In Part 1 of this series I showed readers how to set up the core of an open, online course by using Google groups (for discussing content) and a course wiki (course resources, syllabus and timing). Part 2 covered how to select meaningful social media tools and add them to the core of the Cloud course. This time, I’ll go through the steps to incorporate all the course locations into a one-page, real-time, Web-based course dashboard.

Why use a dashboard?

There are many benefits to using a course dashboard:

  • It offers an immediate overview of the interactions between learners;
  • You see results in real time, which makes it easier for participants of a course to see the latest reactions from their peers;
  • As a trainer/facilitator you can keep track of all that is happening just by keeping an eye on that one page;
  • It keeps everyone on top of all the course spaces that you or the users create.

There are many one-page dashboard options to choose from. The best-known free dashboards are iGoogle and Netvibes. (Netvibes is also available in a paid version.) (Editor’s Note: iGoogle will not be available after November 1, 2013.)

Using Netvibes

Personally, I like Netvibes best. Why? Because Netvibes gives a user a lot of options for putting together a one-page overview of social media and other tools. Netvibes makes it very easy to gather information on one topic from the Web—you only need to type in a keyword and Netvibes builds your dashboard automatically. You can also add personal dashboards to Netvibes that are not visible to the public. This way you can build your personal learning space as well as have a public dashboard. You can see the difference between the public and private spaces by comparing how they handle your Facebook: in your personal space you can access your own Facebook profile directly, while in the public Netvibes dashboard you can pin your Facebook badge. This helps you manage your privacy.

How to get Netvibes populated with your course locations

The four-minute video below looks at an existing course dashboard from the MobiMOOC course that you can see here: The video shows how to organize a content dashboard quickly—almost automatically. To demonstrate adding personal feeds and content, the video shows how to add a RSS feed to the dashboard. If you want to build your own dashboard, be sure to open some URLs and content spaces in other browser tabs, so they are ready for integration (copy/pasting) into your dashboard. Here's the video:

To be able to use Netvibes, you will need to sign up for it first: fill in your username and password, and after that I recommend that you immediately choose a design to optimize your content overview. (Figure 1)

Figure 1: Choosing a design in Netvibes

If you have set up your course spaces, added social media tools based on their learning affordances and have put everything in a course dashboard … you are ready to go!

If you have a question, or if you would like me to write a workshop article on a challenge you have on setting up a course in the Cloud, feel free to contact me or post it into the StartToMOOC Google group and chances are your question will help others as well.