This post describes my strategy for creating an engaging and informative custom front page for your course.
A front page is one of the types of pages you can select as the home page your students first see whenever they visit your course. I urge you to create a custom front page as the home page of all online courses. See my post on choosing the front page for a review of the different home page options and why I recommend the front page.
To add the front page, you first need to create a new page in your course Pages section that will be the front page:
Include the following elements in your page, in order:
- Course information: course number and title, your name, section, etc. (so students know they’re in the right place)
- A welcome statement
- A short introductory paragraph
- A link that clearly says “Start Here”
- A list of links to topics by week, module, etc.
Be sure that the first four items are near the top of the page so the viewer doesn’t have to scroll down the page to see any of them.
The welcome statement is a few words in large type that will be the first words your learners see when they visit your course. It should be a warm invitation to participate in the course. It can be as simple as “Welcome!” or “Thank you for joining us!”
The introductory paragraph is designed to draw your learners into the course right away. Keep it short. You don’t need to include details like course objectives or expectations here; your students will see all that soon enough. Here, you want to grab them. What excites you about teaching this course? What makes your course special? What cool knowledge or skills will your learners obtain? What unique activities do you have in store? You might want to tease your learners a bit with an intriguing question or problem that will be answered or explored during the course.
“Start Here” Link
The “Start Here” link connects to the course start page, which includes the detailed course introductory information that doesn’t fit on the syllabus. I have a whole post on creating a course start page.
The “Start Here” link can be a text link or a button right under the introductory paragraph. It can also be the first topic in the list of topics, described below.
The list of topic links has two purposes. For new students, it provides a quick and appealing-looking preview of the course content. For returning students, it provides a one-stop hub of links to any of the course content, similar to the Modules page, only better looking.
At a minimum, each topic link should include the title, date range, and module number (if relevant) of the topic. I recommend a few more items for each topic to make the list richer and more meaningful. Include with each topic a one-sentence summary of the topic and an image that is relevant to the topic. This image is more than just eye candy. It provides a visual anchor that makes the topic easier to locate. The image also provides nonverbal priming of the topic in the learner, increasing their readiness to start exploring the topic. You can find free images to include with each topic by selecting the Flickr tab when you insert an image into the page.
For a more appealing layout, try making the topic list into a table, in which each row is a separate topic. The images and text for each topic can each be in separate columns, creating a clean grid layout. Adjust the image sizes so that they are the same width. If you’re HTML-savvy, you can also adjust the width of the columns so they are just the size you want.
For your new front page to appear as the course home page, change the course home page to Pages Front Page. You’ll need to publish the page first in order for it to appear in the list of available pages.
Select the Home course navigation link to see the new home page as your students will see it.