Friday, December 11, 2009

Too Many Clicks: Your Course May Have Folderitis?

A common complaint we hear from our students is that it takes too many clicks to get to their online content. Although a certain amount of clicking is necessary, we've found poor instructional design and organization are at the root of many complaints. At one extreme, deeply nesting content in folders may give the appearance of organization, but this practice actually makes it more difficult for students to find and access content because so many folders must be clicked to get to a needed document or assignment. At another extreme, no folder organization means few clicks, but this approach also makes it difficult for students to find content because they must scroll through a long list of content items.

Balancing depth and breadth is the key. If you only have one or two items in a folder, consider moving those items into the parent folder. For example, instead of having a Readings folder with two journal articles, move the articles to the parent folder containing the other coursework. Sometimes, we see a Readings folder which has within it a Required Readings subfolder and a Recommended Readings subfolder, both having one or two articles in those subfolders. To improve student access to these items while still distinguishing required and recommended readings, you could simply parenthetically append the phrase "(Recommended)" to the end of recommended readings titles and move all the reading items out of the deeply-nested folder structure.

The worst cases occur when courses are organized by content/assignment types, like putting all discussion forums in one folder and all quizzes in another folder, etc. From the student perspective, they have to traverse multiple folder structures to access all the content for a single week or unit. It is much better to organize course content by weeks or units. By putting all needed items in a single folder arranged in the order students would most likely need to access items, you not only reduce clicks, but you also provide a straightforward learning path for your students to follow. For example, when students open the Unit 2 folder, they see everything they need to do for Unit 2 and simply need to work through those items from top to bottom (i.e., read those two journal articles, answer that question in the discussion forum, submit the short reflection paper into the dropbox, and take the formative quiz).

The following is a short video illustrating these ideas:

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If you are having troubles viewing it here, you can also see this video at

If you think your course might have folderitis and you'd like TLT to help you reorganize your course, please contact us at or (913) 588-7107.

Posted at 10:59AM Dec 11, 2009 by dantonacci

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