Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 7 - Notes?

In Part 6 I looked at Moodle in more detail as an example of a CMS. But one of the practical realities of a course is that you have to tell the students what the course is about. The usual method for doing this would be to provide them a set of printed notes (commonly known as a "brick").

Usually the notes for courses are in the form of some introductory text, printed versions of the Powerpoint slides and some readings. But produing this material for printing can be remarkably difficult. While it is possible to print handouts from Microsoft Powerpoint, there does not seem to be any efficient and easy way to incorporate this with a word processing document. The same seems to apply with the OpenOffice word processor and slide program.

You can insert a whole slide presentation as an object into a word processing document , but then you just see an image of the first slide (or in MS Word one selected slide). If you want all slides to appear in the WP document, you appear to need to insert each slide, one by one.

A better option may be not to. While compound documents are feasible, something always seems to go wrong at the last minute, when the final version is due at the printer, but someone wants to change something on one slide and then the formatting of the whole document goes haywire.

A better approach might be to accept the limitations of the software (and our ability to handle complex arrangements of information) and simply arrange the document as a sequence of pages from different software packages. Usually this would be a word processing document with the introductory text, followed by the slides and then possible a web page with some references. This could be simply done by manually printing each document from the appropriate program, or using some sort of automation and desk top publishing.

But first two other potions should be considered:

  1. Don't use printed notes: Use an online course management system
  2. Course Content Genrator: Use specialist software for course notes.


According to the Microsoft documentation, you should be able to link to each Powerpoint slide from within the word processing document. See: "Insert a linked object or embedded object from a PowerPoint presentation". You would have to do this once for each and every slide, but when done any changes to the slides can be automatically be reflected in the document with "Update linked objects".

Note that you need to use the "linked" option, otherwise you will be creating lots of "embedded" copies of the Powerpoint slides.

As far as I can tell OpenOffice allows similar linked objects, but not selecting a specific slide (you always see the first slide).


An option is to not have any printed notes at all. For the course I ran for local government staff, all the notes were online. All that was provided on paper was a one page timetable for the course. The students were able to look at the notes on the screen in the classroom and on the web (using a password) when they got back to the office. I used the Moodle Course Management System, but others, such as Web CT could be used.


USQ's "ICE" system is specifically designed to prepare content for courses. This allows the slides to be created inside the word processing document, without the need for Powerpoint. But that requires redoing all the slides for an existing course. ANU is working on more general purpose systems based on ICE.

No comments: