Key terms

Formal content: Formal content refers to the materials which you plan...

As you begin to develop content for your courses, or include additional resources (if you are teaching a course which has already been developed), now is the time to explore avenues for introducing formal multimedia and multimodal content into your online or blended teaching.

multimodal content

Multimodal content refers to content that is delivered or presented using more than one type of technology tool or application, or via more than one channel of communication (e.g. digital storytelling might concurrently incorporate audio, images and video).

A wide range of tools are available to create, edit, and/or store images, audio files, screencasts, and videos. Understanding each content type and related tools will help you determine the best ways to engage your students with the online course content.

In the following activity, click on each content type to find out more about formal content development tool options and related teaching and learning approaches. In each case, reflect on how the content type relates to your online teaching. Use the option buttons to indicate whether you are already familiar with the technology tools appropriate for incorporating that content type into your teaching, whether you would like to start using technology tools to incorporate that content type, or whether the content type and associated tools are not relevant to your teaching.
You will now be presented with information on different formal content development tools and related teaching and learning approaches. Consider all the different options, and then reflect on how each option relates to your online teaching by deciding whether:
  • You are already familiar with the technology tools and approaches appropriate for incorporating that content type into your teaching
  • You would like to start using technology tools to incorporate that content type
  • The content type and associated tools are not relevant to your online teaching.

formal content

Materials included in an online course by the teacher/designer, as well as content contributed by students in response to formal assignments and discussion.


Mandernach, B. Jean (2009) 'Effect of instructor-personalized multimedia...

Did you know?

The 'flipped classroom', in which students watch or listen to pre-recorded...

Useful links

Download the following handy guide for more information on universal...

PROGRAMME | Teaching Online
COURSE | Using technology tools for teaching online
UNIT | 2 : Developing, delivering, and curating content
PAGE TITLE | Integrating technology tools for formal content creation


Your LMS/VLE will have a text-editing tool where you will be able to add new (and edit existing) content. You can typically work in your favourite word processing application and copy/paste content: most LMS/VLEs have the option of 'paste from Word', which removes much of the formatting that may cause issues when copying content over. You can also upload documents for your students to access within the lessons or learning module areas. Typical content types are lecture/narrative documents and supplementary spreadsheets created in standard office applications.


You can use image-editing applications to create visual content for your online lessons and presentations, but there's no need to stop there! You can include visuals in your announcements, discussion forum posts and even in assignments and exams. Be sure to include alternative text for all images in support of students with disabilities. You can also search for related images online, just be careful to cite your sources and to gain permission for any copyright materials. If you can't find a photo that suits your needs, think about taking one of your own.


Audio content is an easy way to more fully engage your students, and support social presence in your online classes. You can upload audio files within the LMS/VLE, or create a channel to host a series of audio broadcasts. Check with your institution to see if they have audio channels for you to broadcast through, and for any policies related to audio content.


Video content has become a mainstay of online learning. You can find many relevant resources on TeacherTube or YouTube and create a channel for each course or subject that you teach. Check the content editor within your LMS/VLE for a quick button that allows you to embed YouTube content. Remember that you can include resources in announcements, discussion forum posts, assignments, and exams. Think about creating a video introduction to share with your students at the beginning of the course so that they can see and hear you, or video annotations to accompany assigned readings and learning activities. This can provide students with a much-needed connection to a real person.


There are a wide variety of multimedia applications which allow you to add robust content (text, audio, video, etc.) to your online course. Screen capture utilities allow you to show a process or annotate a web resource to share with your students. Most presentation applications allow you to provide a voiceover, enabling you to annotate and provide context for a slide presentation. These tools are extremely helpful to online students who are typically learning on their own time and at their own pace.

Portfolio icon

You may wish to make a note in your Teaching Online portfolio of new content types and associated technology tools which you would be interested in incorporating into your teaching, for future reference.

A note on using images, audio, and video...

As you work with video and audio files, keep in mind accessibility and compliance issues relating to students with disabilities, and/or the devices they may be using to access files. Refer to institutional policies and universal design principles. For all visual, audio, and video content that you include, provide transcripts for reference as well as captioning where possible.


Accessibility, specifically online accessibility, refers to the availability of online content and activity for everyone, regardless of any special physical, sensory or cognitive requirements.

Do this icon

Multimedia files tend to be larger than plain text files, which can affect performance when uploading and downloading multimedia. Pay attention to the size of files that you create and check with the relevant department at your institution for file upload limits within your LMS/VLE.

Student-generated content

Interactivity icon

Just as you have the opportunity to create a variety of content types in your online teaching, so do your students. For every learning activity that you include in your class – discussions, assignments, and exams – think about the possibility of students producing visual, audio, video, and multimedia content.

Student-generated content adds a new level of engagement and interaction to the online classroom. Technology tools abound that allow students to add to course content, for example, using blogging or wiki applications on smart devices or tablets, or presenting their contribution in video format. Reviewing and reflecting on these tools and possible scenarios for using them will provide you with a better understanding of the options you have for the formal creation of online course content.


A web journal ('weblog') where people can post entries, and comment on existing posts.


A collaborative website where people can add, edit, and delete shared content. Typically, wikis allow you to track changes and upload supplementary resources.

In the following activity, consider how you would use each of the different content tools presented. For each tool, make a note of your thoughts in the space provided, click on the 'Our thoughts' tab to see our suggestions, then click on the 'Example' tab to see a practical example for using the tool in an online course (or the online component of a blended course). Use the 'Next' button to move to the next tool.
You will now be asked to consider how you might use some different tools enabling student generated-content. In the case of each tool, pause to consider how you might use it in your teaching, then continue on to reflect on our thoughts, followed by a practical example.

PROGRAMME | Teaching Online
COURSE | Using technology tools for teaching online
UNIT | 2 : Developing, delivering, and curating content
PAGE TITLE | Integrating technology tools for formal content creation

Teacher blog

How might you use a teacher blog in your online course?

Our thoughts:

Teacher blogs can set the stage for additional student interaction and engagement with course content. Consider creating and maintaining a 'current events' blog related to your discipline, or invite your colleagues to share their insight and expertise as guest blog contributors. Also consider developing a blog to post and discuss additional resources related to course content that will be available to students after the end of the term.


An economics professor creates a global finance blog where he reviews and posts editorial comments on news related to global market trends. He invites his colleagues in other countries to comment on the blog from their perspectives. Students access the blog as a supplement to the course content. There is no assessment.

Student blog

How might you use student blogs in your online course?

Our thoughts:

Student blogs can be used for journaling and to promote reflective learning. You can pose questions for your students to reflect and post on, and other students may add additional comments and insight to these posts. This enables students to review multiple perspectives on current events, topics of interest, and shared ideas. Consider having students post reflections on assignments and learning activities throughout the course, and encourage them to share links of interest for discussion.


Students in a Chemistry course are required to keep a blog throughout the course to provide reflections on each project assigned. The blog posts include an explanation of their lab work from their perspective, reflections on the process, and a short analysis of the results. This assignment is graded based on how well the students communicate their reflections.


How might you use a wiki in your online course?

Our thoughts:

Collaboration and group work can be tricky in all teaching and learning environments, but wiki tools allow for easier collaboration on documents and projects. Think about the wiki as a collaborative website where students can contribute content and build on each other's work. Consider using a wiki as an informal content area for students to share ideas and test out new concepts.


Students in a Classical Literature course rework the Iliad into a modern epic – each taking a section and rewriting it, incorporating key themes from the content into modern interpretations. The teacher is available for help with themes, but the students are responsible for developing and delivering a full project at the end of the course. Students are graded based on their interpretation and understanding of the underlying themes of the original work.

Presentational tools

How might you use student presentations in your online course?

Our thoughts:

Just as you can use presentation tools to develop and deliver course content, you can ask your students to create presentations to share with their peers. Consider having students annotate topic presentations, or create screen casts to share as they explore websites or other related course resources.


Students on a Marketing course create mock presentations for a client meeting and present them using a virtual meeting tool. Their classmates role play as the client and offer comments and questions as each student presents. Students are graded on their presentation skills and their ability to host a virtual meeting.

Key terms

Formal content: Formal content refers to the materials which you plan to include in your course, as well as content which is contributed by students in response to formal assignments and discussion questions.

Informal content: Informal content refers to content which is contributed via channels outside of the LMS/VLE, such as via social media applications.

Social presence: One of three supporting elements in the Community of Inquiry framework. Social presence is the degree to which participants in online environments feel affectively connected to one another.


Did you know?

The 'flipped classroom', in which students watch or listen to pre-recorded lectures at home and take part in activities and problem solving in class, has been recognised as a particularly effective form of blended learning. Visit the links below for some more information on flipping the classroom and some useful technology tools for creating video or audio tutorials:

Useful links