Choosing Print Materials for Distance Learning
Advantages of print
Print has several advantages for students. It is extremely portable, cost effective, readily available, and easy to use. Students don't need special equipment to use it. With adequate light, print materials can be used anywhere at anytime, and students can review the materials at their own speed.
Disadvantages of print
Printed materials also have some disadvantages. Text materials are static, and less appropriate for teaching languages and visual concepts. If you use exclusively print materials, you may find it difficult to interact with students and explain some concepts such as those involving motion. Consider your students' reading and language ability when selecting materials. It may take days or weeks to distribute printed matter, and it may be difficult to update the materials once the class has started. Students with visual impairments may need the material in another format.
Textbooks and Readers
Choose texts and readings that will be relevant, current, readable, and available over several years. This will save you time when revising your course in the future.
If you plan to create a course reader, you should plan time for securing copyright permissions. If you are unable to obtain permission to use some materials, you will need time to find other material.
Course and study guides
A printed course guide is a good way to organize the content of the course. It can be a good substitute for the syllabus explanation that you would present on the first day of your in-class course. Use it to provide a course outline, required text and materials, study instructions, assignments, exam preparation tips, suggestions on how to approach the material, and answers to frequently asked questions. You can also include information about other media the students will be required to use.
You can use a workbook to supplement other course materials or as a self-guided course in itself. A workbook provides real-life examples of many of the techniques, strategies and tactics students will need to master.
You can save yourself time by having your students progress through workbook material at their own pace with little or no assistance or feedback from you. You may provide correct answers or criteria for satisfactory responses somewhere in the text so the students can correct their own work. The best workbooks are tied specifically to the course learning objectives and other course materials. See ESC 200:Trees in our Environment for an example of a well-designed workbook.
Current general interest periodicals such as newspapers and magazines can make excellent supplements to a distance learning course.
Newspapers and magazines are usually easy-to-read and distribute, contain current events, and bridge the gap between academia and the "real" world.
Here is an example of periodical-based coursework and activities:
- Seattle Times. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lesson compiled from newspaper clips and photos with accompanying online materials.