That’s Awesome! Enriching Your Online Course with External Resources

Your field is vast. There are hundreds of ways your students could explore its different facets and features. And you’ll be sure to put together some resources and interactive elements for your students, just as soon as you finish designing your course, writing the scripts, filming your videos, creating your quizzes, designing the peer assessments, writing out the lesson texts, gathering the copyright-cleared graphics, writing up your bio, etc., etc.

Before you add another to-do to your list, perhaps you should consider this: many fine resources are already available. Why recreate something that other people have already made?

DogitionYou may find other people at your own institution have great resources on hand. For example, in Duke’s course Data Visualization and Communication with Tableau, the instructors wanted their students to be able to use a real world dataset. They were able to arrange for access to data from Dognition—an organization co-founded by Dr. Brian Hare, an Associate Professor at Duke and Dog Cognition MOOC creator. Duke instructors might consider checking out Duke Online’s project page to see what’s already been done and think about whether cooperating with their fellow instructors could be helpful.

Snowflake CreatorA resource created by reputable institutions and their partners could also be valuable. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s course on Climate Change in the Great Lakes sourced an interactive element from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, a joint project of University of Wisconsin-Madison, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Instead of just describing snow formation in text or an infographic, the course links to an interactive snow creation site.

projectgutenbergWhile you may want to spend a bit more time vetting them, there are many non-university resources available for course use. On the humanities side of things, Project Gutenberg contains many public domain versions of English language works, from translations of the earliest Latin poetry fragments to mid-20th century science fiction. The site also includes historical works, as well as early publications on religion, philosophy and psychology, and fine arts, and works in Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Tagalog. Project Gutenberg includes more than text—there are numerous audio recordings, too. On the geographic side—or for anyone who needs to examine data relative to maps—Google provides tools such as Tour Builder and the Earth Engine. And instructors in the science and medical fields can find a wide variety of readings they can assign to students at PLOS One.

While external resources can be tremendously useful, you do have to choose them carefully. Items that you can access seemingly freely may actually be part of an institution-specific license. For example, Duke Libraries have subscriptions to a number of online resources— such as ARTstor, LexisNexis Academic, and the Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences—which non-Duke students would have to pay to use. Other people’s resources are subject to other people’s decisions and may not be at their current location forever. And some resources are inaccessible for students using assistive technology or those using mobile devices.

How CIT Can Help

CIT staff members have worked on many courses, and in the process they’ve found a wide variety of potential resources. They can review resources that you suggest to make sure that they’re currently online and they’ll be freely available to all students. And they can check to make sure the resources are accessible both to students with special needs and to student using mobile devices. Before you invest too much time and energy into creating supplemental materials, check in with CIT to see what’s already available.