Good Material Creation Practices for Teachers

Introduction

Instructors are constantly generating learning materials.  Usually, they are prepared on-the-fly to anticipate or adapt to challenges that arise from our classroom lessons.  What happens to these documents?  Often they are rediscovered in a file directory months or even years later when you finally do have a chance to look through your file folders.  Otherwise, they are lost due to poor file naming, folder structure or simply because of the fact that you deleted them. All too often it’s too much of a bother to save a document that is created just as your class is about to start.  A better way to harness all of the energy that instructors expend generating learning materials is to adopt a few good habits.  Following these good practices will help save your and your instructional peers’ time and energy in the future.

For the purposes of this post, any learning material will be referred to as learning objects.  A few examples of these are a worksheet, a digital activity such as a SCORM, an audio track, a video, animation, a slide deck presentation, a quiz, and a flashcard set.  Under each good practice is an example that an educational coordinator would include in an email message to their staff.  Hopefully, this will add context to these good practices.

Good Practices

  1. Single Storage Solution

Storing all materials on a common digital space, whether it is a remote cloud, a local server or an external hard drive, ensures that learning objects can be located more readily.  If all materials are housed in one place, there is better chance that materials can be found.

Educational coordinator to staff: All documents and media files must be stored on the common drive.

2. Document/Folder Naming

In order to efficiently locate specific files, it is good practice for all staff members to observe a common file naming agreement.  These agreements are normally established by the team.  To ensure that these are consistent, a designated team member must monitor files directories and spend some time renaming to ensure compliance.  It is very important that the folders are also named and arranged following a consistent pattern.

Educational coordinator to staff: All documents and media files must be name using the following pattern. CourseCode_ObjectiveCode_Descriptivename_VersionNumber . (eg: EL103_5.01_MedicalFormA_v09)

3. File Formats

Ensuring that file formats for various media types are consistent will save future frustration in the department. There are many kinds of digital files, including word processed, image, audio, and video formats. Agreeing on and consistently saving and publishing with common file formats improves the potential for future updates of learning objects and limits the number of editors and media players that your department will require.

Educational coordinator to staff: All photographs must be saved in JPG format. All audio files must be saved in mp3 format.

4. Media Sources

Finding and acquiring images, videos, animations, and audio from common sources guarantees that learning objects will have a common look and feel. Media can be downloaded or hyperlinked through common internet websites.

Educational coordinator to staff:  All videos must be linked to a YouTube video.  All images should be found on the Unsplash website.

5. Resource Credentials

A file containing license keys and access credentials should be created and frequently updated. This file should include web addresses to resources as well as a reference to the course or courses that use those resources. In institutions with a high turnover, vast amounts of work are lost by poor recordkeeping.

Educational coordinator to staff:  All usernames and passwords can be accessed through the instructional coordinator.

6. Resource Champions

In order to manage learning technologies, a department should consider appointing champions for individual technologies.  Champions can server as gatekeepers for tools as well as consultants of a technology.  Without some management, the learning objects related to the tools become unorganized and unmanageable.   Duplicates of learning objects, deletions, misplacements, and poor craftsmanship are the result of educational technology resource neglect.

Educational coordinator to staff:  Rodney Thompson will be managing the department’s Quizlet account for the upcoming academic year.

7. Copyright

Modelling good digital citizenship is our responsibility as educators.  Adhering to copyright also promotes intentional media selection and escalates standardization of learning objects.  

Educational coordinator to staff:  All media must be credited in close proximity to the learning object.

8. Common folder

Create folders for more complex activities.  Sub folders that contain media files, text files, a descriptive document and a final authoring file will enable instructors in the future to easily understand the intentions of the instructor developer and update or enhance the learning object.

Educational coordinator to staff:  All media related to a learning outcome must
be saved in the outcome folder on the common server.

Final thoughts

I hope that this informal list of developer’s tips will help you and your instructional peers to enable recycling and repurposing of your andragogical learning objects.  In the future, instructors and managers will appreciate your efforts through quick access to relevant learning materials. Your future self will be grateful, too.

John Allan
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John Allan

John is a Canadian who writes about learning object development and online facilitation from a teacher's perspective.

2 thoughts on “Good Material Creation Practices for Teachers

  • Pingback: Developing? Start with Plain text - ElearningWorld.org

  • 15th December 2019 at 9:54 am
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    Great post John
    “instructors and managers will appreciate your efforts through quick access to relevant learning materials. Your future self will be grateful, too”
    Sooooo true !
    I worked with a lady years ago who had the habit of naming every folder “Pauline” – on every drive, USB, local disk, etc. – what a nightmare to find things when we wanted to share.
    My partner laughs at me because I name photographs from my iPhone as soon as I transfer them to storage.
    But I am the one laughing when I need to find something later 😉

    Reply

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