Over the years, I have misplaced and found numerous items in my home; often finding them in some of the least likely places and thinking “why did I put this here?” While, at the time, I thought placing the keys in my purse instead of on the key ring was a logical decision; when someone else went looking for them and couldn’t find them, I was left trying to remember where they had ended up after all. Many of us may be familiar with this type of situation. Whether explaining why the plates are in the drawer, why the car keys are in the purse, or why the files are sorted by date instead of alphabetically; sometimes it can feel as though their place should be obvious but somehow isn’t. Why can’t the person looking just find it? This can definitely be a frustrating feeling. However, if you are the one looking for the item, it can be equally as frustrating to not understand why the keys aren’t on the key ring.
In an online course, the same situations can occur. How many of us have had a student ask, “Where is [blank]?” While sometimes, this may be a simple oversight, it may also denote a navigation problem. In looking at accessibility, course organization is essential and can significantly impact a student’s ability to navigate the course with ease. Individuals who require the use of assistive technology may also be negatively affected as it becomes difficult to locate and identify content.
One solution is to use a graphic organizer or site map to help organize the course in the most logical and intuitive way possible. By creating the graphic organizer yourself, you can determine exactly how expansive your navigation is, where items are currently located, where items should be located for the best organization, and where similar items may be condensed or grouped together to better consolidate areas of the course. The best part is that creating a graphic organizer can be done using Word and the insert shapes function, or simply by writing it out on a sheet of paper. The important part is not the software and technology–or lack thereof–that is being used, but that the end result is an accurate picture of what your course navigation looks like.
To create a graphic organizer, begin with the course name. By placing the course name at the top of the page, you can use lines to branch down into your individual content areas.
Draw the first line down and to the left, and create a new shape or bubble with the title of the first location in the course. If this area has multiple files, links, assignments, or other content items, depict this by drawing a line down from the bubble or shape and writing in the name of the item. Continue to do this for each item located in that content area. If the first content area does not contain additional items, move on to the second content area and draw a branch down from the course name.
Continue branching down from the course name, working from left to right until you have finished graphing the course.
If you are interested in learning more about organization, check out the blog post Mad About Organization by Torie Wynn, Senior Instructional Designer.