The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

3.2 Online materials

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Posting materials, such as lecture notes and copies of PowerPoint slides, has become commonplace. These could be within a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), such as Blackboard or WebCT, or on the course Web site, Intranet or shared drive. If learning in lectures is to be an active experience for students, you will need to have a clear strategy for the use of these materials. If they are too detailed and follow the lecture very closely, they could be seen as a substitute for the lecture by the student. You may well want them to be so, thereby giving students greater flexibility in their modes of study. In this case, however, you will need to address the issue of students merely downloading the materials and not actually using them, but being lulled into a false sense of security that they can use them ‘later’.

Online materials can support student learning more effectively if they are integrated with the seminar programme and related to assessment. If your course is in a Virtual Learning Environment, you can use its features to organise the materials within the scheduled programme and, if you choose, make them available for only a specific period of time. This can provide an incentive for students to access the materials shortly after the lecture.

More creative use of online materials as a follow-up to lectures would include interactive ‘study guide’ questions. For example, if you were covering a particular model in the lecture, you could set a series of questions online for students to test, consolidate and deepen their understanding of the model. These questions could be multiple choice, problems or manipulating graphs. You could choose whether to make the answers available online. Questions sets are readily available, whether through the Economics Network question bank, the Economics Network links to resources section or from textbook publishers’ sites or electronic resources.

If you are using online study guides, you will need to decide what incentives there will be for students to use them. How closely will you link them to assessment? Will you encourage students to work in small groups and what are the incentive mechanisms for encouraging them to do so?