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FLO topic baseline

Site: Flinders Learning Online
Topic: eLearning Gateway (staff support)
Book: FLO topic baseline
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Thursday, 19 September 2019, 10:41 AM

What is the FLO topic baseline?

evolution of flo baseline
Evolution of WebPet to FLO topic baseline
The FLO topic baseline is a recommended baseline of information and resources within a Flinders Learning Online (FLO) site.

The FLO topic baseline aims to clarify the expectations of what students can find as a minimum in a FLO topic site at Flinders University. These guidelines will be regularly reviewed to adapt to changing needs and requirements. The recommendations complement Flinders University Learning and Teaching Principles with links to resources that provide information about how to implement each guideline. 
 

Baseline ‘guidelines’ 

  • guidelines to support practice
  • based on current practice 

Baseline ‘checklist’

  •  self-review tool 
  •  unpacks good practice
  •  links to resources and supports

Baseline guidelines

This is an overview of FLO topic baseline guidelines, showing examples of tasks that help to meet each guideline. Use the FLO baseline checklist to find out how to do each task in your FLO site.


Guideline 1: Students have access to a University-wide agreed minimum level of information in a FLO site.

This guideline refers to the minimum Web Presence in Every Topic (WebPET) and is also achieved automatically through FLO College templates, post-rollover checks and pre-semester FLO site preparation.

Examples:

  • FLO topic rollover and topic administration pre-semester checks
  • Orientate students to your FLO site
  • Organise essential non-weekly resources

Use the FLO baseline checklist to find out how to meet this guideline in your FLO site.


Guideline 2: Students participate in regular communication with teaching staff and students within FLO.

This guideline is about clarifying which online tools will be used for communication and how online communication is encouraged.

Examples:

  • Decide on the tools you will use to communicate and explain how communication will happen in your FLO site
  • Consider using an introductory activity ('ice breaker')
  • Use FLO for student peer-to-peer and group communication related to assessment
  • Provide synchronous communication opportunities

Use the FLO baseline checklist to find out how to meet this guideline in your FLO site.


Guideline 3: Students have access to topic, course and University support information in every FLO site.

This guideline prompts the inclusion of support information to help students find information at various levels of the University that can help with their studies. 

Examples:

  • Add introductory text for each module
  • Review the content in topic booklets (topic guides, study guides...)
  • Provide a clear and consistent guide for students about the required referencing style
  • Provide additional relevant support information for the topic, course or College
  • Provide specific information to support students studying fully online or off campus 

Use the FLO baseline checklist to find out how to meet this guideline in your FLO site.


Guideline 4: Students have access to assessment tasks and criteria, and receive feedback in a consistent and timely manner.

This guideline aims at supporting students to understand what is expected of them in assessment activities and encouraging a consistent approach to assessment feedback.

Examples:

  • Consider how students can collate evidence and make shareable artifacts of their learning 
  • For assessed activities, use built-in FLO tools
  • Clearly identify all assignment-related activities and resources 
  • Communicate assessment extensions, feedback and  grades via FLO

Use the FLO baseline checklist to find out how to meet this guideline in your FLO site.

Guideline 5: Students are given opportunities in FLO to participate in topic input/feedback cycles.   

This guideline aims to make the input of student feedback more visible in topic sites by increasing opportunities for students to provide feedback and understand the impact of their feedback.

Examples:

  • Maintain a cycle of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the topic 
  • Use teaching notes to provide a consistent approach across teaching teams
  • Ask students for their feedback and input into the topic
  • Use report information to analyse how students use the FLO site

Use the FLO baseline checklist to find out how to meet this guideline in your FLO site.


Guideline 6: Students can access resources in a FLO site that are inclusive, accessible and comply with legislation.

This guideline aims to raise awareness of legal obligations for online content and design for a good user experience.

Examples:

  • Use a consistent topic format
  • Use writing for the web techniques in your FLO site
  • Use strategies to support students in different time-zones and geographical locations
  • Use built-in topic layout and styling conventions and styles
  • Check that topic materials adhere to copyright and accessibility requirements

Use the FLO baseline checklist to find out how to meet this guideline in your FLO site.


Guideline 7: Students are provided with contextual information about learning activities. 

This guideline is about providing information for students that clearly explains the connection of their online activities to learning objectives.

Examples:

  • Use descriptive weekly module headings
  • Write instructional guidance for all essential activities and resources
  • Arrange resources within weekly modules consistently

Use the FLO baseline checklist to find out how to meet this guideline in your FLO site.

Baseline checklist

The FLO topic baseline checklist supports you to structure information for consistency across your topics, with practice tips and links to the eLearning Gateway to show you how.

FLO topic baseline checklist (PDF 231 KB)

Structure your topic to incorporate the baseline

Visual, functional and terminology consistency allows students to quickly and easily feel confident. When students can see what’s available within their topics, know what the expectations are and feel comfortable moving between topics, they’re more likely to engage in a positive way.

There are many ways the FLO topic baseline guidelines can be woven into your topic. A great starting place is to check with your colleagues to see if this work has already begun in your area. If not, why not suggest you all get started together? This is the perfect project for collaboration and collegiality.

Consider the big picture along with the detail to ensure your solutions are scale-able, sustainable and engaging. Determine a plan of action to ensure you have a clear vision and an attainable timeframe for implementation. We would suggest choosing one or two changes at a time, across all topics within a course. This will provide the biggest positive impact for your students and a realistic workload for yourselves.

Remember consistency is key, as inevitably the majority of students study more than one topic at a time. The focus is on creating a better learning experience for your students and a more efficient teaching experience for you and your team. The following tips should help you review and structure your FLO topic site into a resource where information is easy to find and valuable to your students. 

If you have any questions or would like some advice, don't hesitate to contact your local Learning Designer. They can work with you and your team to develop a plan of action and provide guidance as you implement your changes.


Tip 1: Consider what your topic is linked to
  • Does it belong to one course or span multiple courses?
  • Does it sit within a single college or span multiple colleges?
  • Is there already a standardised structure for this course/s you should follow?
  • Has your college put together guidelines to follow?
  • Are there other availabilities running at the same time?
  • Should multiple availabilities be shared or kept separate?

The answers to these questions can help inform solutions to Guideline 1, Guideline 4 and Guideline 6.

Take a step back and look at the bigger picture to see how your topic fits with others your students will be studying as part of their course. 

  • If it sits within a single course, collaborate with the Course Coordinator (CC) and other Topic Coordinators (TCs) to determine agreed design principles and a structure for all topics within the course. 
  • If it integrates with multiple courses, try to agree on some common themes that can be implemented across all of them with relevant stakeholders. 
This approach will provide students with a familiar interface, making it quicker and easier to locate information. Visual clues, standard modules and consistent headings build familiarity and confidence for users. Be aware that there may be some standardisation your colleagues have already agreed upon. Speak with the CC and your fellow TCs to find out. If not, it would be a good idea to collaborate to create a set of agreed principles.

If you have multiple availabilities running at the same time, it’s possible to share them together in FLO to create a single FLO site for both sets of students to use.

  • Keep in mind the learning outcomes and requirements for students for each topic code. 
  • If students need to complete both topics, we recommend keeping them separate. 
  • If students only complete one of them, they can probably be shared. If, for example, you have two availabilities from different locations (internal and external) running on the same dates they can be shared, as the teaching content and assessments will be the same. 
  • If you have undergraduate and postgraduate students studying the same teaching content it may be appropriate to share them together, but you must ensure all activities and assessments are at the appropriate AQF level for each cohort. This can be achieved using restrictions on items within FLO to ensure students only see the activities and assessments applicable to them. 
If you would like advice regarding sharing topics or structuring a topic using restrictions your local eLearning support team can help.


Tip 2: Consider grouping the information your students will need
  • How will you welcome your students and give context to the topic?
  • How will you orient them to the FLO topic, so they know what information they can find and where to find it?
  • What information can be grouped together (assessments, readings, communication etc)?
  • Is information duplicated across topics which could be centralised on a course FLO site and linked to?

The answers to these questions can help inform solutions to Guideline 2, Guideline 3, Guideline 4 and Guideline 6.

Look at the information you are presenting to students across multiple topics within their course. Chances are each topic will contain a welcome and some context as to how it fits with the curriculum. You’ll most likely have assessment information, readings and communication expectations too. The finer details may be different, but each of these items will need to be included somewhere. This is the best place to begin introducing consistency across topics in a course.

If you have information that’s repeated within multiple topics, it may be more efficient to locate it on a course site and link to it from each individual topic. This will ensure correct information is always available to your students whilst allowing you to make updates once rather than needing to remember everywhere the information is located (so timesaving). It’s possible to add navigation buttons at the top of each FLO topic to link to this content (ask your local eLearning support team how).

With your CC and fellow TCs, think about how best to group the information you have within the topics to keep associated items together. 

  • Each group could be placed within its own module and named appropriately. 
  • You may like to include a module containing ‘getting started’ instructions or a ‘topic central’ area for housekeeping-type information. 
This approach will help limit the amount of information within each grouping and keep items in context to promote visual clarity. This clarity helps students feel comfortable navigating your topic as they can clearly see where to find the information they need, when they need it. This approach will also serve as a fast path to key information as your students become familiar with this consistent interface, speeding up many commonly performed tasks within any of their topics.


Tip 3: Consider who your students are
  • Undergraduate or postgraduate students?
  • 1st years, 2nd years etc?
  • Internal, external or online students?
  • Can the teaching material be shared across all of these cohorts?
  • Are there new concepts that need to be introduced or skills to be scaffolded?

The answers to these questions can help inform solutions to Guideline 2, Guideline 3, Guideline 5, Guideline 6 and Guideline 7.

These considerations will begin to inform the structure of the actual teaching content. Who your students are will determine the level at which to pitch your teaching content. If you have 1st year students, more guidance will be required compared to a topic aimed at 4th year students. 

  • Acronyms and University processes will need to be explained, and links added to ensure clarity for students new to Flinders University. Be aware of the terminology you use and don’t reuse words in a different context that are already in use across the University. 
  • Students at later years will also require instructions for assessments and specific tasks; however, they may not require the same level of introductory information as new students. 
  • Giving students a sense of freedom to explore and familiarise themselves with the layout of their topics from the beginning will increase their confidence and remove any fear of exploring their FLO topics fully.

If your FLO topic is aimed at online students, regardless of if it’s online only or shared with different cohorts, the whole topic should be designed for online. Consider external students in the same way. Ensuring students have adequate guidance and instruction within the topic will assist their learning experience and success. Remember that these students don’t get the benefits of in-class discussions and may be studying in isolation, so don’t benefit from the insights of their peers. It’s helpful to create supports and opportunities for social learning in the online space where possible.

When planning your teaching materials think about where your students have come from, and the knowledge they will bring with them. If they’re postgraduate students they most likely have industry experience in their chosen field but undergraduate students, especially 1st years, may have no knowledge or experience in their area of study. 

  • Consider how best to introduce concepts to your students and allow opportunities to practise and consolidate new knowledge before high-stake assessments. 
  • Write clear lead-in text to explain what’s happening in your topic so it’s clear when something new is being introduced, explain the importance of understanding the information, where it will be used in the real world, and how they will build upon it in your topic or future topics. This helps to give relevance to tasks and makes students see value in the topic material.
  • When writing text, write as if you’re talking to the student. This personal approach will help them feel connected and involved. 
  • Detail how long tasks should take, bearing in mind these are often new skills for students so will take longer for them than for you. This will help them plan their workload and not get lost spending too much time on something that’s not of major importance. 
  • Consider the amount of information you include and be as concise as you can. Keep everything relevant and don’t clutter up your topic with unnecessary information. Clutter makes the important things less visible, whereas clarity and relevance remove the need to add shouting capitals, bright colours or coloured boxes to highlight information.

It’s also great to seek feedback from your students at regular intervals to check that the implemented structure is working for them. Do they find your topic intuitive and easy to navigate, or are some things confusing or cumbersome? Often our familiarity with an environment means we take things for granted so fresh eyes and ideas should always be welcome.


Tip 4: Consider what tasks your students will need to do to be successful
  • How will your teaching content be broken up into small, manageable chunks?
  • Is there anything your students need to do before they come to class?
  • How will their classes be structured?
  • Is there any follow-up work they should do after class?
  • How does the teaching content fit with the assessments?

The answers to these questions can help inform solutions to Guideline 4, Guideline 6, and Guideline 7.

These questions are about considering how best to present your actual teaching content. FLO topics consist of multiple sections, each containing information. These sections can be formatted to give a different look and feel to your site. The format used to set up a topic is important to consider across the entire course to maintain consistency as students move between topics.

  • Some topics use a weekly format where each section is automatically named with the date for each available week, beginning from the topic start date. This format is great for students to locate material relevant to the week but presents challenges in terms of adding specific modules for assessments or communication. 
  • A popular format is collapsed modules which makes it easy to add new or rearrange existing modules if needed. This format allows students to open and close each module (ie section), and reduces the amount of scrolling needed to find information. The modules can be named however you like, but avoid adding specific dates to names within this format to reduce the amount of maintenance you’ll have each time your topic is rolled over. 
  • Some people are drawn to the grid format where an image can be added to represent each module. This style is better suited to information sites rather than topics, where the path through tends to be more linear. 

Within each module, think about how you would like your students to interact with the teaching content and activities. If they have preparation to complete before coming to class, call it out. Outline what will be covered in class or a laboratory session. Are there follow-up activities or readings you would like them to engage with? 

  • Separating the teaching content into distinct sections and adding clear headings helps your students to easily see what the expectations are. 
  • Chunking and sequencing the work for your students reduces the cognitive load required to make sense of your topic. 
  • Repeating this same format in each teaching week brings consistency to the entire topic, making it intuitive to use.

When constructing activities and assessments, plan the instructions your students will need. 

  • Keep all instructions and associated documents together with the activity or assessment to make the task clear for students. 
  • Text and documents can be added into assignment submission boxes, thus reducing the number of actions the student needs to complete to gather the required information. 
  • If you have a task that’s repeated, either in a single topic or across topics within a course – a weekly quiz or a placement for example –consider writing standardised instructions to use for each instance of the activity. This will ensure students learn how to complete this type of task and know what the expectations are. It also reduces the amount of text you need to write and maintain. 
This type of functional consistency generates familiarity and removes frustration because students aren’t receiving different or conflicting information.

Baseline FAQ

What is the purpose of the FLO topic baseline?

Students have asked for more consistency across topics in finding the essential information that they require to be successful in their topics. The FLO topic baseline aims to share current recommended practices so that FLO sites will share some common elements. There is still flexibility to adapt to the individual needs of students and teaching staff.


Is the FLO topic baseline mandatory?

No, but we do recommend it as a way to provide consistency across topics for students. You can use the checklist to help you focus on one or two changes in your FLO site or across multiple FLO sites.


How can I use the FLO topic baseline?

The FLO topic baseline checklist can be used at any time during the topic life cycle. 

Before teaching begins

You might use it after your FLO topic site has been rolled over, and after you have gone through the  rollover checklist, to further develop the resources in your FLO site.

During teaching

Use it during teaching to improve your site resources in response to student feedback.

New topics

If you aren’t rolling over a FLO site and have a new topic, the FLO topic baseline starter site can give you a starter point and prompts with some of the main baseline elements.


Where do I get help with the FLO topic baseline?

Contact your college eLearning support team via Service One.

See also

You may also find useful:

  • Topic design basics. This resource introduces some basic topic design considerations, and offers a range of ideas for practice, with an emphasis on designing for online
  • Learning and teaching principles. These University-wide principles underpin curriculum design and inform the Educational Quality Framework They are Annexe A of the framework (scroll up to see information about the framework's purpose, the policy statement, quality in curriculum design and teaching, and measurement and evaluation)