Content Development

Engaging students using meaningful, diverse and inclusive course materials.

On this page:

Types of content

Course content is available in a variety of formats (e.g., digital and print) and from a variety of sources, including instructor-created. Consider using diverse types of content throughout your course to meaningfully engage students in the learning process. With access to endless information at our fingertips, using an assortment of materials is easier than ever. However, having more content or types of content does not automatically make the course better and more engaging. Review the best practices below to address potential content additions or changes.

The following table includes examples of different content formats:

Audio or video Visuals Print or digital text
  • Instructor-led videos
  • Movies
  • Independent films
  • Documentaries
  • Vlogs
  • News segments
  • Interviews
  • Demonstrations
  • Webinars
  • Speeches
  • Talks (ex: TED Talk)
  • Audio recordings
  • Music
  • Podcasts
  • Audio books
  • Simulations
  • Applications
  • Infographics
  • Data visualization
  • Charts
  • Graphs
  • Cartoons
  • Photographs
  • Illustrations
  • Graphic designs
  • Artwork
  • Advertisements
  • Diagrams
  • Poll or survey results
  • Timelines
  • Presentations
  • Posters
  • Screenshots
  • Memes/GIFs
  • Websites
  • Forums
  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • Books/E-books
  • Textbooks
  • Manuals
  • Case studies
  • Lists
  • Q&A’s
  • Worksheets
  • Newspapers/articles
  • Journals/research papers
  • White papers
  • Reports
  • Social media pages or posts
  • Magazines

Choosing and sharing content

Best practices

Content should be:

  • Aligned to course design. Content should support students’ growth and success in activities and assessments. Therefore, it will also align to your course’s learning outcomes.
  • Accessible. It is important that content is accessible to all students. Additionally, check options for captioning, transcripts and alternative formats.
  • Selected by students when possible. Having choice and variety in content will support a diverse population of learners. Although choice will not be applicable to all content make sure to consider alternative options for students where it would be appropriate. Revisit UDL principles for more information.
  • Inclusive. Accessibility and autonomy are two components that can improve inclusivity. In addition to these, consider how various genders, races, ages, and ethnicities are represented in the content.
  • Cost appropriate. Price of class materials can become a barrier for some students. When possible, choose content that is free and accessible to students through UB Libraries or an Open Educational Resource (OER).
  • Shareable. Another aspect to consider is intellectual property rights. Ensure that course content is not infringing on copyright and fair use policies. You may also want to reach out to your department for information about your intellectual property rights as a faculty member.

Scaffolding is a process that should be strategically embedded into both the design and instruction of your course. In many cases, it follows a similar progression as shown in the diagram below.

Developing instructor-made content

Although the quantity of existing instructional content is vast, it is not ideal for every situation. The right content may take extensive time to find, may not align to the course, or may contain outdated, erroneous or conflicting information. There are benefits to creating your own materials, particularly the ability to customize content to align to your course’s outcomes and meet the needs of your students.

The following are common types of instructor-created content:

  • Instructor-led videos: Recording your own videos can help establish a strong instructor presence. Consider using instructional videos in a variety of ways such as weekly overviews, mini-lectures, demonstrations and even when giving feedback.
  • Presentations: Presentations can provide visual support when paired with verbal explanations. Voice-over presentations in Microsoft PowerPoint can also be turned into instructional videos. It is important to follow best practices for presentations to limit cognitive overload.
  • Customized OER: There are many benefits to using Open Education Resources, one in particular is that they can be revised and redistributed free of charge. In some cases, editing existing content will be more efficient than creating something new. Be sure to adhere to the Creative Commons license for each OER used.
  • Guided notes: Creating guided notes are a great way to highlight important information in readings and lectures. There are many different note-taking styles, use one that works well for your course or is preferred by your students.
  • Worksheets: Worksheets can help students begin to apply concepts taught in class. Consider using diagrams, graphic organizers, case studies or other activities that support the learning process.
  • Study guides: As each course and assessment is unique, determine what information will best support student success. This may include general information such as the length of assessment and its point value or percent of grade. More specific information should also be included such as the learning outcomes being evaluated, the major topics being covered and the types of questions being asked.

There are several ways to upload or create course materials in UB Learns, some methods are better suited for specific types of materials.

Determine which method(s) work best for your course. In order to upload content, ensure you are in Edit Mode (located in the top right corner). Choose the correct folder or module then select Build Content.

  • Add an item. This feature allows for the most versatility. Upon selecting Create Item, a textbox will appear. Not only can you write text, you can also attach documents, embed hyperlinks, add tables and more.
  • Embed video. This allows students to watch Panopto or YouTube videos right within UB Learns, not having to download them or leave the course. One way to do this is by embedding the video into an item, another is by using the mashup feature.
  • Upload a file. By selecting this feature, you will be asked to browse local or course files such as documents, guided notes or worksheets. Note that you cannot add additional text to this feature.
  • Link to other course content. It may be helpful at times to use the course links feature when referencing something that already exists within the course such as an assignment or discussion board.
  • Blank page. The benefit of using a blank page over a document or pdf is that students will stay within the course verses downloading a file or being sent outside of UB Learns. This feature allows for the same capabilities as an item (see above).

Activity

All courses

  • Step 1: Review the content formats above. If redesigning an existing course, identify the types of content you are already using. If designing a new course, choose some content types to explore.
  • Step 2: Answer the following questions:
    • a. Does the content align to the course’s learning outcomes?
    • b. Does the content prepare students for activities? Assessments?
    • c. What level of variety is evident in your content list?
    • d. Does content need to be added, replaced or removed?
    • e. Does the content engage learning preferences?
    • f.  Is the content accessible and inclusive?
    • g. Is there some level of autonomy in the course?
  • Step 3: Gather any new content additions or substitutions.
  • Step 4: Update your syllabus to reflect these changes.

Online courses

Step 1: Gather course content into an organized location.

Step 2: Determine where the content will live within the course.

Step 3: Upload your content. Move, reorder, edit and manage content as needed.

Step 4: Review the Blackboard Ally ratings of the content. Update accessibility as needed.

Step 5: When finished, use Student Preview to ensure this view is accurate and students can successfully access the content. (i.e., videos play accurately, links work properly, content is accessible, alternative formats are available, items that should be hidden do not show up, etc.)