Thinking About Files in Online Classrooms

Instructors create information for their students. In some cases, the material is original, for example they may create presentations or documents, or the material may originate from publishers or open education resource providers and instructors revise them for their specific needs. Many instructors find the ability to share documents they make is one of the benefits of maintaining a virtual classroom for their face-to-face classes. The need to manage these materials, make copies, and replace missing copies are all minimized when the virtual classroom contains these materials.  

When preparing content for posting to a virtual classroom, instructors have a responsibility to ensure the material can be displayed on a range of devices. This is most easily accomplished by uploading files that are in universal file formats. In addition to allowing for material to be viewed on a range of devices, universal file formats are usually displayed in web browser which means they need not be downloaded which reduces both students’ and instructors’ risk to downloading malware. 

When creating static files which contain text and images, for example word processing documents and presentations, instruct5ors can export the files as portable documents format (PDF) and upload those to virtual classrooms. PDF can be displayed on devices with full operating systems (Windows and Macintosh computers), mobile devices, and Internet-only devices. Each user can configure how the PDF will be displayed, and Abode Reader is a free application that includes the capacity to speak the contents of files.  

When creating presentations that include voice over and animation that are necessary for understanding the material, instructors should export the presentation or file as a video, then upload that video to YouTube or another video sharing site that supports closed captioning. The advantage of using YouTube is the service incudes automatic transcription. While the file needs to be edited before it can be considered sufficient to meet accessibility standards, it does give instructors a starting point for closed captioning.  

With the availability of G Suite, OneDrive, and other cloud-based productivity suites, instructors also have the option of creating files that can be embedded in virtual classrooms. When embedding files, instructors have options for determining what types of access students have. For example, presentations can be embedded, so students can navigate through the text, images, animations, and videos (but not voice over audio)’ word processing files can be shared so they can view the files (and make they own copies), comment on them, or even edit the documents.