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Creating and using Online Learning Resources


 Putting Learning Resources Online

The web can be viewed as one enormous integrated set of electronic resources that is ever expanding. In each subject, there is potential to create a wealth of online educational material: from teaching materials such as computer based and web based tutorials, educational simulations, reading lists, case studies and assessment questions to learning and research materials such as e-journals, e-books, databases, software tools, electronic information services, catalogues and data services.

The kinds of resources involved might include:

  • Documents, presentations, spreadsheets (such as Microsoft Office files),
  • Less common materials such as specific data files for applications, 3D models etc
  • Web pages,
  • Images (and image databases),
  • Video/audio (including videostreaming).

Resources/materials you might wish to make available to students online might require:

  1. Publishing existing materials
  2. Converting to web pages from another format, or
  3. Digitising printed text, images, analogue audio or video
  4. Creating from scratch
  5. Finding, evaluating and using Web resources from elsewhere

1. Publishing Existing Materials

You will likely already have a wealth of materials in the form of Word documents, Powerpoint presentations, spreadsheets, datasets, or digital images and other multimedia. These can be made available on the web in their existing formats very easily. If they are in standard formats such as Microsoft Office files, this should pose little problem for the students using them. More exotic formats will require that you ensure that the students have the appropriate viewers, applications or browser plugins to be able to use the files.

2. Converting to web pages from another format

The most suitable format for viewing primarily textual material on the web is HTML; what we usually refer to as ‘web pages’ although browsers can now display a variety of file formats. The HTML format is specifically designed for delivery over the web with the file sizes being very small – much smaller than a Word document looking much the same.

The format is not that suitable for printing and even less so for downloading as anything in the page that is not text such as images is stored as a separate file. Downloading a web page might therefore mean downloading dozens of usually small but separate files.

If you envisage that your document might be used in a number of different ways then why not provide it in a number of formats – HTML for viewing on the web, Word or PDF for printing. This may be as simple as selecting a different ‘Save As’ option from your editing programme. Remember however that this means keeping several versions up to date. Select one to be your root document, alter that and re-save to update the alternative formats.

3. Digitising

There are several different elements to the process of digitising resources:

  • Creating digital resources
  • Delivering digital resources
  • Managing digitisation projects
Creating digital resources

Digitising text, an image or a even a video clip is fairly straightforward can be achieved with inexpensive desktop equipment. However, optimising digitisation requires somewhat more expertise. Size matters on the web and the trade-off is usually between quality and file size. There is expertise in e-lab and elsewhere in the University to advise you and even some digitising services.

Delivering digital resources

The reason size matters is largely due the limitations of network bandwidth. This is particularly the case if your materials are being accessed off-campus. It is important to optimise your images and other multimedia, perhaps provide them in a range of qualities/sizes and consider other modes of delivery such as CD ROM, particularly for the less changeable materials..


IT Services offers a variety of methods for lecture capture. For more information visit:

Digitising materials at Warwick

E-lab undertake a range of digitisation work as part of their media services. Multiple types of materials can be digitised to produce digital video, CD and DVD, 3D visual models, graphic design and PowerPoint presentations. More details on the design services.

E-lab's data capture service covers the conversion of paper-based text, documents, structured forms, etc. to computer readable file formats. The data capture office is situated on level 3 of the Old Library Building on Westwood Campus. Telephone 024 7652 3271, e-mail to

4. Creation from scratch

Creating web pages at Warwick

Creating web pages is a lot easier now and is no longer the domain of the technophiles. One of the barriers is actually being swamped by the wide range of applications and approaches you can use to create web pages. Supporting users who might be using any one of a hundred different applications is simply not feasible for the University so if you use anything other than the recommended tools, you are pretty much on your own.

The University’s e-strategy funded the development of a broad set of web tools and services to enable individuals and departments to use the web to support all aspects of their work, be that teaching, research or administration. This included core web tools for publishing content to the web which can be used to create online learning resources.

Historically, use of the web at Warwick has been dependent on individuals or departments developing their own technical expertise such as web page design and coding, scripting, databases and even server management. Part of the aim of developing new web tools is to ensure that every member of the university can make effective use of the web without requiring deep technical skills either personally or departmentally.

SiteBuilder is a tool developed by e-lab to make publishing information on the web simpler. It is targetted at users whose web sites are primarly used for the delivery of static information.

With SiteBuilder you can:

  • Edit web-pages on-line in a WYSIWYG editor (screenshot), without any requirement to know HTML
  • Create new web pages in corporate look and feel from existing word documents, HTML files, or create new blank pages.
  • Upload images, PDF files, or office documents and make them available for download
  • Specify lists of users who may view a page, based on university login codes
  • Specify lists of users who may make changes to a page, again based on university login codes
  • Request an email notification when a page is changed
  • Create news pages and calendars which are automatically updated

Sitebuilder is available now, at no charge, for any academic or admin-related website within the university. Online training notes are available from the SiteBuilder web site.

If you are interested in using SiteBuilder for your web site, or you'd like to learn more, please contact e-lab at

There is a trade-off here between ease of use and flexibility. SiteBuilder is easy to use but its limitations will always frustrate the more demanding user. However, the system has been built in-house, is continually improving and the developers will respond to demand for additional functionality. E-lab is very much demand driven so if you want changes you will need to ask for them.

Naturally, some departments will always have strong technical expertise which they can use locally to deliver tools and services which are not yet centrally available. However, e-lab tools and services are available to all departments, either as a complete solution or as part of an infrastructure which also includes local technologies.

Creating images at Warwick

e-lab runs a grpahic design service
contact Tel: x74000 Email:

e-lab will try to help people out with little bits of graphics work where they can although for bigger pieces of work, it's quite possible that graphics design would be a chargeable service. More details on the design services.

Creating digital audio and video at Warwick

There are a number of options for creating video and audio from scratch at Warwick:

Do it yourself

Digital video cameras can be borrowed from Audio Visual Services.

E-lab has built a mini studio WAVES - Warwick Academic Video Education Service) where indiduals can:

  • capture audio only
  • capture video and audio (useful for a web site/CD /Powerpoint presentation.
  • narrate (and enrich) an exisiting Powerpoint presentation.
Professional video team
  • Audio Visual Services can provide a team to capture video in situ. This is a chargable service.
  • Audio Visual Services provides an editing service and e-lab can host your digital video on their servers.
  • In addition e-lab can produce the 'complete e-lecture' using Boxmind system to be delivered from a server or on CD Rom..

For an overview of all the video production services at Warwick contact Chris Coe e-lab and see the digital video pages

5. Web Resource from Elsewhere

With tutors and students alike now having easy access via network technology to exhaustive quantities of information and materials to draw upon for their learning, teaching or research, the issue in accessing resources for e-learningis not so much a lack of resources, but more one of locating them. Two approaches to solving this problem have developed over the years. The first is the use of subject-based information services (or gateways), the second the use of sophisticated search engines.

Competence in the use of these tools is fast becoming a fundamental component of information literacy in many aspects of life, but particularly in education and research. Now that the technical means are at hand, it is essential that electronic resources, accessible locally via campus networks and globally via the web, be employed by those who can understand their potential and can evaluate their value (or lack of) to teaching and learning. Accessing resources effectively requires users - staff and students - to acquire specific (re)searching skills for the new electronic information environments and to be critical readers and selective retrievers. In some cases, it is felt that information literacy is an area of skills development that is still given insufficient attention in many teaching programmes.

Online learning resources might be used during a lecture to illustrate a concept or provided through a course web site, but equally can be used by students as part of their work. In both cases, accessing resources for e-learningis not solely concerned with finding (or searching for) electronic content using gateways and portals, but also how the retrieved material might be repurposed (by staff and students) to create new forms of content - a kind of second generation resource. At Warwick, the ARCHES project (Antiquity Related Collections Harnessed for Educational Scenarios) illustrates at its heart a student-focused, research-based learning approach, questioning the dominant “content-provision” paradigm of resource-based teaching and learning (particularly on the web) that allows only limited student input. This national development project is based on the belief that the full value of putting learning resources online is to transform, and be transformed by, creative interactions with other, innovative pedagogical practices.

Intellectual property

Copying parts or the whole of other people’s resources or your own use comes up against intellectual property issues.

Why not just ask? Quite often academics in other institutions are all too happy to let you use an even modify their materials as long as they are given credit. Materials from commercial organisations are quite a different matter.

One advantage of the web is that resources can actually be located on servers dotted across the globe. Simply linking to other peoples web sites has no intellectual property concerns as long as you do not attempt to pass the site off as part of your own (for instance by emeding it in your own wrap-around frame). It does give you less control however. There is no gurentee that the resource will remain there or remain unchanged and it gives you less control over structuring the student’s passage through the materials – thet are likely to wander. Of greater concern is the quality of the materials published by others.

Evaluating quality

There are a number of excellent web resources and much has been written on the subject of evaluating the information quality of web sites for academic use.

Much of this would be blindingly obvious to most people when consulting printed materials but most printed materials have the added advantage of being peer reviewed. There is no gurentee that this has occurred for web based resources

However, this is not really the focus of this a list of references and web resources is given below.

Other facilities available at Warwick

Putting tests/quizzes on the Web

Web based assessment can be created using an application called Perception. This offers numerous advantages to the student, the lecturer and the administrator. These include an enormous potential for saving staff time, enabling rapid delivery of assessment results to students, and the support of formative assessment to facilitate reflective learning.

Paper-based assessment can be analysed electronically through a scanning system at Warwick that allows fast and efficient collection of paper-based data, including handprint, provides data verification and storage in an easy accessible format. The service is widely used at Warwick for evaluation of student feedback forms, research questionnaires, etc.

For further details and assistance, contact IT Services e-lab

Rethinking your online learning resources

Making your materials easily available to students more or less in the form they were developed for print is useful in itself but largely from a resource management perspective. It means that you only have to update one copy and this is immediately available to all and it makes organising your materials easier.

This is fine if you expect your students to download and print lengthy documents and it is fine for making available resources that would be too expensive (images) or impractical (video, audio) or impossible (interactive resources) in any other way.

However, if you want your text based materials to be read online and perhaps integrated with multimedia, interactive content and online interaction between students and generally make best use of the medium then you will need to restructure and possibly rewrite your materials. LDC can offer advice in this area.

Maintenance Strategy.

You will need to maintain and/or monitor the content or implementation strategy of any e-learninginitiative, no matter if the e-learningsolution is ready-made or custom-made.

The advantage of simple web content such as web pages or Word documents I that you can embed its maintenance in your working practice – updating the website becomes a natural and regular activity. If your content has to be maintained by a third party either because you have neglected to develop new skills or because of the complexity of the material (video etc), you are more likely to lose contact with your resources and they will be less dynamic and alive.