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Help! I'm Not A Web Designer: Tips to Make Your LMS Better

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Explore and create : Creation lab

Erin Eberle Quilinquin  
The modern LMS works best when the designer is aware of basic web design principles. This session is perfect for design novices getting their feet wet or more experienced designers considering ways to support current educators. Topics covered include Eye Line, Rule of Thirds, Hub and Spoke Design, and more.

Audience: Coaches, Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Come with access to your Learning Management System (Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, etc).
Topic: Online tools, apps & resources
Grade level: 6-12
ISTE Standards: For Coaches:
Change Agent
  • Facilitate equitable use of digital learning tools and content that meet the needs of each learner.
For Educators:
  • Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Access is the first hurdle to student engagement with the curriculum. To ensure access to the LMS is not a significant roadblock, this session endeavors to:
1. Examine potential challenges for students accessing your LMS.
2. Get APPLICABLE tools and strategies for making your LMS more accessible.
Extension Goal
3. How can we share this knowledge with our educators back in our schools?
As a result of participation in this session, learners should be able to evaluate their LMS courses for potential hurdles and to apply at least two of the design principles discussed to increase accessibility.
At the end of the session, participants are asked to consider ways to share these strategies with educators at their home schools or districts.


I) Introduction (5 mins)
a. Define LMS
b. Background on where this session came from
II) Self Reflection (3 minutes)
a. Introduction of Goals
b. Identify how many steps a student must go through to get access
III) Discuss (5 mins)
a. Answers to how many steps. Verbal or in a digital back channel
b. Refer back to cognitive load theory. Anything over 5 steps is too many for students.
IV) Survey of NC Teachers (5-7 minutes)
a. Do you believe your course is well designed and accessible for students?
b. Do you believe that your course is well designed and accessible for families?
c. Do you perceive that students and/or families make use of resources (beyond assignments) posted on your LMS?
d. Note how the confidence drops each time the question gets more specific. It gets understandably frustrating to keep going to the effort of making resources available if no one is ever looking at them.
V) Discuss (5-10 mins)
a. Why do we think students and/or families are not accessing resources?
b. Why does it matter if they are using the LMS or not?
c. Reinforce: LMS is part of Career and College readiness
VI) Effective Web Design is… (3-5 mins)
a. Organized
b. Spaced out
c. Chunked (reference how chunking reduces cognitive load)
d. Responsive mobile layout (preview for later)
e. Linked resource – Online Course Design Checklist
VII) Mobile View (3 mins)
a. Raise your hand if you’ve looked at your LMS on mobile view?
b. Mobile is how many parents access, especially if they don’t have a device or internet at home.
c. Example – Cute Canvas homepage? Great, but mobile view doesn’t show them that.
VIII) Your Eyes on a Website (3-5 mins)
a. Eyeline runs diagonal from a page
b. Menus are always in the same places, so your brain skips processing that data
c. Rule of 3rds. Centering is not always best. The most visually pleasing is at the intersection of the 3rds.
d. Positive and negative space. Increasing negative space reduces eye strain.
IX) Access for people with disabilities (5-7 minutes)
a. Contrast – needs to be high enough contrast.
b. Linked resource – Contrast color checker
c. Images – importance of alternate text
d. Translation services. Images won’t translate, but text will.
e. Videos – Timelines available. Captions
f. Where do your navigation buttons go when you Zoom in?
g. Linked resource – ADA Web Accessibility Guidelines
X) Less Cluttered Pages (3 minutes)
a. Use Visual Cues – supports struggling readers. Subconscious cues reduce cognitive load
b. Tables for organizing data – put two options side by side rather than above and below. Visually interrupts the page, assists with chunking content, and helps you manage negative space.
c. Don’t make them scroll for days! General rule – if it takes more than 3 or 4 scroll downs, evaluate if you need it all on one page or if you can break it up. It is overwhelming.
d. Hyperlinks are your friend.
e. Simplify side navigation when possible.
XI) Example of simplifying side navigation – Canvas (2 mins)
a. Redirect tool to add a side link.
XII) Reducing Loading Time (3 mins)
a. Images take FOREVER to load
b. Use Emojis instead of images (Windows and Mac directions) * Note – participants usually like to try this right away.
c. Consider using HTML coding for formatting
d. Resource link – Cracking the Code from NCTIES resource
XIII) Building Routines (3mins)
a. Routines reduce Cognitive Load, especially when students have multiple classes through their LMS
b. Consistent Colors and Icons really help. This means not just in your class. Whenever possible, try to align your team, department, or school.
c. Speak to Wiley Template – same buttons with the same labels in the same places
d. Introduce Airport Hub and Spoke from supply chain development.
XIV) Hub and Spoke (3-5 mins)
a. Instead of having kids breadcrumb through 10 links, have all of them start and end at the same page.
b. For example, have everything start from the day’s page. Each assignment or activity is a spoke off that page.
XV) Top Dos and Don’ts (3 mins)
a. These are the top takeaways that I really want to drive home
XVI) What are your next steps? (remaining time)
a. Evaluate your LMS for potential roadblocks
b. Apply at least 2 design principles to increase accessibility
c. Tag me on Twitter to let me know how you’re making content more accessible! @TeacherEberle

Supporting research

Accessibility Standards -

Accessibility Standards -

White Space is Not Your Enemy: A Beginner's Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web & Multimedia Design -

John Sweller - Cognitive Load Theory

Point to Point vs. Hub and Spoke -

More [+]


Erin Eberle Quilinquin, Albright College

I'm a former middle school educator turned Instructional Designer. This Summer is all about transitions for me - I'm going from being an Instructional Technology Facilitator in Winston-Salem, NC to an Instructional Designer in Reading, PA. I'm passionate about equitable access and using tech practically. Every tech decision we make should include the question "Does this make sense for students?" I make lots of tutorials for students and teachers that you can find on my YouTube Channel @teachereberle. For more Tech Focused tips for your classroom, follow me on Twitter @teachereberle.

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