources to add, include a reference list and put the sources you want students to use in an appendix at the end of the document.
4. Reuse Past Homework
One of the most useful aspects of online homework is the fact that it can reused for years to come, with no extra work required. It's a far cry from the days of photocopying worksheets or printing reams of assignment papers out. Now, making homework that is as complete as possible when you first create it, should help you save time every year you use it.
Adapting homework for reuse means leaving out any time sensitive information and making it universally useful or 'evergreen'. This ensures that you won't have to update the work on a yearly basis, instead you'll be able to simply find the work and reissue it for the next yeargroup you teach.
5. Reputation, Reputation, Reputation
Make sure any external sources and references you use are from websites with a good reputation. This might seem obvious, but it's becoming increasingly easy to get caught out by fake news and 'dummy' sites. Finding information online is much easier than finding it offline, however, the risks of using irreputable content are high.
Ensure that any source you include can be traced to a site that is respected and trusted. You can check this using an online site reputation checker or by checking the URL for a https, meaning it is a secure site.