The 10 most important qualities in online course materials


In a paper published in the Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, researchers from the Netherlands have established 10 major characteristics of online course materials that help improve student learning. The researchers compiled and analyzed data from 24 different experiments and studies, looking specifically at online and blended learning course materials and how student performance was affected by the presence or absence of these different types of course materials.

If you’re looking to incorporate more media into your online or blended learning classroom, these are the 10 major characteristics to focus on: 

  • Interactivity, Media Richness, Flexibility: These three qualities were the most frequently identified in the research and underscore how important the interactions between teacher, students, and content are. Using a learning management system allows students to access materials at a flexible day, time, and location. Interactivity and media richness point toward the use of games and other forms of media that adapt to the responses of students and engage them in an active, rather than passive, way.

  • Navigability, Ease of Use: Both of these characteristics focus on the ability of students to actually access and use the course materials. You could have the most compelling instructional video of all time, but if students are unable to locate it or if it requires a special program to open, students are unlikely to take full advantage of what it has to offer.

  • Synchronicity, Responsiveness, Mobility: Much like with flexibility, course materials that can be viewed both synchronously or asynchronously are more appealing to students and can help them by offering more learning options they can work around their schedules. Similarly, videos, lecture notes, and other forms of media should be optimized for mobile devices so students can access on-the-go.

  • Individualization, Proximity: Although these were some of the lowest scoring characteristics, and some of the most difficult to incorporate, it is worth mentioning them for the instructors who really want to hit on all 10 qualities. Course materials that allow for individualization based on student needs and abilities have long been viewed as ultimately beneficial for students. Proximity refers to a teacher’s nonverbal cues and/or teaching presence and is mostly found in things like recorded video that feature the instructor. The more the teacher behaves in a manner similar to what you would expect in a classroom, the more effective the material should be.

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