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Tips for Clear Course Navigation and Visual Design

CHSS Online Teaching Initiative

Tips for Clear Course Navigation and Visual Design

Thoughtful and consistent organization of elements is a critical component of an online class and online teaching. Effective and consistent choices in the visual structure and organization of the course will help make it easier for students to navigate and understand course content.


Determine the elements and basic content to include in the course before beginning the design phase. This will save time in the long run, especially for anyone new to online teaching. Outlines or concept maps are useful tools to help plan the flow of course content.

hands holding a tablet with online teaching on the screen Course Shell

Become familiar with the capabilities of the university's course management system. An outline or concept map will help in developing the navigation scheme to adopt in the course. Many decisions will likely be based on face-to-face teaching experience. This experience is valuable, but specialized tools available in the online environment will also provide students with beneficial learning experiences. Using the course management system to its full potential may require training, but that’s what UHD’s TTLC is for.

Simple and Consistent Navigation

A section in the syllabus that lists course folders and explains how to navigate the course can help students find content quickly and easily. This information can be used as an orientation to the course that explains to students how the class site is to be navigated and what content is located where.

Learning modules and periodic units (i.e., weekly or topic units) comprise two effective modes of organizing course content. Avoid requiring students to drill down multiple times to reach course materials; the fewer clicks to reach content, the better. Choosing an organizational format for course content and linking it in a first-page menu will make it easily and visibly available.

Naming Files, Folders and Functions

Consistency is again key. In naming files, folders, and functions within the class site, be consistent. Make file names simple and descriptive of content. Note that in the latest version of Blackboard, the left-hand menu makes it possible to rename major functions. Here are sample names for different types of materials in a course:




Learning Module 1
Assignment Descriptions
Presentations and Supplemental Reading Materials


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