Good Habits for Managing Learning Material

Image taken from: Unsplash

Introduction

Over the past months, thousands of language instructors across Canada have been unwittingly or intentionally taking on instructional developer responsibilities. They have been cobbling together, rearranging, and refining digital resources and activities from various sources to meet the needs of their students. Many instructors have been generating original learning resources to fill in gaps that appear while teaching online.

Usually, learning materials 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 forgotten on a computer drive and discovered on a slow day when you are considering which files to remove to free up hard drive space. These files are hastily named, filed, and saved, so they are lost.  Sometimes, it is too much trouble to save and properly file a document that is created just before your online class is about to start. If you are currently teaching online, I am sure you will agree with this!

By introducing a few good material creation habits, the energy expended in creating learning objects can be harnessed through learning object management. Learning objects can be a worksheet, a digital activity such as a SCORM, an audio track, a video, an animation, a slide deck presentation, a quiz or a flashcard set. Following good learning object management practices can save instructors, their peers, and coordinators time and energy in the future.

Good Habits for Managing Learning Material with Example Emails

Below each good practice is an example that an educational coordinator could include in an email message to their staff. Hopefully this will add context to these good habits. Learning object management is not effective unless the staff understand and follow systems established by organizational management.

1. Common Storage

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 common drive X.

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, 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 named 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. 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 PNG 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 or Wikimedia websites.

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.

Educational coordinator to staff: Ms. Kapour will be managing the department’s Kahoot account for the upcoming academic year.

7. Copyright

Modelling good digital citizenship is our responsibility as educators and promotes intentional media selection and improves standardization of learning objects. 

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

8. Common folders

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 learning outcomes must be saved in the appropriate course and outcome folder on the common server.

9. Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Demonstrating universal design for learning is our responsibility as educators.  This practice promotes inclusive learning object production and heightens standardization of learning objects. UDL learning guidelines encourage engagement, representation, action and expression.

Educational coordinator to staff:  To stimulate student success, all learning objects should be evaluated using the school’s UDL checklists.

10. Accessibility

Digital accessibility benefits everyone by making content consistent, providing multimodal content options, and reducing potential barriers to learning. Although contemporary operating systems on laptops and mobile devices are improving accessibility features, we can further refine our content following accessibility practices. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 provides us with a reference to make our online courses more perceivable, openable, and understandable.

Educational coordinator to staff:  Ensure that text tags are linked to all images on your online content.  Please use YouTube videos with transcripts, playback speed and Closed Captions options when possible.

Final considerations

Of course, your centre will not be able to move forward with all of these suggestions immediately.  Consider this list as a team and prioritize which ones will add value to learning initially. This informal list of learning object creation management tips should assist you in enabling recycling and repurposing of your learning objects. In the future, instructors and managers will appreciate how your efforts allow for quick access to relevant learning materials.

Resources

Universal Design for Learning, https://udlguidelines.cast.org

Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C), https://www.w3.org/WAI

WCAG 2.1 at a Glance,  https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/glance

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