Beyond Textbooks



What resources can help your students learn? How do you locate, evaluate, and select those materials into your courses? And how do you help students engage meaningfully with them? Find out in this workshop.


 Textbooks can serve as a good starting point or reference tool for students. However, to address the various academic needs of students, as well as to affirm the richness and depth of the knowledge, skills and dispositions in your course, you probably want to complement and supplement textbooks with other resources in various formats. MERLOT offers thousands of relevant learning objects to help your students gain the knowledge needed to succeed.


Activity 1: Let's start with media beyond the printed text. Watch this video, and reflect on how different formats expand learning opportunities: (click on the video)

 This Australian video provides a good overview about integrating online resources into your teaching:  What issues do you see have to be addressed?

Activity 2: Caveat: technology is not a panacea. No perfect resource exists. The key is to match the teaching and learning objective with the right resource in the most effective medium. For instance, books provide in-depth analysis. Videos and film can effectively capture movement and processes (think of football replays). Online simulations facilitate safe experimentation (as in mixing chemicals or building stress-resistent buildings). Consider the following guidelines:

  1. What do I want to do/ accomplish? What is my objective?
  2. What relevant, high-quality resources are available -- and accessible?
  3. What do I -- and my students -- need to learn to use the resource? [This is where ICT procedural literacy plays a central role] -- and is the learning curve feasible?
  4. Should I incorporate that resource into the course?
  5. How will I incorporate that resource?

Explore  to help you choose appropriate technologies.

 Remember that there are many ways to use resources:

  • Instructional aid
  • Introduction to concepts
  • Discussion starters (e.g., case studies, articles, videos)
  • Required or optional reading to deepen understanding)
  • Activity (e.g., simulations, drill and practice, research, production)
  • Assessment

Here is a beginning list of appropriate assignments that incorporate ICT literacy:


Activity 3: Another consideration to help you match the objective to appropriate resources, especially digital ones, is Bloom's cognitive taxonomy. Consult these technology-oriented versions of Bloom et al.  (all of which are available via MERLOT), and determine how technology tools fit into the kind of learning you want your students to experience.


 Activity 4: MERLOT is a good source for finding appropriate resources. Beyond the single learning objects, MERLOT also lists content repositories as a material type. These repositories, listed in MERLOT, include links to resources that might be missed in a general search query. Explore some of these general resource collections, and see if you can find resources that would be useful for your courses. Note that all of these repositories are peer-reviewed, so they are likely to be credible and appropriate.


Also consider resources that your students might know about -- or find in the process of learning within your course. As learning communities, higher education is an open-ended experience to which everyone can contribute. Students can also join MERLOT, so they can contribute materials as well -- and expand MERLOT's usefulness.

Nevertheless, you may hear about, and locate, other potential digital resources for your curriculum. MERLOT's review guidelines provide in-depth criteria, which you can see when looking at a learning object's peer review. Here are a couple of other sets of guidelines to help you evaluate such resources. 

Try using one of the above sources to review a potential website.