Self-explanatory Brightspace site

This article will show an example of how to organize your Brightspace site to be self-explanatory. 

Course: PPH10806 Structure and Function of Plants
Period: Period 5

Short introduction and background

Introduction and story behind the emergence of this learning activity. What was the need, what issue/problem was the teacher facing and wanted to resolve? 

Due to Corona, the course needed to be taught online overnight. We noticed that students needed to be informed even more explicitly than before on what they needed to do, how to do it and when to do it. 

This affected the structure and content of our Brightspace site. We made it as self-explanatory as possible and guided the students through the site by using many functionalities of Brightspace. 

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The site remained a theme-wise structure since a week structure is not possible within our course. We have experiments that start one week and continue in the following weeks. We did guide the students through the course on a daily base by means of announcements.  

We also used links within the announcement and HTML pages that were linked to each other for easier navigation. Other Brightspace functionalities that we used were restrictions and due and end date on activities. We also used quizzes based on the content that was provided, e.g. self-made instruction clips. Students could use them as a self-check. The results of the quizzes (what is not clear yet) were input for the content of the ‘nabesprekingen’.

Relevant tools / apps (software) or hardware used

Learning outcome(s)

What has been learned after this lesson/activity has been executed ?


Lesson idea / Learning activity

Specific description and demonstration of the lesson idea/learning activity.

We sent students a daily announcement to guide them through the course and inform them of what they could expect and needed to do and in what sequence (planning). We used links within the announcement which sent them directly to the particular part of the site or to an activity. In this way they knew exactly what to do to keep up with the course. See screenshots below for an example how this guiding took place. 

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Figure 1: Example daily announcement 

Figure 1: Example daily announcement 

After clicking on the first link ‘hier’ you are guided to a page where an overview is created of what the students need to do on a given day see screenshot below  :

Figure 2: Announcement linked to content (module)

Figure 2: Announcement linked to content (module)

The first activity is ‘Nabespreking en afronding M3’ which is a topic within this submodule. As you can see in the screenshot it is a HTML page. After clicking on this topic the HTML page opens. See screenshot below

Figure 3: The first activity is NabesprekingenafrondingM3 which is a topic within this submodule.

Figure 3: The first activity is NabesprekingenafrondingM3 which is a topic within this submodule.

Within the HTML page links are used to guide you to the topics that need to be visited. By clicking on the arrows on the top of the page you can easily navigate to the next topic e.g. ‘Weblecture M4: de Stengel’ or you can navigate by the tabs within the browser that are opened when clicking on a topic.  

For the last action of the day, you click on ‘Practicum M4’ which guides you to the following page where new instructions appear. 

Figure 4: Action of the day (Practicum M4) guides to the page with instructions

Figure 4: Action of the day (Practicum M4) guides to the page with instructions

In this way all content was linked to each other in the right sequence and once it was clear to the students how the site was set-up it was easy for them to navigate through the content in a timely manner.  

We used restrictions on the “antwoorden/answers” in a way they become only available after the student submitted an assignment 

Lessons learned / Tips

Mentions tips lecturer has for colleagues based on their experience.

First, we thought that communicating on a daily basis was overkill but students really appreciated this frequency. 

In the beginning, we were very strict about the set due dates. We set them on the same day as the assignment to make sure they would keep up with the course. But noticed that it was difficult for the students to always meet them in an online environment or due to personal circumstances. We prolonged the due dates to the next day so students were able to work during the evening. This flexibility met their needs better. 

We used the due dates to personally communicate with the students that didn’t meet the deadline to find out how they were doing and what the reasons behind the late submissions were. Students very much appreciated this personal approach. The workload for following this up was divided between the teachers and student assistants.  

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To set-up, this site structure we first looked at the planning per week, created all different parts that were needed and then made the different pages and instructions with links per day. 

Setting up a well-structured site saved us a lot of time answering individual questions about what to find where.

For next time we will use the already available HTML templates within Brightspace. We were not aware of them at first. 

Add a course-related personal/social component to the site. Within this course, students and teachers could submit video’s or pictures of their favourite plant and each day a plant of the day was selected. They could also share pictures of plant cuttings which students made to propagate plants at home. Students really valued this social component of the course. 

Ask actively feedback from your students (in the beginning) on e.g. the way your course site is set-up and if they experience problems with online learning by e.g. using the survey tool. In this way, you can make adjustments based on their input. Normally you would pick-up on these things during contact hours. 

Be flexible in your offering dates of learning materials so students can work ahead but also keep in mind that other students might not be this quick and should not experience disadvantages due to the speedy students. 

Offer group work to create social cohesion between the students but think about how the groups are formed and add a mentor to the group. 


What will you keep for next year? 

We will definitely keep the instruction clips and quizzes and will use them as preparation for the practicals. In this way, students will be better prepared for the practicals. 

Also probably the social components like ‘plant of the day’ and re-use the submitted clips by the teacher. 

Give students the possibility to give feedback on your course. 


Teacher(s): Hannie van der Honing | Kris van ‘t Klooster
TLC contact (on MS Teams): Eline Noorbergen, Barbara van Mossevelde
Author (interviewer): Anniek Wintraeken



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