Thursday, February 25, 2021

Less LMS stress: 6 design tips to ease student anxiety

It's no secret that school during Covid has had some big challenges. Studies are finding that remote students are less engaged and experiencing higher levels of pressure, and teachers were feeling more stressed even before the pandemic

One of the things we need to consider is how the design of our learning management systems (LMS) might help reduce student stress and anxiety. Or add to it.

Realizing that a lot of my colleagues around the country are just now entering into a hybrid model of teaching, it's a good time to share what we've learned at Judge Memorial after teaching hybrid since August. Many thanks to @mattpacenza for spearheading this effort. Here are some takeaways:

1. Look at your LMS through their eyes. Some students have difficulty prioritizing what can seem like barrage of information. Whatever LMS you're using, look at the "student view" of the interface often so that you're aware of how things look to your students. They don't see what we see from the "teacher view" mode. Personally when I've looked at the student view of my course page I've too often found it isn't always as intuitive as I've thought. 

2. Use announcements judiciously. Save them for the really important stuff. In the beginning of the year my students were telling me that they were so inundated with messages that they oftentimes missed the really important ones. For example, a whole-class message to remind a class to bring their books tomorrow and a message about the last day to switch classes look pretty similar in an LMS dashboard. 

3. Be really clear whether an assignment is "in-class" work or "homework." The student should be able to glance very quickly at an assignment and know whether it will be done during class, or something that is homework which is due at that time indicated on the assignment.

4. Be deliberate – and consistent – with an assignment's date and time fields. This can help with the issue of whether it is in-class work or homework. If the assignment you create is “in-class work,” then you should consider making it so that assignment isn’t “available” until class starts (separately for each section.) That way, a student doesn’t see that assignment in advance and worry whether something is due or not. It just appears for them once class starts.  

5. Make your assignments due at consistent times and days. Students like routine and like knowing that their work for a certain class is almost always due at similar time. One teacher always has homework due on a certain day of the week, another always has homework due by 10pm on that day's class. This can help them develop good habits.

6. Simplify your course page for your students. The typical LMS has loads of options in the navigation bar that you don't need for your course. Disable them or hide them.