This week, we spotlight Professor Jessica Penner’s OpenLab course on Creative Writing, which focuses “on understanding how form and meaning work together and on understanding the types and complexities of each genre…so that each student can…develop their unique, individual voice.” Writing-intensive courses such as this one require some careful planning around site design. We especially like that:
- Professor Penner inserts category archives into their main menu to distinguish student assignments from one another. Under the menu item Student Work, you will find sub-categories for Discussions, Assignment Posts, Journals, Memoirs and more. This keeps the content in each category relatively short. It thus makes it easier for students to identify where they need to post their work, as well as to read through the work of their classmates.
- The course makes optimal use of the right-hand side widget space. Professor Penner adds some very nice touches here, including featuring a picture of themselves below their contact information, putting key information (such as how to find their Zoom link for office hours) in bold, and linking out to OpenLab Help pages that students frequently use such as our Getting Started page and the OpenLab for Students module. These are all best practices to make your course welcoming and easy to use.
- The course assignments are clearly broken down in the syllabus. Two things are noteworthy here. First, each assignment is more or less weighted equally. This is a great way to avoid the pitfalls of high-stakes grading: we are living through extraordinary times and both faculty and students are likely to have hectic days/ weeks where it is simply difficult to keep up with school obligations. When all assignments in a course are weighted equally, students have a much better chance of completing most of the work and doing well than, for example, if they have one high-stakes final exam or project. Second, Professor Penner clearly enunciates assignments at the start of the semester and features them prominently in the syllabus. This is very important: it helps students plan and figure out what the workload will entail as they juggle school with myriad other responsibilities and unknowns.
All in all, this is a wonderful site. Check out Professor Jessica Penner’s Creative Writing course for inspiration!