What to Consider When Reviewing and Selecting Course Materials

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Online Learning | Teaching Hacks | Teaching Methods
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Donna Sue M. Shellman is a Program Coordinator and Instructor at Gaston College

 

During the past few decades, my faculty role has changed quite a bit. In my first years of teaching, I used a printed textbook and paper tests in the classroom. Now, I use a learning management system (LMS) for all methods of delivery, including teaching face-to-face, hybrid and online courses.

As I prepare my courses each semester, I now consider a new set of factors when evaluating materials for my courses. Regardless of how you deliver your courses, here are some things to consider when reviewing and selecting materials.

What instructor materials are available?

One of the first things that I review are instructor teaching and assessment resources. I look over sample syllabi to get a sense of how other faculty use the content over a semester. I find sample syllabi particularly beneficial when designing 8-, 10- and 16-week courses. Any presentation slideshows I can find are also useful as lecture guides for both face-to-face and hybrid courses. Additionally, I use slideshow content for creating video lectures in online courses.

It’s important to confirm that course material is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines to meet the needs of all students. Publisher slideshow content that meets ADA guidelines decreases my workload. You can find more tips for making your course more accessible in this free guide from Cengage.

Test banks are also essential for assessing students. I find that pre-made test banks save me time when they’re pre-formatted and ready to download. I use these test banks for creating practice assessments, chapter or module assessments and final exam assessments.

Is the content formatted in a student-friendly way?

Whether I review a printed textbook or an eTextbook, formatting is important to me. I find that quality formatting is sound education practice, increasing students’ abilities to master subject content. Textbooks are more appealing when headings, sidebars and terminology are present.

Visually appealing textbooks draw readers into the content. Students process information more efficiently when sections are divided by headings and subheadings, as readers often skim through content and can find the relevant information they’re looking for.

What student resources are available?

Students love resources! Flash cards, both pre-made and student-generated, are one of my students’ favorite resources.

My students found that chapter and module summaries help them review important content. Reading the chapter summaries emphasizes the overview of the content, while case studies and role-playing scenarios allow students to exercise their critical thinking skills. Then, when students analyze scenarios to determine what they would do in a given situation, they gain confidence for real-world scenarios that they will encounter later.

What online references are provided within the chapter or module content?

I rely heavily on internet resources that are incorporated in a chapter or module. These resources help me draw attention to concepts that students will encounter in the real world. For example, when Health Care students study workers’ compensation laws, I create a discussion board assignment for students to research state workers’ compensation laws online.

I believe that it is important to show students how content is actually applied outside of the classroom. Recently, a student shared with me that she dreaded discussion board posts in my course at the beginning of her academic career. However, her confidence increased after completing each discussion board post. Now, she not only values her ability to research important topics, but she appreciates her ability to share her thoughts and opinions.

Will you use course materials in a learning management system (LMS)?

If you use course materials in an LMS, you must assure compatibility between the content and the system. My institution uses an LMS for all courses, regardless of course delivery method. So, I must ensure that the course material is formatted properly and is ADA-compliant to increase student satisfaction and productivity.

I find formatting content materials to be very time consuming and frustrating. I prefer to spend my time delivering the course rather than developing course content and resolving technology issues. So, checking LMS compatibility in the beginning of the semester saves me time down the road.

What type of instructor support is available?

As with any course materials, I always have questions. I consider how support personnel can assist me. In cases where I can easily locate and contact support, I save time. In scenarios where I have difficulty contacting someone to assist me, I waste precious time that could be spent addressing students’ needs.

Never underestimate postadoption support! I find that most of my questions relate to postadoption matters, so knowing who to contact is essential. Once I begin using course materials, I find that my questions revolve around implementing the content within my courses. Rather than floundering when I encounter issues and have questions, I always reach out for support.

Your Turn

Now that I’ve shared how I select course materials, consider how these tips can apply to your own course. You know your course best, so thoroughly evaluate course materials, and find the ones that fit with your course’s unique needs. Happy evaluating!

 

For more tips on finding course materials, download the “8 Things to Look for in a Digital Learning Solution” checklist.