Course Material in Electronic form

Provision of course material in electronic form is probably the simplest application of educational technology. But is there any benefit beyond saving photocopying costs? I believe there are several.

Having material available online provides access to learning materials 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Notes cannot be forgotten or lost. And today’s busy learners can study anywhere they have Internet access.

Furthermore, material in electronic form is easily searchable. Thus learners working on assignments or revising for exams can quickly find all relevant content. Searching can also serve to identify connections between different topics, eg by demonstrating that a phrase appears prominently in several different and seemingly unconnected sections.

A further advantage is that electronic material supports accessibility. If material is provided electronically learners can choose to view it in the font, size and colours that suit their particular needs. It may also be delivered through assistive technology such as screen readers.

A useful enhancement to electronic provision of course material is the facility for the learner to annotate material and to search personal annotations along with course content.

Bear in mind that the easiest way to absorb text-heavy material is from the printed page. It is best to provide such material in PDF form (for printing) as well as HTML for online viewing. By holding material in a form such as XML the same material can easily be output to different formats, thus avoiding different versions of the same material.

It’s probably still a good idea to provide printed handouts at face-to-face sessions. They give learners something to hang what’s being said onto, and avoid complaints of penny-pinching.

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