Preparing Materials for Online Delivery

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Whether you are delivering content to your students online, submitting an assignment for a course, or contributing a document for a collaborative group, it is best to optimize your material for delivery online.

Things to consider when preparing files:

  • Who is your audience? Does your audience have a broadband internet connection and how fast is it? A large file (document with many images, movies) may take a long time to download, so you want to make sure the information is worth the time of a download. Do they have compatible software to read your file? Make sure you are sending a file that others can read.
  • What is the best way to deliver your content? Video files are very nice but they tend to be large and time consuming to watch - does the content need to be delivered in this fashion? If your document is all text, you may consider creating a pdf file or having text on a web page, instead of leaving it in its original Powerpoint format.
  • How will you prepare your materials? Time is often a factor, how do you get your materials ready for online delivery efficiently? This document will provide a few simple ways to get some materials ready foe delivery.

How do I prepare a word processor document for online?
When preparing a word processing document (say, a syllabus) for online delivery it’s good to consider what your audience will experience and what your expectations are for this. Many word processing documents will not open in a web browser by default for many users, so the document will need to be downloaded. Also keep in mind that the audience will need to have something that can read the file type you create, this is bigger aconcern with newer versions of software. You may need to save as a lower version for others to read.

You may opt for a more "universal" (able to be read by more people) format for saving your files. This often has the drawback of lacking some visual formatting options. An often simple way to preserve formatting is saving the file in portable document format (PDF). Many platforms support PDF readers and the formatting is preserved in this format. Though not supported by UH ITS, there are several cheap or free software for creating PDFs (such as PDFCreator or CutePDFWriter for Windows or using OpenOffice on LINUX). On the Macintosh, this ability is built in, and like most of the other options uses the print metaphor to create this file. In most cases these files will not be as easily editable as a word processor to the recipient.

If you do want the file to be editable, but readable by those who don’t have a specific word processor, you can save the file (usually a "save as" option in your word processor) as an Rich Text Format (RTF) file. This format allows for some formatting, though it may not be as robust as commercial packages.

You may also consider saving your work as an html (web) page (another "save as" or "export" option in many word processors). This format has the advantage of being native to web browsers so only a web browser will be needed to read this file. This works best for simple documents where formatting is not very important. Take note, that any images associated with the file will be saved as seperate files, so you will need to upload the images along with the html files and make sure the structure is correct for the image links to work.

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What if my materials are only in hardcopy?
Some (or much) of your materials (handouts, quizzes, images) may only be in hardcopy (printed out). In such a case, you may consider using a scanner to make a digital copy of your work. There are many types of scanners and many different software to support them. The University does not officially support any of the scanning solutions, but the following are some notes/tips on scanning.

There are two major types of scanning of documents, OCR and image scanning. OCR stands for "Optical Chraracter Recognition" and this type of scanning requires software that tries to recognize the letters and characters and create a text file from it. This produces a file that you can edit with your word processor. OCR software is not always reliable though, so thorough editing may be necessary. Image scanning is similar to photocopying a document (this is what most people think of when scanning). This process generally produces image files which can be edited by image processing sofrware. Some may opt to save their scan as a pdf, but it is still basically an image file.

Though there are many different types of scanning software, most have a few things in common. The process for most dedicated scanning software is similar to this:

  • Place document on scanner
  • Launch the scanning software or editing image software
  • Click to make a preview scan
  • Select area you want for your final scan andchoose what resolution and size you want.
  • Click to scan and after scanning, save the file.
  • Edit if necessary.

Scanning workflow - Original > Scan > Digitized File

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Resolution is a measure of pixel density (how much image information can you pack into a given area). Most users monitors are between 72-100 dots per inch so for viewing online, that range should be enough. For high resolution printing, 300-600 dots per inch should suffice.
  • The highest possible resolution and image size is usually not necessary. The higher the resoution, the larger the file, the more difficult the file will be to access. Unless a high resolution (or a large dimension) is really necessary, consider a lower resolution or smaller size. If your audience needs to wait a long time to download a file, it should be necessarily so.
  • Keep in mind what you want as output. Does it need to be printed or only viewed online? You can usually opt to scan at a higher resolution and edit it as a lower resolution document later if it is a concern.
  • If your hardcopy image is in black and white, you don’t need to scan in a color mode. Scanning as black and white or greyscale may save space (smaller file) also.

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How do I prepare a (PowerPoint) presentation for online?
You may have a PowerPoint (or PowerPoint-like) presentation (say a lecture presentation) you want to share with your students or collegues that you want to make available online. There are several options to do this, including simply uploading the file in it’s raw form. This has several implications. The audience must have either the software installed or something that can read the file type for this option.

Similar to the word processing files, presentation software often can also be saved in PDF format. Often you can "print" to PDF and make the image of the screen smaller and include space for note taking. The PDF file usually does not act as a presentation but a series of images for note-taking.

If you want to post your presentation to a space on the web, you might consider creatine web pages for them. Many modern presentation software packages also allow you to save or export your presentations as html (web) pages. This will usually produce many files (html pages, images files, etc). If you are uploading this to a space on the web, you will need to keep the files in the same structure (items should not change location in relation to one another). Though the process is a bit complex, your presentation should work on any web browser without the audience needing extra software or to download anything.

If you are using Laulima, you have the additional option to use the Presentation tool. This tool uses image files (saved in GIF, JPG, etc format) from your presentation. In most presentation software you can choose to either "save as" or "export" your presentation to image files. Add the Presentation tool (Site Info -> Edit Tools) to your workspace. For the next step, go to the Resources tool and add a folder ("Add" popup then select "Create Folders") to your Resources called "Presentations". Create a folder within this new Presentations folder for each of your presentations and upload ("Add" popup,http://i.newsarama.com/images/mag_01_02-ff.jpg select "Upload Files" or use WebDAV) into that subfolder. The Presentation tool will create a link for each of the subfolders you have in Presentations. For a sample tutorial on doing this with Microsoft PowerPoint, is also available.

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How do I prepare my paper and pencil test/survey for online?
It is possible to distribute your tests or surveys by just giving the audience a raw word processing file or a PDF file. However, if you want something more secure, you should consider using tools dedicated to delivering assessments.

The Laulima learning and collaborative server provides a pair of tools you may choose to use in delivering your assessments, Tests & Quizzes and Tasks, Tests, and Surveys.

Tests & Quizzes (samigo) allows for the import (copy and paste) of some word processing documents, though they need to be formatted in a specific way. You may also enter the questions manually as part of a test or as questions in a question pool. Though this tool allows for multiple ways to create questions for your assessments and several good options for secure testing, it is somewhat inflexible should there be an error in the delivery of the test.

Tasks, Tests and Surveys (mneme) only allows you to either create questions in a question pool to assemble them later in an assessment, or to import questions from ones already available in Tests & Quizzes. Although there are little statistic or secure tests options, the special access options are better with this tool.

For more details on creating assessments in Laulima, you can refer to our TALENT materials:
Tests & Quizzes (Samigo) Manual (PDF)
Tasks, Tests and Surveys (Mneme) Manual (PDF)
Tasks, Tests and Surveys Tutorials

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