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Helpful Strategies and Tips: Readings

Submitted by on September 24, 2012 – 9:12 pmNo Comment

This post is part of the series Helpful Strategies and Tips: Designing an Online Course, which provides guidance through common challenges instructors face during online course development.

Readings don’t have to be just textbooks! Remember to list journals, websites, publisher materials, or websites that were bundled with the textbook, or blogs you may want students to utilize.  As stated in QM 4.5: The instructional materials present a variety of perspectives on the course content. When you have a lot of readings, separating them onto their own page in the learning module can be helpful to students. Remember, if you are listing websites, it is recommended that you annotate them.

We also recommend clearly noting which readings are required and which are supplemental. By separating in this manner, students who may need the extra resources will be able to identify what further information is available to them. As stated in QM 4.6: The distinction between required and optional materials is clearly explained.

Tips for Writing Readings

  • All readings should contribute to the achievement of the course/module learning objectives. When selecting your readings, the student should be able to easily determine the purpose of the content and how it will help them achieve the stated learning objectives. Links to external websites should indicate the purpose of the links or the links are completely self-evident. Whenever possible, it is best to add the readings to the courses files. This reduces the risk of having to update broken links or materials that are no longer accessible.
  • Always include the source of the reading by using proper citations. As stated in QM 4.3: All resources and materials used in the course are appropriately cited.
  • When linking to an article/journal/eBook or any resource outside of the Learning Management System, hyperlink text should be self-describing to accommodate Section 508: ADA Compliance. Self-describing links do not include linking the words “Click on” or “Click here”. Below are some examples of how to and how NOT to link to a reading. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Webpage provides more detail on self-describing links.
  • What is the purpose of including the word “Citation:” before the actual citation? This is to help identify the citation to each specific reading. It also warns screen reader users that a citation is about to be read. Since citations can sometimes be long and include many characters, this provides a chance for screen reader users to skip over the citation.

Example of readings:

U.S. Department of Education Blog. Visit Margaret Spelling’s Travel Blog to read about her experiences traveling the world meeting educators, parents, and students. It’s a very powerful and moving firsthand account of her travels. If you are interested, check out her account of the April 18-19 visit to Mississippi and Louisiana where she comments on the 2007 Gulf Coast Reading Initiative rankings, something we will be discussing in the online Discussion area this week.

Citation: U.S. Department of Education. (2008). Notes from the Road: Secretary’s Travel Log. Retrieved April 3, 2012 from Web site

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