Seven Tips for Creating Exemplary Online Class Materials

Laptop by karola riegler photography on flickrNo educational experience is complete without engaging reading materials that help students to understand the topics. Materials specifically for online training or education can be a snap if the educator follows a few crucial tips. These seven suggestions from guest author Jared Jaureguy will help to keep students interested, will boost retention of the information, and can even generate curiosity about the topics being explored.

1. Avoid Large Blocks of Text
Long chunks of text can lead to boredom and monotony for a lot of students and trainees, making it advisable to apply another strategy when possible. Instead, bullets, lists and snippets of information in short bursts should be used. Information presented this way can effectively capture and convey the important highlights. This keeps the students focused long enough to provide details through discussions and other materials. Effective images can get points across clearly and with few words. Be certain that images are appropriately sized for the reading material pages.

2. Use Cross-Platform Digital Files
Using a pdf editor or file converter can help educators create documents that users of all computer types and operating systems can open. Many file types can be used across platforms, but the pdf file type is one that can do so consistently and without altering the formatting when used across one operating system to another. It is also a good idea to search for the latest recommended file types for audio and video materials supplied. Class participants perform at their best when they need not work through technical issues.

3. Make Some Aspects Interactive
Interaction is difficult with static pages such as pdf documents, but some activities are possible, and they can help to avoid tedium. Fill in the blank questions can be beneficial activities. Word matches can also be helpful. Short activities that feature simple but effective images can help to reach learners who excel with visually enhanced materials. These activities overall reinforce the information, and reviewing these activities later can boost recall. A pdf editor makes it easy to integrate text and images in class reading materials.

4. Complementary Multimedia and Documents
A mix of materials is beneficial, combining pdf reading files with audio and video when possible. It is also helpful to have the combined types of materials complement one another. Audio and video, for example, can provide explanatory details for brief but memorable sections of text in the pdf portion of the materials.

5. Provide Links to Additional Resources
Links to additional sources can give students or trainees a place from which to further explore the topics on their own. If students are overwhelmed with too much information at once, they might be discouraged from learning more. If participants receive information that is adequate for the class, but they also have directions for further information, many will take the opportunity to explore those sources at their own convenience.

6. Organize Content Logically
The flow of information in the materials is critical. Educators who are new to creating the texts and multimedia content might need a little extra time reviewing the information. Prepare the content in a logical order, beginning with an outline of the expected flow. A very brief outline when beginning provides a broad overview and helps to minimize the chances of producing content that should be arranged differently.

7. An FAQ Anticipating Questions
Some questions at the end of a class are inevitable, making the preemptive inclusion of an FAQ section beneficial. Class participants can find answers quickly, without the need to spend time contacting the instructor over easily clarified details. Educators will find that their anticipation of questions improves over an extended time providing the course, as they improve in all of the areas of presenting class materials.

Image from used under the Creative Commons license.  Image credit: karola riegler photography.

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