Effective online content is varied.
When we say “varied,” we are referring to both variety of format and of perspective. A mix of text, images, audio, and video makes content engaging and also enhances comprehension (see UDL for details). Multiple perspectives enhance the authenticity of your content and foster a more inclusive learning environment (see CRT for details). At the bottom of this page, we have included links for different types of online content that you can consider.
Effective online content is chunked into manageable lengths.
It’s well-known (and documented) that attention spans for digital content are short. Therefore, it’s important to chunk content into manageable lengths to reduce cognitive load. In other words, don’t overwhelm your students with 60+ slide PowerPoints, 30+ page syllabi, or 2 hour videos. Instead, chunk these into shorter PowerPoints (separated into subtopics), a syllabus with links to relevant items, and shorter videos (or time-stamps for particular parts of the videos).
Effective online content provides options for student response/reflection.
To increase comprehension and retention, students need the space to practice, respond to, or reflect on the concepts that they’re learning in your course content. (We recommend you check out Make it Stick, by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel for more details on that.) For each chunk of content, provide the opportunity for this action in the form of questions, prompts, or activities that encourage students to apply or reflect on the knowledge they gain.
Effective online content models ethical digital citizenship.
Ethical considerations of copyright, information validation, etc. are important in the online content creation/curation process. Content that is shared with students should model ethical online behavior. For example, when choosing images for your PowerPoints, consider copyright implications — find public domain or Creative Commons images from sites like Pixabay and Unsplash. When sharing articles or webpages, model the critical thinking process of ensuring that the information is credible (for a list of fact checker sites, check out this libguide from Berkeley Library).
Effective online content is accessible to diverse learners.
Even the best content in the world is useless if a student can’t access it. From the technical side, you can check out the ITS Blog for details on adding content to Canvas. But beyond the technical, content needs to be accessible to the diversity of ability, interest, culture, and perspective among your students. To do this, you should examine your different types of content for potential barriers:
- Text can be inaccessible for non-native English speakers and students with conditions like dyslexia.
- Videos can be inaccessible for students with visual or hearing impairments.
- Audio can be inaccessible for students with hearing impairments or some processing disorders.
To ensure that your content is accessible, strive to offer alternatives and/or functions like closed captioning that will help students overcome these barriers.