By Anna Rozzo

If you are looking to incorporate more technology into your instruction, a great way to do that is by crafting a website for your class or course. Many instructors are hesitant to create their own website, thinking that they have to learn code or take a special course. However, with the variety of free platforms available, it is surprisingly simple to design one’s own website. It may seem daunting at first, but here are some steps and tips to help you begin your web design process!

Brainstorm

First, think about your goals. What is the purpose that this class website will serve? What are the digital literacy needs of your students? What are the objectives of your class? How would you like your students to interact with the content? Personally, I like the way a website can visually delineate concepts I plan to teach. It might be helpful to start out by drawing a mind map to get your creative juices flowing. Another approach I have used is sketching out each tab or page within the site on blank sheets of paper. Sometimes it’s easier to create a tactile plan before you start using an online template. Finally, some people enjoy typing out their content in a Word document first. This is also probably an advisable precaution in case there are any server issues down the line.

Ways to organize your website

  • Around a theme
  • Around a color scheme or aesthetic
  • By skill
  • By topic
  • By differentiated level
  • By syllabus/ week
  • By unit
  • By chapter
  • By template
  • Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Responsive design layouts

My Intermediate Grammar class website, for example, is organized by theme, aesthetic, and grammatical unit. Each grammar tab is organized in the same way: Basic Grammar Rules (links & explanations), Video Review (embedded YouTube Videos), Practice (links to quizzes & exercises), and Writing (prompts and assignments). Each of my essay type pages in my Advanced Composition class website includes an introductory video, links for more explanation, and links to potential essay topics. For my Level 4 class at Carlos Rosario, I posted differentiated grammar exercises (easy, medium, challenging) and weekly quizzes for students to self-assess. I organized this last website around my syllabus and were I to teach the class again, I would re-organize the tabs into weekly chunks instead of the discrete skills.

Getting Started

I have chosen to use Weebly, which is free and I find has very easy-to-use drag and drop tools. Wix also offers a free platform, though I have not tried it personally.

After you create an account with a username and password, it’s time to choose a template. Think about your students’ needs, your goals for your class, and the ideas you brainstormed and sketched out. Choose a template that is not too busy. The design needs to be intuitive for you to work with and for the students to use. Do you want the tabs to be on the top? On the left? Both? How many tabs will you want to add?

Building your Website

After you choose your template, you can start adding content and features. One tactic is to add your contact information, syllabus, and class policy on the starting page if the template doesn’t allow additional tabs. Basically, you can combine “about” and “contact” in order to simplify and save space. There are a number of ways to add content to your website:

Features

  • Files (PDFs, Word, Scribd)
  • Picture & text boxes
  • Contact form
  • Forums
  • Surveys
  • Maps
  • Embedded YouTube videos
  • Links, links, and more links!

Image of multiple icons

One of my favorite things is embedding YouTube videos. This is the only thing that really requires code but all you have to do is copy/paste. Here are the directions for Weebly:

1.    Find the YouTube video.
2.    Click Share.
3.    Click Embed.
4.    Copy the HTML code.

5.    Drag and drop this button to where you want it to go on your page:

Embed Code button

6. Click “Edit Custom HTML.”
7. Paste the code into the box.Building a website can be time-consuming but also enjoyable. So grab a hot drink, relax, and have fun! You will find the creative process satisfying and your final results rewarding.Have you built a website for your class/program? Leave a link in the comments!

Anna Rozzo is a visiting lecturer for the academic ESL program at SUNY Binghamton where she teaches composition and public speaking skills to international students. Additionally, she helps to train and supervise undergraduates who serve as TA’s in the ESL classes. Previously, she taught ESOL at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, Prince George’s Community College, and Montgomery College. She has also taught at the American Centers in Rabat and Kenitra, Morocco and served as an English Language Fellow in Indonesia.
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