High-Quality Online Courses #4: File Formats & Devices

Instructors have many options when creating materials for students. They may have various operating systems, productivity suites, and media creation applications on their devices. Students may not have the same devices and applications installed on their computers and devices as their instructors have. As a result, students may not be able to open files that are created by instructors.

While some instructors cannot comprehend students who attempt to take online courses on their smart phones, the reality is that many students access materials with these devices when away from their computers or when computers break. For these reasons, instructors have a responsibility to make sure their materials they create can be opened on a wide range of devices.

When creating materials (such as Powerpoint presentations or word processing documents or videos) to that will be uploaded to Moodle. instructors should follow these recommendations to ensure students can view files in their web browsers:

  • Save static files (those that have text and images, but not animations or audio) ad PDF files before uploading or linking
  • Export files with animations or audio as .mp4 files and upload them to a video hosting service and embed the videos in Moodle classrooms

With the availability of cloud services such as Google Drive or Microsoft’s OneDrive, instructors also have the option of uploading to those services and either embedding or linking word processing, presentation, or video files in Moodle content created with the ATTO text Editor.

Adopting these practices for file formats and designing for diverse devices has advantages for faculty and students:

  • Files open in web browsers, so there is no need to download and manage files
  • Because files are not downloaded, there is less risk to malware arriving on anyone’s computers in downloaded files

It should be noted these recommendation are based on the assumption that learning how to use specific programs is not a part of the curriculum. Even in those cases, however, it is important that information for students is in a format that can be opened on web browsers on any device. In my course in which I teach Excel spreadsheets, for example, I still provide directions and tutorials in PDF and YouTube videos.