5. Materials & Media

Recommendation 5.1: Variety of Materials
Use a variety of instructional materials and media in the course.

Synopsis from Self-Review

Aim for a variety of materials to include in your course. This variety can serve a range of purposes: give students different ways to access and experience course concepts; engage a range of perspectives, approaches, or interests; anchor class discussions and interactions; and build a sense of community in the class. Integrating media sources created by others, within the boundaries of copyright, can also reduce the burden on you to create your own materials.

How to Put Into Practice

Curating a variety of materials and media will contribute to an engaging and inclusive learning environment.  Think of course materials as each supporting one another, and provide multiple ways for students to learn about key course content through different formats (written, audio, visual). Important factors to keep in mind while you arrange the materials for your course include learning outcomes, workload, and technology accessibility, as well as the need to highlight diversity in course content.

Ask critical questions guided by your course context (adapted from DesignTeachEngage). There are many types of instructional content that can be utilized to add variety and engage learners. Consider these questions as you select instructional materials for your course:

  • Is the scope and coverage appropriate to your subject matter, learner level, and goals?
  • What will learners read/explore?
  • What will learners view/hear?
  • What could learners experience/create?
  • Will you find or create this material?
  • Do materials and media support and align with the stated learning outcomes?
  • How will materials be integrated into the interactive components of the course?
  • How accessible are media selections? For example, students with limited internet access benefit from short videos and transcripts of video content.

Understand fair use and copyright. Integrating texts and media created by others is a good way to introduce variety while reducing the burden on you to create lecture videos and the like. UW-Madison Libraries provide useful information to help instructors understand what is “Fair Use” under copyright in an academic setting: How To Use Others’ Materials

Highlight diversity in course content. Using your course materials to highlight the presence and importance of diversity in your field (especially race, gender, sexual identity, national or ethnic affiliation, tribal citizenship, class status, disability, and other dimensions of life) is a valuable practice for inclusive design. For instance:

  • Review course materials and incorporate scholars and/or topics that mark the presence or importance of diversity in your field or context.
  • Highlight a diversity of perspectives and identities in your field or context, and/or note missing or historically minimized perspectives and identities.
  • Ask students to create, find, and curate personally-meaningful course content examples.

Use the Absorb-Do-Connect framework to conceptualize how to select and organize course materials. This commonly-used framework from William Horton’s E-Learning By Design (2006) centers on three core learning activities:

  • Absorb (recordings, readings and other media)
  • Do (practice, activities, games, problem sets, practice material)
  • Connect (presentations, projects, applications to real-world, discussions)

TeachOnline@UW provides an overview of the framework as a whole. Horton’s website provides many examples of Absorb, Do, and Connect activities

Additional Resources

The UW-Madison Writing Center offers a Toolkit with strategies for incorporating low-stakes (informal) and high-stakes (formal) online writing activities, examples of well-designed low-stakes and high-stakes online writing activities, and assessment strategies for online writing that reflect the principles of inclusive pedagogy: Online Writing Toolkit (links to the UW-Madison Writing Center’s Writing Across the Curriculum website)

Open Educational Resources (OER) can be used to connect students with high quality, customizable course content at no cost. You can get librarian help with OER or try these resources for discovering and using OER on your own.

The UW-Madison Libraries website is the portal to hundreds of millions of resources, digital and physical. The same librarians who help you find research resources can also help find teaching resources. Find the appropriate subject specialist by searching the Subject Librarian Directory. 

If you know the content you want students to use and are looking for a way for them to access it online, complete the Course Content Support Form. Librarians will use the information you provide there to search for publicly available versions available online, purchase access for campus when possible, or find print versions of the materials that could be digitized.

See Recommendation 2.2: Organization & Navigation for more information about how to keep your media and course content organized on Canvas.

Going Further: Explore using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines) to identify ways to share materials and assignments via multiple means, such as adding caption to videos, and multiple formats (e.g., Google Docs and PDFs) for handout. (Links to UDL website)

Background Information

What is this?

Instructional materials include lectures, readings, textbooks, multimedia components, and other resources. These materials can be used in both in-person and online classrooms; however, some must be modified or redesigned to be effective for the online environment.

Why is this important?

Instructional materials provide much of the information that students will experience, learn, and apply during a course. They can help engage or demotivate students. All course-offering formats rely on a thoughtful and complete collection of instructional materials that students will access, explore, absorb, and reference as they proceed in a course.

Where is this?

Canvas is the focal point for course materials. Video can be uploaded to Kaltura Mediaspace and linked or embedded in Canvas Pages. Links to external web pages and files (Word, PDF, etc.) can be shared with students through Canvas.

Success Factor 5: Materials & Media

Lectures and course materials are accessible, multi-faceted, varied, and aligned with course learning outcomes.