Offer a Variety of Materials and Media in Your Online Course

Quality Review Showcase

The Quality and High Quality online course reviews explore components proven to be best practices in online course design. This post showcases Quality item, “The course offers a variety of instructional materials and media (e.g., external readings, assignments, discussions, videos), aligned with learning objectives and/or goals.”

No two students learn exactly alike—prior knowledge, cultural experiences, and brain development all come into play. While one student may prefer a primarily text-based learning environment consisting of web pages and articles, another may prefer visuals such as images or videos. Similarly, no two students show what they’ve learned alike. One may prefer writing a paper, while another prefers to discuss with peers or create a presentation.

The Universal Design for Learning framework aims to “improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn” (CAST, 2018). It is recommended to provide multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression within the learning environment. In essence, offer a variety of materials and media in order to give the most chance that the most students will connect with the content.

What are Some Ways your Online Course can be Designed to meet this Standard?

  • Take a look through your online course. Is it mostly text? If so, think about how other kinds of media could enhance the existing content. What images come to mind? Graphics or tables? Perhaps a brief video on a difficult concept. Visit the CDL Graphics and Video@CDL pages for tips and inspiration. If you are credentialed to create online courses, you may take advantage of these services.
  • Consider adding action icons to your Webcourses@UCF pages in order to graphically direct students’ attention.
  • The UCF Library offers several video collections that can be streamed online.
  • In the course assessments, are students showing what they know in the same way? For instance, if there are only four exams in the course, consider offering additional assignments that allow students to express themselves in more varied ways. Discussions and Assignments are tools that can facilitate this, as they can afford text, images, and video.

What Does This Look like in a Real Online Course?

Example 1. Andrew Dickerson, EGN3343 (Thermodynamics).

This mixed-mode course offers a variety of materials to support students. Figure 1 features a screenshot of one of the pages in the course. The page has a reference to the textbook reading assignment, a teacher-created Lightboard video, and a supplemental third-party video. Action icons are used throughout the page to focus and direct the students’ attention.

Professor using light board
Figure 1. Excerpt from content page.

Example 2. Julia Phillips Berger, JST3701 (History of the Holocaust).

This online course is organized into modules. Each module begins with an Introduction page, using the Module Introduction template from the Templater tool. This layout allows the instructor to identify the learning objective, the content that will be used to support the objective, and the assessment that will allow students to show that they have met the objective.

Module Overvier Screenshot
Figure 2. Excerpt from Module Introduction page.

Example 3: Lana Williams, ANT3148 (Life and Death in Ancient Egypt).

To bring ancient Egypt to life, Dr. Williams utilizes several kinds of materials and media. Readings, instructor-created video lecture, photographs taken during field work, satellite images, maps, hieroglyphics, and videos are all used to provide a more well-rounded experience of the course content.

Screenshot of module layout in Webcourses@UCF
Figure 3. Excerpt of a module which features the materials as module items.


CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2.

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