Module Zero

Creating a Module Zero to orient students to your course

Synopsis from Self-Review

Including an orientation module in your Canvas site is one of the best ways to organize introductory information. Your homepage or syllabus are also good alternatives, which an orientation module can reinforce.

How to Put Into Practice

Developing a structured orientation to your course pays ample dividends. You will save time fielding basic questions, and students will embark on the semester feeling confident that they are on a solid foundation with course logistics, technology, rhythms, and routines. A course orientation reduces the cognitive load associated with navigating new environments and schedules. Many instructors publish a course orientation module a week or more in advance of a semester, building interest, and allowing students to work at their own pace to engage with the course.

While many students are accustomed to navigating a range of digital tools and environments for a variety of purposes, the Canvas environment is distinct as an instructional space. It is therefore an important practice of equity and inclusion to treat your course’s structure and its particular use of Canvas or other technologies as something students will need to learn, together with course-specific content and skills. A course orientation module offers a low-pressure opportunity for students to practice important Canvas skills, such as completing a quiz, posting to a discussion board, or submitting a (zero points) assignment.

What follows will outline what to consider including in a course orientation, whether it is housed in the syllabus or in a Canvas Module or Canvas Page linked to the Home page of your Canvas site. Existing templates and resources are outlined so that you don’t have to start from scratch.

Conceptualizing the course orientation

When conceptualizing a course orientation, it can help to start with the basic questions of “Why, What, When, Where, and How?”

A course orientation can be understood as an expanded syllabus that includes the commentary that you might introduce if you were talking to students about your course and syllabus face-to-face.

What elements to include in a course orientation module

A course orientation module organizes introductory materials in your Canvas course: where to ask questions, how to get help, when to expect communication from the instructor, what format the course takes when major assignments are due, and other essential information. Consider offering a variety of media—text, visuals, videos, activities—to help students engage. For instance, you might include:

How to create a course orientation module

Course orientation module materials can be created quickly using Canvas templates. L&S offers a series of templates for creating a home page and a template student orientation module. Note that while L&S created these templates, they are general templates and structures that can be customized to any course/school/college context. Additional Canvas templates are available from DoIT and the Division of Continuing Studies that include additional home page design, module layouts, and a variety of discussion, quiz, and rubric templates. Before using these templates, check with your School/College since they may have others they recommend you use.

Additional Resources