Wattle is the University’s web-based learning and teaching environment. Being a Moodle-based learning management system at its core, Wattle can be used to improve the delivery of teaching and allow for more asynchronous student interaction and engagement. A successful Wattle site would:

  1. Provide students with clear communication and instructions
  2. Enable interaction between teacher and students, and between peers
  3. Deliver curated learning materials in a logical and organised manner
  4. Incorporate learning activities that strengthen understanding of course materials
  5. Communicate assessment tasks and allow for personal feedback

Below are 5 steps (with guides) to help you build a successful Wattle site.

STEP 1: Plan and organise your Wattle site 

Before you even begin working on your Wattle site, you need to plan 1) how you are going to curate and organise your course materials (e.g. by topics or weeks; are you going to write your own materials), and 2) what activities you would like to have on your site.

I previously wrote a coffee course blog on how to organise content “chaos” into a meaningful and easy-to-navigate site for students. It highlights the need constructively align all course materials, assessments and activities to the learning outcomes. Chuck anything you don’t need (or place them as additional resources). And chunk/curate/annotate your content – i.e. give your students the information in ways that they can understand. One way to do it is to summarise the important points of the topic using a video or writing it in the book, page or label modules in Wattle before (or even after if you want them to explore materials on their own first!) giving your students the full text/material.

The CASS Template provides your with options and guides which you can use to plan and organise your course site. Following the links below for more information:

  • Template (guide) 
  • Ways to organise your site 

STEP 2: Familiarise yourself with the Wattle site 

So you have decided what to include or exclude from your Wattle site and may even have uploaded all your materials. Now what?

One of the things you can do before the start of the semester is to familiarise yourself with the available functionalities of Wattle. Remember that Wattle is not just a content repository site as discussed above. Below are some links to help you familiarise yourself with Wattle

  • The Dashboard: Can’t find your site? Search for it!
  • Navigating your Wattle site: Participants, Gradebook, and more
  • Switch role to view your site as a student
  • Using Groups and Groupings 

STEP 3: Find ways to communicate with your students 

Wattle provides many avenues to communicate with your students. You need to provide ways where you can:

  1. Make important information known to students (e.g. Announcement forum)
  2. Allow students to communicate with you (e.g. Using dialogue to have private text based conversations)
  3. Give space to students to have conversations between themselves (e.g. Organising chat rooms)

Most importantly, you need to communicate to students how you will be communicating with them! Sending emails or messaging them (which effectively emails students) are great ways to get in contact but may be lost in time. Do you, for example, need your message to be available over the whole semester? If so, perhaps emailing is less effective than posting a message in the announcement forum. Communication is not just about space about also about time and consistency. Having a plan on how you will communicate with students is as important as making course materials available to them. After all, a large part of teaching is about communicating ideas to students isn’t it? Good communication contextualises everything you do in your teaching. Below are some ways you can communicate with your students on Wattle.

  • Message 
  • Forum 
  • Dialogue/chat 
  • Scheduler 
  • Using Labels

STEP 4: Content and activities management 

This step is about making Step 1 a reality. You have planned how you are going to manage your content. Now, you have to put everything up in Wattle. What types of resources and activities are available on Wattle? Below are a series of guides to help you select different types of activities and resources to add to your Wattle site:

  • Add resources 
    • Pages, Books and Labels
    • Files and Folders
  • Add activities 
    • Turnitin and Assignment
    • Quiz
    • Interactive activity: H5P
    • Collaborative tools: Wiki, Workshop and Forums

STEP 5: Gradebook and assessment 

As of Semester 2, 2021, the use of Gradebook is mandatory at the ANU. Using Gradebook is important because:

  1. It provides a clear snapshot of how students are progressing
  2. It provides a record for the University – this is especially important in the event where there is a dispute about the grade

We often hear the myth that “Gradebook is unreliable in calculating grades”. On the contrary, if used well, Gradebook can help you tabulate marks down to individual student even if everyone is completing different assignments. Of course, that would require the application of a complex formula but it provides you with an idea of how accurate Gradebook can be. Aside from Gradebook, it is important to manage and give feedback to assessments. Below are some basic guides on how to manage your Gradebook and assessments:

  • Gradebook management 
  • Assessment management 

Bonus: Understanding the logs

How do you know a student is disengaged? I wrote a Coffee Course with Frederick Chew (Fenner School) in 2020 to talk about this topic holistically and you can find it here. Wattle logs can provide you with some indication of behavioural disengagement in the course. Find out more in this post: Reading the logs in Wattle.

Do you have a question or would like to collaborate on a project to improve your course design? Contact the CASS Education Design Studio Team.