I’ve always been research-oriented, and I’d like to believe that I’m a curious soul. I love asking questions, often with little hope of finding a definitive answer. One thing I’ve always wondered is how we think about the things we hold important. It started with what apps I keep on my phone’s home screen. I was looking at the difference between the home screen on my phone versus the home screen on my boyfriend’s phone. He had folders on the front; I put folders on the other pages. I kept a lot of the “pre-installed” apps on my home screen; he just had one or two.
So I started to think about what my home screen might say about what I value and what I use a lot. In this search, I noticed quite a bit about myself:
- The apps on my home screen are the ones I use most often
- I like the Apple standards: Calendar, Clock, Camera, Photos, Notes, Weather.
- Work takes up a few of my spaces: Asana, Slack, and Outlook.
- I like to stay connected. TimeTree keeps me and roommates connected by letting us share calendars and events with each other.
- MyBuick lets me start my car remotely from my apartment on freezing mornings, and lock it when I’m paranoid that I forgot to.
- Music, Spotify, and Podcasts give me things to listen to. I’m a dedicated podcast listener; my morning and evening commutes are narrated by Ask Me Another, Good Job, Brain, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, Curious City, and Anna Faris is Unqualified.
- Activity, Health, and Medisafe keep me healthy by giving me reminders about taking my vitamins, working out, and standing up throughout the day.
- Snapchat because I’m still technically a millennial and I like to stay in touch with my sister who sends me adorable pictures of my 6 month old niece.
- BuzzFeed lets me know what’s going on, whether it’s pop culture, current events, or what Hogwarts combo house I should be in based on my favorite Disney movies (spoiler alert: I should be in Slytherclaw).
- Doge2048 is, quite frankly, a ridiculous game that I play way too much. It’s a variant of the traditional 2048 game, this time replacing numbers with images of doge.
- Gem is one of my new favorite apps. It reminds me each night to submit three “gems” or things that I’m proud of, grateful for, or want to remember from that day. It lets you look back at past days and see what happened on that day. I find that it reminds me to find the positive parts of a day, rather than focus on what went wrong.
All of these apps give some insight into my personality. They show what I value: ease of access, things that make me smile, being connected, and staying healthy. And I wonder if we can apply these same questions to our course home pages. Does what we put on our course home page show what we value in a course? What is and isn’t being said on our course home page?
For example, here’s a screenshot of my course home page from Fall 2016:
A few things I notice:
- I want my students to have an idea of what’s going on. I use news items to give updates about changes to procedures or even reminders about projects.
- I use a banner image. I want my students to enjoy the aesthetic of the course and see how simple additions to a course can elevate its appearance.
- I use the “DePaul Blue” color throughout. I want students to feel a cohesion of design throughout the course (a topic we talk about in the end of the course concerning design in a multimodal project).
- I keep the “Updates” and “Calendar” widgets in their default positions. These two widgets are particularly helpful to students as they provide them with context. One gives context to what’s changed—such as available feedback on a paper they’ve written. The other gives context as to when assignments are due.
- I use the “Student Support” widget. I think that this widget—although often overlooked—provides students with quick and easy access to university resources and documentation.
My home page reflects the value I place on keeping students informed and providing them support. Because this is a home page, it is one of the first things they see when they begin my class. I want my students to feel these values throughout my course as a whole, but my course page sets the tone. I would challenge you to think about what your home page tells your students about what you value. What would you add? What would you change?