Part 9: Spring 2019 Labs

176 Course Design for Mobile – 05.02.2019

With most students using mobile devices, how should we adjust our courses and teaching? At the May 2, 2019 Active Teaching Lab, 14 participants discussed ways to optimize content for mobile access and how Canvas templates can help.


  • Build content with mobility in mind. A 5-minute video not only reduces cognitive and attentional demand vs. a 20-minute video but also chunks the information into a package that can be easily accessed and digested on the go. Smaller pieces of material encourage students to spread out learning with time for reflection and synthesis (distributed learning) rather than cramming studying into marathon sessions (massed learning).
  • Keep file sizes small and, if a piece of material won’t be available on a mobile device, inform students in advance.  
  • Acknowledge that smartphones may be out of reach for low-income students or, on the flip side, a less expensive alternative to a laptop. Consider a statement in the syllabus that refers students to campus resources and acknowledges the challenges of completing coursework with less-than-reliable technology.
  • Take the time to show students how to change their notification settings on their devices: iOS and Android instructions here.

For more information on course design for mobile, visit the session’s activity sheet.


The Active Teaching Lab is a Faculty Engagement program with sessions held on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00pm and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.), room 120. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs. We build interdisciplinary conversations that are more emergent than a presenter and more dynamic than a panel — a conversation with colleagues sharing challenges, solutions, and experiments on topics selected by a variety of stakeholders.

Sign up for regular Lab announcements by sending an email to


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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