A course website is an indispensable tool for the modern teacher. It allows for constant contact with parents. It quickly and efficiently distributes information, like class notes, to students. Most important of all, it brings the act of learning in to the students’ technological world.
Making a course website is easy, it’s free, and it’s an incredibly effective way to improve your class. With this guide you can have a simple but effective course website up and running in about 15 to 20 minutes.
Defining Our Goals
First, what is our course website going to do?
It will provide a forum for parents to check up on their child’s learning. You’ll want to post daily recaps, so parents know what is going on. You’ll want to make your e-mail address available so that you can be contacted. You might want to post some student work, too, just to show off a bit.
It will also provide a repository of class notes and information for students. You’ll want to keep daily recaps of class notes for them, as well as past homework assignments and test reviews.
You’ll also want to add some extra special details, like links to useful resources, news feeds, or interesting polls that your students can answer online and you can discuss in class.
The simplest way to achieve these goals is to start a free blog. There are several places online where you can do this, but this guide will walk you through the process of creating a blog at Blogger.com.
Signing Up For a Free Site
First, you’ll need to go to http://www.blogger.com and sign up for an account. If you already have a Google account (i.e. you use Gmail), you can use that. Otherwise, click on the big button that says “Create your blog now.” Fill in the fields they ask for, and you should have an account set up within a minute or two.
Next, you’ll be taken to the screen where you create your website. Choose a name for your site. It could be something boring, like “Mrs. Jones’ Math Class,” but something catch is probably better. When you choose a URL (the second field) choose something that your students can easily remember.
Finally, choose a template. Blogger.com has 16 pre-created templates for you to choose from. You can switch it later or customize the color scheme, so just pick anything that looks appealing for now.
Congratulations, you now have an empty, ready to fill course website!
Writing Your First Article
You should be taken to a text editing screen. This is where you’ll type in the information to put up on the course website. The way a blog works, you type individual articles and these articles are indexed by the date and time that you submit them.
The best way to start is to write up an introduction to the course. You might want to include your class rules, the class syllabus, and other things you would introduce to your students on the first days of school. Once you’re satisfied, click the publish button.
If you click on the “View Blog,” link, you can now see what your first article looks like!
Now in order to add more information to your site, simply click the “New Post” link in the bar at the top of your screen. I typically add a post every day to summarize the day’s discussion. As long as you can type fairly quickly, you can have the daily post done in five or ten minutes.
Adding Some Extra Touches
At this point you’re ready to go, but there may be some other things you want to do to spruce up your site.
First, you should see an “About Me” space on the page somewhere and a “View My Complete Profile” link. If you click on that, you’ll view the profile that your students will see. You may want to edit that (using the button on the left) to contain some basic biographical info.
Then, go back to your blog and click on the “Customize” link on the top right corner. You’ll see a blank layout of your website appear. If you click on “Add Page Element,” you can add other little features to your site – including a list of links (for other online resources), a poll (to pique your students’ interest), a picture (to spruce things up), or a news feed (so your students read the news somewhere).
That’s it! All done in no time at all.