Embedding Forums, Assignments, and Exams in Lessons

I was recently helping a faculty member migrate her course from eCollege to Sakai. and, because I didn’t want to make things too hard on her when it came time to move her course to a new site for the next semester, I decided to use Lessons.  This might not seem like a big deal, but I’ve never been a big fan of Lessons and have tried to avoid it at all costs in my own sites.

The main reason I’ve not been a fan of Lessons is because it is sometimes difficult to manage students’ navigation through a course when they have to bounce between the fourth content section of a module to a Forum Topic, then back to the fifth content section of the mode and next to an Assignment.

However, in setting up this course, which had multiple forum topics and assignments in each module, I got an idea.  I knew that I could link directly to those forum topics and assignments using the Sakai Entity Link button  in the Rich Text Editor, which is great for getting them to those other places, but it wasn’t so good for getting them back.  I then remembered that when you use the Sakai Entity Link button, it gives you the URL for the Forum topic or Assignment.

I also remembered that when you “upload or link to a file in Resources” to create a content section in Lessons, it just creates a link on the page that would open in a new window.  And what is worse, the link text is just the filename of the file.  However, when you “upload or link to a file” or “Link to new or existing URL resource on server,” it embeds that file in the content section page itself.

For instance, if I have a PDF file I wanted to present as a content section, when I choose the upload or link to a file in Resources option, the page would be nothing but a link that students would then click to open, and it would open in a new window.

This is functional, yes, but not very elegant.  However, if I chose the “upload or link to a file” option,  the PDF would appear directly on the content section page.

Much better!  And since the “Link to new or existing URL resource on server” option embeds in this same way, since I can get the URL for the Forum topic or Assignment they need to get to, I can embed it as the next page in the Module.  Even better still!

To do this, I needed to be able to use the Sakai Entity Link button without interfering with my content section creation in Lessons, so I right-clicked on Resources and chose to have it open in a new tab.  I then went to that tab and created a new HTML page (Note: This was just to get a Rich-Text Editor I could work with that was separate from Lessons).  I clicked the Sakai Entity Link button and chose the appropriate Forum topic.  I then copied the URL from the box and returned to the tab with Lessons.  I created a new content section, chose the “Link to new or existing URL resource on server” option, and pasted the URL from the Sakai Entity Link into the box.

Therefore, when the students hit the Next button on the previous page, it takes them to the proper Forum topic directly inside of Lessons.  They can then hit the Next button on that page and proceed to the next content section.

Clean.  Elegant.  And actually quite easy.

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