Note: This page takes you through the final step outlined in the article 'Writing effective online units'.
With so much to consider while writing your unit, it will need to be edited and redrafted. This is expected, and it relates to the complexity of your task, not your writing ability. The solution is to take advantage of the benefits of editing and redrafting to improve your site.
The redrafting process is as important as the peer-review process. This stage is likely to be the first time you ‘see’ your unit as a whole and will offer you the chance to find additional links between content, see mistakes or inconsistences and improve the overall flow.
Another way to look at the redrafting phase is to distance yourself from being the ‘writer’ of the content and try to become your own ‘first reader’.
Before a book manuscript reaches the printer, it will have gone through multiple rounds of editing, regardless of the quality of the initial manuscript. This is because it is impossible to check every necessary aspect at once. We all miss errors while we focus on other issues. You can account for this by checking through your Learning Plan Template multiple times, with each round of checking focussed on a specific area for improvement.
Follow this process as you edit and redraft:
3.1 Put your work away for a few days so that you read with fresh eyes
Once you have allowed time for the writing phase to drop from your working memory, the more obvious mistakes and typos will stand out more easily. Changing location or screens can also help achieve this sense of ‘reading for the first time’.
Use Grammarly to check for anything you may have missed. See the Quick Guide: Using Grammarly to improve your editing skills for instructions about using Grammarly effectively.
3.2 Start with the bigger-picture checks: Look at the heading structure
- Typos in headings are often overlooked, as people tend to focus on the finer details. Start by reading through the headings and checking for typos.
- Now that you have written the whole module, look again at the heading structure in each module. Are all the headings clear and appropriate? Do you need to add more headings or rephrase existing ones? Does each heading provide information and engage your students?
- Consider your module as a narrative telling the story of your topic. Is the module presented in the best way for student learning and engagement?
3.3 Narrow your focus
- Focus on each section as if it were a complete ‘whole’. Is each section complete and cohesive? Do they each introduce their topic and then lead to the following one? Are students invited to actively engage with content to achieve the learning outcomes?
- Check the lengths of your paragraphs and sentences. Aim for fewer than 25 words in each sentence and no more than three to four sentences in each paragraph.
Look for ways to:
- break longer paragraphs or sentences into two
- convert a series of sentences into a bullet point list
- add connectors such as ‘Firstly, …’, ‘Secondly, …’, ‘Finally …’ to improve the flow
- present the information in a diagram, table or infographic rather than words.
- Read each sentence looking for ways to improve readability. Check for obvious mistakes or typos, and ways to improve phrasing. Reading out loud can help you rephrase and simplify complicated sentences. Look for:
- words that could be cut out. Examples: ‘absolutely essential’, ‘major breakthrough’
- phrases to cut out. Examples: ‘it is important that…, ‘remember to…’, ‘you should make sure…’
3.4 Imagine you are one of your students reading the unit for the first time
Read through your Learning Plan and imagine that you are one of your students. Ask your student self:
- Is there any phrasing they might find confusing?
- Have you assumed any prior knowledge they may not have? If so, can you create an activity that will revise required knowledge?
- Can you better link your information to students’ interests and goals?
- Could you record a video where you describe a professional anecdote that relates to a module outcome?
Alternatively, ask someone who is unfamiliar with the topic to read your draft and highlight any areas where it is difficult for them to follow.
3.5 Finish with a final proofread
Once you have uploaded your content and activities to Blackboard, you will be seeing it as your students will experience it. Now it’s time for your final ‘dress rehearsal’. Read through the whole unit from beginning to end, and check for any errors you may have accidentally introduced during the editing phases. Although you have already worked through the unit so many times, this is the only time you will read through as your students will experience the content. You may be surprised at how useful this stage is. Use it wisely.
Once you have written your unit and uploaded the modules to Blackboard, select 'Shift + Alt + L' to see s list of headings on the page. Use this to help you navigate the page and to run a final check the structure of each module.
Use this checklist as you review and edit your module
1. Put your work away and come back later with fresh eyes. Then re-read.
Scan through your module. Can you navigate easily? If a student is called away, can they easily find where they left off?
Is the purpose and topic of each section clear from the headings and bold or italic highlights?
Can you add any useful sub-headings or rephrase existing ones?
Can you see ways to break up large sections of text with diagrams, activities or lists?
2. Read your module as if you are a student reading for the first time. You may find it helpful to read your module out loud.
Does the writing style sound natural and easy to follow?
Have you used passive voice? If not deliberate, can you change to active?
Have you explained the same concept in subsequent sentences? If so, can you delete one or combine the two sentences into one?
Can you break any longer paragraphs into two or convert to a list, table or diagram?
Can you break longer sentences into two or more shorter sentences?
Check for typos, repeated words and phrases. Can you delete any unnecessary words? Can you replace any general words with specific ones?
Run a spell-check. Check through Grammarly advice. Ignore any incorrect suggestions. See the Quick Guide:
Say What? The Benefits of Plain Language in Academia, by Sasha Im, University of Washington (Link directly opens PDF.)