Curating and Creating Digital Learning Resources
Digital Learning Resources refers to the spectrum of online and electronic materials and content that can be provided to students to inform them about the topics being covered. In Canvas, learning materials can take on a variety of media forms, they can be either references to physical materials, such as textbooks, or digital materials such as electronic documents (PDFs, Word, Excel, etc.), graphics, videos, and audio files.
When developing resources to support remote instruction, you’ll want to provide your students with learning resources that help them to successfully acquire knowledge and skills that ensure that they can achieve learning outcomes and goals, and be sure to label required materials and suggested/optional materials as such.
Selecting Digital Learning Resources
Consider the assessments and assignments within your course and begin to draft a list of materials that must be covered in order for the students to successfully complete that assignment or assessment. Use that list as a checklist to ensure that the learning resources you consider cover each of those topics. Keep in mind that you can fill any gaps or add additional context by creating some of your own instructor-created learning resources as well.
As your students transitioned to remote learning, it is likely that they brought any physical textbooks home with them. However, many textbooks are available in an eBook format for those who don’t have easy access or prefer not to use physical textbooks.
Other Text-Based Materials
Textbooks are certainly not the only text-based materials that one could include in an online course. You might also consider articles from scholarly journals, articles from periodicals and newspapers, blogs, websites, original source material, case studies, and other documents that are pertinent to the topic you are covering. You can also include your own written content or lecture notes.
Consider exploring the wealth of digital resources available through the Boston College Libraries they have created a special resource to assist with locating digital learning resources that may be suitable for your course.
Library E-Reserves (scanned book chapters and articles)
Library E-Reserves allows you to distribute electronic resources such as scanned book chapters, scanned articles, and other media to your course participants. The process is completed on your behalf by the library, and students are able to view the materials through the Canvas course site. To get started with library e-reserves, select your library, and follow the submission instructions. Requests for this service must be submitted in advance (see the Libraries web site for guidelines).
Lecture notes are a simple low-tech way for an instructor to unpack the course materials and weave their own academic and/or professional experience into the course. Lecture notes allow the instructor to introduce key concepts (the “what” of the topic), explore course concepts in greater detail (answering “why” it is important), and provide one’s own expertise and anecdotes on the topic (explaining “how” the topic applies in the real world).
In remote instruction, lecture notes are a method for the instructor to introduce their own voice into the learning resources. However, lecture notes do not need to be limited to text-only content, as they can integrate images and links to web-based resources. The instructor can use text to describe the significance of other learning resources and provide context.
Organizing Content: Canvas Modules and Pages
Canvas Modules allow you to organize content such as uploaded PDFs and Word docs, and links to web sites. You can also include content that you’ve created in Canvas, such as assignments or quizzes. You can organize your modules by date, subject matter, unit, or any other principle you choose. Click on ‘Modules’ on the left-hand course navigation bar, and then click the ‘+Module’. More documentation on modules is available from the Center for Teaching Excellence.
Note how the Professor has used modules to organize all of their content. Instead of adding all the content into one page, they broke each element up into specific pages, and titled them appropriately. Distributing content like this allows students to cognitively focus their efforts more clearly on what you want them to do with the content. Creating modules and adding pages, quizzes, and discussion boards to them is a new skill to learn, so take your time and follow the step-by-step guidance in how to do this.
In the content page note how the Professor has embedded and linked to the content with guiding questions providing context for how they want students to engage with it.
Again note here how the Professor provided a link to the BC library website for the textbook and gave students explicit instructions about what to focus on in the reading. These questions can then form the basis of a discussion board learning activity, or a short written paper to be uploaded to the Canvas assignments tool. For more quantitative disciplines Canvas quizzing can be used to assess student learning from the content.
Non-Text Learning Resources
Some course content cannot be conveyed in a purely text-based format, and remote instruction is typically more engaging for students when you provide a variety of different types of learning resources. When selecting learning resources, consider if there are elements that are best conveyed with visuals and or audio, such as videos, graphs, animations, photos, or data visualizations. You should also consider if some content is best conveyed in a multimedia format, combining audio, visuals, and even interactivity.
Canvas provides an effective platform to present course materials through various different digital formats. Therefore, you’re not limited to typical text-based materials and can integrate multimedia content throughout your course as appropriate.
If you are ever going to be on video in a recorded lecture or conference call, you might want to review this short video produced by CDIL’s media team, which provides some Simple Tips for Using Your Webcam.
While it’s not recommended to create lengthy recorded lectures equivalent to what one might present in a brick-and-mortar lecture hall for a fully-remote learner audience, it can be a great practice to supplement your text-based learning resources with brief, highly-focused “micro-lectures”. These short recordings (usually no more than 7-to-10 minutes in duration) allow you to present topics to your students either verbally, or both verbally and visually utilizing various lecture-capture tools. Such tools allow you to record your computer screen (which might contain a slide presentation, document, website, or computer application), your voice via microphone, and record your webcam video simultaneously.
In addition to presenting course topics, an instructor can leverage this type of learning resources to record demonstrations of software applications in courses with a technical component, or to record a welcome message while reviewing the course syllabus.
Panopto enables users to create quality recordings of lectures while allowing for the seamless integration of slides from presentation software like Powerpoint and Keynote. The software is quick to install and easy to use on any computer with a webcam and microphone. Recordings are easy to edit and are saved indefinitely in Canvas. Click on ‘Panopto Recordings’ in the left-hand course navigation bar of your Canvas site. If this is your first time doing so, you will need to download the recorder software. The Center for Teaching Excellence has prepared documentation with step-by-step instructions.
Lecture with Q&A
Interacting online for long periods can be demanding, both for internet bandwidth and human attention. Some instructors find it makes for a better pace to record a presentation in Panopto that students can watch at their own convenience, then convene a virtual conference in Zoom to answer questions and welcome further discussion. Zoom meetings can be recorded locally and uploaded to Panopto so they are viewable by your students in your Canvas course.
Guest Speaker Recordings
Even in remote instruction settings, you can include guest speakers to add additional expertise to the online classroom. Guests can prepare a recorded presentation or interview (via Zoom) to be included in a course. This can be in the form of an audio or video recording. Additionally, this can be conducted as an optional synchronous session in which students can attend live and ask questions, and a recording posted via Panopto for later review.
Found Media – Streaming Video/Audio
You can also embed relevant video from a third party, such as YouTube, TedTalks, Khan Academy, Vimeo, or other sources. Perhaps you have found a pertinent instructional video that is freely available on the web? It is possible and encouraged that you consider incorporating such videos into your course materials to supplement and enhance your other learning resources.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There is plenty of found content out there. Just be sure to consider what you want students to do with it and provide them with explicit instructions in what to do with it!
If an instructor has access and permission to use videos provided by a textbook publisher (or any other third party), or if he/she has produced video or audio that he/she would like to include in the course, there are tools available to assist with the streaming of this content. The Boston College libraries also provide a considerable number of videos as part of the streaming video collections.
It is extremely important to ensure that your digital learning resources are accessible to all learners, including those who may use assistive technology to access course materials. This might include students with learning disabilities or those with visual or hearing impairments. The following resources list provides detailed information on Accessibility in Online Learning.
Once again, while it is not necessary that you review all of these resources now. You may want to bookmark these for later.
- 10 Tips for Creating Accessible Course Content: 3Play Media Accessible Content
- Create Accessible PDFs: Microsoft Support
- Accessibility Checklist: http://accessibility.psu.edu/checklist/
- Higher Education, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 508 – http://www.usg.edu/siteinfo/higher_education_the_americans_with_disabilities_act_and_section_508
- The Center on Accessible Distance Learning: http://www.washington.edu/doit/programs/accessdl
- Accessible Content Formatting Guidelines: https://cdl.ucf.edu/teach/accessibility/
Additional Resources on Digital Learning Content:
- VIDEO: Open Educational Resources: A Brief Explanation (6:18 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSekYzpBY8I&t=11s
- Curator educators: Being a teacher in the information age: https://edtechnology.co.uk/Article/curator-educators-the-role-of-teachers-in-the-information-a
- Empowering Instructors to Become Effective Content Curators: http://www.iiisci.org/journal/CV$/sci/pdfs/HEI495XJ.pdf
- Faculty OER Toolkit: https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/facultyoertoolkit/
- Using Copyrighted Works in Your Teaching – FAQ: http://www.knowyourcopyrights.org/storage/documents/kycrfaq.pdf
- Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials: https://copyright.lib.utexas.edu/copypol2.html
- Finding Supplementary Materials for Your Online Course: https://www.goconqr.com/en/blog/finding-supplementary-material-for-your-online-course/
- Online Textbooks: MIT Open Courseware (by subject): https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/online-textbooks/