Instructional Materials

In choosing your instructional materials you want to begin by aligning them with your learning objectives, assessments, and activities in the course for an easy to follow and cohesive learning path for students. In an online environment, carefully planned material is how you will keep your students engaged and on task to meet your learning outcomes. Many of the resources used in a face-to-face classroom may also be used in your online course; however, modifications may be necessary. Aim for a wide variety of instructional materials for students to learn from. These may include, textbooks, readings, lectures, multimedia components, and other resources. The following sections outline some different options for developing instructional materials in your course:


Video can be an engaging way to convey course material to your students. There is a plethora of video content already available on the internet that may serve to help your students achieve your learning goals. Finding existing videos that are relevant to the topic you are teaching may be time-consuming, but it may be worth the effort if you can find high-quality videos that you may not be able to produce yourself. You may also have publisher-created videos that you wish to use in your course. You have a lot of options for selecting existing video content. Regardless of what content you choose, make sure you explain to your students how this content connects to your learning objectives.

Recording Effective Microlectures

Microlectures are short (6 minutes or less), instructor-produced videos that are designed using a structured format to provide effective explanations of a single key concept or specific skill set. Learn how to use this format to help maintain student attention and allow students to reengage with the content when and if needed.

Experts Viji Sathy and Mike Wesch gave this webinar on recording effective microlectures on April 17, 2020. The webinar was moderated by Kim Middleton, academic director at the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE).

Instructor-created videos can be an effective way to not only deliver course content and increase engagement but also to enhance your presence in the course. Videos offer an alternative means of communication to keep the course interesting and support instructional materials such as readings and activities. Some of the advantages of video recordings include allowing students to control the speed of their learning and giving them access to closed captioning and transcripts for later review. When deciding which and what types of videos to use in your course start by considering how you may use them to accomplish your learning objectives and outcomes. Using videos to introduce new concepts and topics in the course is a great way to get students' attention and get them interested in the lesson. Demonstration videos can be an effective strategy for teaching students process and creation-based lessons as well as guiding them through the steps and requirements of an online assignment.

You may also use videos to record lectures. When recording a lecture or using screen capture to narrate a Powerpoint, we recommend using YuJa a video platform integrated into Canvas and supported by the University of Nebraska. When recording your online lectures keep in mind they should be shorter and more to the point then lectures delivered face to face. Chunking longer lectures into shorter five to ten-minute segments will increase the likelihood of students viewing the entire video. You may also consider adding knowledge checks or graded quiz questions to your lectures to help ensure students are engaging with the material. The YuJa analytics features can help you to keep track of how many and for how long students are viewing the video. This will help you to get an idea of how the class is participating.

For a more in-depth look at creating videos for your online course, we recommend this blog post.

Note: Storage space in individual Canvas courses is limited, so please use YuJa for storing all video files. You can embed them directly in Canvas from YuJa.

Documents and Images

In an online course, reading materials can be easily distributed and organized making it simple for students to access information from a variety of resources. In your face-to-face courses, you may give handouts of articles, images, worksheets, or other materials necessary to help students achieve your learning objectives. Handouts are easy to distribute in an online course provided you have digital copies or are able to scan physical copies into a digital format. If you have paper documents that you would like to convert to digital files but you don’t have a scanner available, you can use an application called Genius Scan for your phone.

When selecting reading materials for your course one major consideration should be ensuring that everything is accessible for students with disabilities. Among other things, this means all documents need to be in a format that allows a screen reader to read and easily navigate the document. For more information on how to make your documents accessible please see our resources on accessibility. 

University of Nebraska Libraries

The University of Nebraska Libraries provides many resources and services to help you develop your online instructional material. Some resources that may help you develop course material include library Subject Specialists, Open educational resources (OER), and Course reserves. Using course reserves in your online course sometimes includes the digitizing and distribution of copyrighted material. If you have journal articles or small portions of books that you would like digitized, the libraries may be able to help you. The library also provides consultations and resources for learning more about Copyright and Fair Use best practices. Due to the libraries shut down, physical materials on reserve in the Libraries are no longer available. For more information about services currently available through the libraries, visit the libraries COVID-19 Website.