Thursday, May 15, 2014

Course Redesign Update: May 15, navigation solutions

So, I've finally decided what to do about navigation at my new Myth-Folklore reading site. The rigidity of the navigation in my old course website was a huge problem. Over the long-run with my new site, I want to be able to easily add new content units AND I want to build meta-units so that a story might actually be part of more than one unit. Those meta-units won't be coming along until a year from now, but I want to be ready for them.

Most importantly of all, for many of the units, I want to get the students to choose their OWN reading paths, rather than following what is simply the arbitrary order in which the author of a story collection arranged the stories. In a few cases, the stories in a unit need to be read in order (like for Apuleius's Cupid and Psyche), but in many cases, the stories could be best read in an order that the student chooses, following through on themes of interest to them. At the same time, for my students who are in a hurry and looking for direction from me, I need to provide a simple and easy way to move through the stories without confusion.

So, I had been holding off on figuring out my strategy until I could see something that would work for now AND be easy to adapt as the site evolves. Right now, I've got an index page for each unit:
Persian Tales

I'm relying on the convenient time/date display that pulls up the posts in the order shown in the index via a label. For example:
Persian Tales (page 1 of 2)
(some units all fit on one page; some units spill over on to a second page, as this one does)

There's a link on each story page to the index page for the unit, but until now I did not have story-to-story links, except for the units where I had added Explore links. For example, here's a story page with Explore links (they appear near the top of the page, right after my introductory notes, and that's where they best fit since they are authored by me, as are the notes):
Persian Tales: The Apparition of the Prophet Khizr

So, what I have decided to do is this: I will add a simple link that says "Next" at the bottom of each story that leads to the next story. Here is an example in a unit where students really will only be reading the stories in order: Jephthah's Daughter in the Bible Women unit. Screenshot:

Then, for the units that also have Explore links, I am just going to add a reminder with the next link that students CAN if they want create their own path. Here's how that looks: The Sad Tale of the Mouse's Tail. Screenshot:

It's super quick and easy to add these links because I have a spreadsheet that spits out the story titles as links; I just have to paste them into the post. Sure, life would be great with a database program doing all of this for me... and maybe five years from now, when I have perfected this site design, I will come up with a database-driven solution!

Meanwhile, this works for me in terms of solving all my immediate needs as well as accommodating future needs. When I create the meta-units, I will just have to modify the existing post by adding something to it, which will be both easy and fun. I like the way that, for the students, seeing how the stories are included in meta-units will help them think about which meta-units they might enjoy most! Tricksters: yes! Love stories: yes! Cumulative stories: yes! Magic! Wolves! and on and on. :-)

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