four students sitting in chairs view course materials

Guide to Course Materials

When teaching in a flexible learning environment, the course materials often need to be rethought for the online environment and expanded beyond traditional readings and classroom lectures. This could mean finding an online lab book, identifying appropriate videos to cover content typically delivered during lecture, or adding new ways to interact with the course content. Following copyright and accessibility guidelines will make sure all students can benefit from these resources.

How To Use this Guide

This Guide to Course Materials will help you identify existing online materials and explain how to create your own. We invite you to either visit the guide in order or skip to the topics that are most relevant to you.

Each topic includes resources you can use to choose course materials that can support in-person and remote instruction. Read below for general advice for identifying course materials, or skip straight to the topic you need:

Making videos requires a lot of time; limit the amount of new video you create. We recommend making videos that help students get comfortable with the online learning environment. Examples of these high-impact videos include an introduction of yourself and the course, a walkthrough of the course site and instructions for submitting assignments. If you are considering developing videos for class lectures, consider instead distributing PowerPoints and assigning discussion prompts for your face-to-face class meetings as a time-saving alternative. If videos are necessary, students respond well to shorter video lessons that then have follow-up activities related to them.

Curate existing content to focus on engagement. There is a range of reliable open content and activities available in all disciplines that can supplement your own creations. Instead of devoting a significant amount of time recording your own videos or creating your own media-rich learning activities, consider finding open educational resources to use in your course. This will allow you to concentrate on deeper learning and student engagement.

Multimedia can enrich the learning environment. When a course is delivered at least partially online, it makes sense to widen the kinds of media involved. Being able to read, listen to or watch content makes for a more engaging experience. Multimedia content can also reduce accessibility barriers because students with learning differences can read transcripts or watch videos multiple times. Also, consider allowing students to produce their own multimedia assignments, which can make coursework more interesting. An oral presentation, for example, could be reconceived as a podcast or a voiceover PowerPoint. Our Course Delivery Guide has further info on multimedia tools.

Authentic, real-world materials foster critical thinking. As students spend more time considering the course on their own, finding examples that are tied to current discussions or events provides more motivation for learning.(1) Assignments that ask students to analyze such texts or suggest solutions to real world problems in discussion forums can be more meaningful than a quiz or reading reaction.

Creative Commons License

Flexible Teaching guides were developed by Duke Learning Innovation and adapted for NIU by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. They are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


Didn’t find what you were looking for? Need more information? Contact the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) with your feedback and questions about this resource.

Workshops & Support

CITL staff are available to answer your questions about Flexible Teaching. Give us a call or text 815-753-0595 or email for assistance. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our staff.

View CITL upcoming events to view available upcoming workshops offered or to register.

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