This section provides an overview on delivering and managing course materials using pedagogical best practices with technologies supported by the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Learning Innovation

Specifically, it will review methods to make course textbooks, readings and multimedia materials available to students. It is important to develop a consistent way to deliver materials to students in order to minimize potential confusion about where to find things.

Using Sakai

The easiest way to share course materials with students is to put them in Sakai. This approach works equally well in online, hybrid and campus-based courses, and most students are already familiar with how to use Sakai.

Upload materials to the Sakai Resources tool. The Resources tool in Sakai allows you to share files within a course site. You can upload files including text documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations, audio files and video recordings. You can also create short notes, library citations and post collections of links to outside web pages.

Create folders to organize Resources in Sakai. This can be done in any way that makes sense to you and fits the structure of your course. Some instructors create individual folders for each week of the course, while others prefer to organize material by topic. However you choose to organize your content, give students an outline or description in the course syllabus so they know how to find content they need.

Organize materials in the Sakai Lessons tool. The Lessons tool is a way to organize resources, activities, and media as a web page. A course site can contain as many Lessons pages as needed. As with the Resources tool, there are many different ways to organize your content in Lessons. Common approaches include grouping content by week or by topical unit in the course. While the Resources tool is mostly used to provide files, the Lessons tool can give students a pathway to work through course materials sequentially.

Customize each Lessons page to meet your learning objectives. Students generally work through Lessons pages in order, so think about how you’d like content to build throughout the lesson before you start creating content. Each lesson can be structured differently and can include links to other Sakai tools like Resources (described above), Assignments, Forums or Tests & Quizzes. In addition to integrating other Sakai tools into your lessons, you can also incorporate external tools such as, Labster or PlayPosit, as well as embedding content (e.g. videos) directly onto a page. This allows you to either group or create pathways to all relevant content for a lesson in one place. You can also design lessons so that some content is only visible to students after they complete prerequisite activities or following a designated date and time.

Add course materials for collaborative student annotation using Using the digital annotation tool, which is now integrated with Sakai through a pilot program, students can collaboratively annotate web pages and PDF documents (the PDF needs to have OCR text recognition). You can create content through the Sakai Lessons tool; you will need to upload each document or webpage you want students to annotate separately. The documents and webpages that work in are those that are accessible on the web, uploaded to Sakai Resources and made publicly viewable or uploaded to Google Drive. Options for annotation content include adding text, links, images and video from select sources (YouTube, Vimeo and Flipgrid). If you wish to grade students on their completed annotations, you can integrate the Gradebook tool with While you cannot currently use Sakai Groups with, if you would like your students to annotate the same document in small groups without mixing their annotations, there is a workaround. For each group, you will need to make a copy of the PDF that has a different digital fingerprint from the original ( has a tool to create such copies).

> Guide to uploading files to Sakai
> How to create folders in the Sakai Resources tool
> Create a new Sakai Lessons page
> Complete guide to Sakai Lessons
> Duke Guide
> Help
> Liquid Margins (web show that discusses collaborative annotation and pedagogical uses)
Duke Document Accessibility Documents Guide (OCR creation) Annotation Tips for Students Teacher Resource Guide
Digital Fingerprint Copy Creator (Creates copies of PDF for small group annotation work)
> Labster Help

Building a course website with WordPress

You can use a course website in addition to, or instead of, a Sakai site. This is a good option if you feel comfortable working in WordPress and would like to build your own course structure. WordPress course sites are most often used in courses where students create and share content such as digital portfolios, blogs, project websites or multimedia artifacts. 

> Create a WordPress site at

Creating your own course videos

If you need to deliver small amounts of content to students in lecture format, that can be done live (in Zoom), but if you have time you can also record videos for your students. 

Keep your videos short. The most engaging videos are short, generally under seven minutes in length. 

You can have more on the screen than just yourself. You can share your computer screen and narrate while showing slides or doing a demonstration. If you would like to record yourself working on problems or solving equations, you can use a virtual writing surface like a tablet or use Zoom’s whiteboard feature. Whatever content you show, be sure to keep your video on while recording. Students are more likely to keep watching videos when they can see their instructor somewhere on the screen.

You can add assessments to existing videos. If you’d like to stop during a video to ask students a self-reflection question, you can use a tool called PlayPosit. You can also break videos into short segments and put quizzes between them. 

> Learn how to get started using PlayPosit for in-video questions
> Publish your videos to Warpwire
> Guides to creating video materials and recording videos

Using existing content from outside sources

Instead of recording your own lecture videos or creating new web pages, you may curate existing content that covers some of the topics you’d like to include in your course. You can often save time by finding high-quality open educational resources that give students an introduction to a topic. Some places to find good content include:

  • Coursera for Duke: Duke students have access to Duke’s many Coursera courses on topics ranging from chemistry and physiology to public art and composition
  • OER Commons: a free repository of open educational resources that is searchable by subject and topic
  • OpenStax at Rice University: for open textbooks in a range of subjects, mostly at the introductory level

Many other types of supplementary materials can also be found on the web including e-texts, practice tests, problem sets, online simulations and animations, virtual labs, virtual field trips and more. Once you have selected the appropriate content, you can link or embed them in your Sakai or WordPress site.

If you plan to show media that you didn’t create, you may need to have students independently access the content. The ScholarWorks site provides more information about incorporating copyrighted recordings into an online class.

> Duke OER Guide
> Using Coursera for Campus In Your Teaching

Using library materials

Duke’s library system has extensive access to many materials you can use for your courses.

Take advantage of electronic access to materials. Electronic copies of many course texts are available through the Duke library, or the library may be able to arrange electronic access with the book publisher. Journal articles or other short works can be placed on e-reserves at Duke. There are some limitations on what can be posted due to copyright restrictions, but the libraries have staff who can help navigate those issues and will make every effort to post what is needed for your course. 

Ask a librarian for access to films. If you are showing films in class, ScholarWorks suggests talking to a librarian to see if a streaming copy of the film is available for student use. Depending on licensing and availability, you may have to consider substitutes. Links to library resources and more information about legally sharing course materials can be found on ScholarWorks.

> Duke Libraries E-Reserves
> ScholarWorks
> Contact the Library Specialist for Your Course Subject
> Showing Videos in Your Online Class (Duke Learning Innovation)
> Using Digital Rare Book and Archival Materials in the Virtual Classroom

Next Steps

  • Join us for Office Hours to ask specific questions and to receive additional one-on-one support. No registration is needed, just join anytime during the listed hours.
  • Install the Duke Libraries Access Button in your web browser to make it easier to access licensed electronic resources while away from the campus network.