Removing Roadblocks: Lessons from a Half-Painted Stairwell

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Alex van Donkersgoed

I started painting my stairwell before the pandemic began. I had just put the first coat of drywall compound on all the dents and scratches when our world changed. I got distracted, and for almost 3 years, I went up and down that stairwell every day and looked at that half-finished job. I’d think about everything I had to do to finish the job: get into my work clothes, find the sanding tools back again, sand, vacuum, 2nd coat, then repeat. Then we’d have to decide on the paint color, find the paintbrushes, etc. And I would never even start.

Now imagine if some Saturday I had come down the stairs to find all the sanding tools lying there, with the vacuum cleaner ready to go. A can of paint has already been selected. Every tool I needed was there at my fingertips. How much more likely would it have been that I would finish the job?

We need to do the same with our curriculum resources for our students.

Learning for our students can be so challenging that we must remove as many roadblocks as possible.

Here are some things that can be done to give students the edge they need to get started and keep going:
  1. They don’t need another login or password. Make sure that your platform enables single sign-on so that they can log in with just one username.
  2. Ensure that every course has orientation lessons at the beginning that explain how to use your course for the student.
  3. Make your content, whether video or otherwise, as compact as possible to reduce wasted time. 
  4. Ensure the first unit of every course has accessible content so students don’t fall behind conceptually while learning how the course operates.
  5. Take advantage of the features of your online platform and provide automated and immediate feedback and hints wherever possible.

But students aren’t the only ones who can get stuck in the weeds. Teachers can get trapped, too. Look to remove roadblocks for them, too.

  1. Teachers need orientation lessons for easy reference. 
  2. Include curriculum outlines and similar documents in an easy-to-find place at the beginning of the course.
  3. Have turn-key courses that a teacher could use out of the box without changes, but… 
  4. Give teachers the freedom to edit and modify as they see fit.
  5. Make sure to have tools that track the student’s progress to keep the teacher informed.
After 3 years, I finally finished painting the stairwell. Let’s help our students do the same.

About the Author

Alex van Donkersgoed

Product Specialist

Alex van Donkersgoed has been a classroom teacher for 20+ years as well as the founder of an online school and its first principal for 10 years. Now he gets to share the fantastic online tools created by StudyForge. He lives in Acton, Ontario, Canada with his incredible wife and three amazing children.

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