AOI | Learning Innovations

Faculty Insider


How to Choose a Quality Third-Party Resource

Faculty and students alike have access to an array of third-party resources. However, searches for quality resources can quickly become overwhelming and cumbersome. Despite the number of options, we must not lose sight of the implications of our choice. Here, we present a checklist of considerations when choosing your next third-party resource.

Purpose

Resources can enhance comprehension and provide opportunities for application and analysis.  To ensure that the resource aligns with learning objectives, ask yourself:

  • Is the resource an appropriate choice given the learning objectives?
  • How will students interact with the resource?
  • What should students be able to do and/or create after engaging with the resource?

Affordability

Whether or not something is affordable is relative and based on many individual factors. When choosing a resource that is not free for students, consider:

  • Does the benefit of using the resource outweigh the potential financial burden of adopting the resource or the supplementary tools needed to access it?
  • Is there a comparable resource that is free or available at a lower cost that could provide the same learning experience?
  • What other fees, small or large, are students being asked to pay in other courses?

In any case, always let students know ahead of time if there will be a cost and what hardware they will need.

Accessibility

Students come with a diverse set of learning needs.  To ensure all students can have an optimized user experience, consider: 

  • If the resource is online, can students maneuver between buttons, headers, bodies of text, etc., with or without a mouse?
  • Is web content screen reader friendly?
  • What are the limits on processors, browsers, and other technical constraints that could hinder students from participating?
  • Is there an alternative method for the resource to be accessed?

Availability

How long a resource is available is at the discretion of the developer. To avoid having to comb through your lesson plan or online course space for broken links, consider:

  • How long has the resource has been available?
  • How long will the resource be available? For example, is there a cut off for how long it is free?
  • Where is the resource housed and does that entity hold copyrights?

Scalability

The more flexible a resource the better. Course capacities can change, impacting the usability and efficacy of a resource.  To identify how scalable a given resource is, consider the following:

  • How often and in what ways will the resource be used?
  • In what sort of class? Large enrollment of fifty or more students? Small enrollment with thirty or less?
  • Will students have the same or similar experience using the resource whether in a group or individually?

Support

Support for the resource, especially if it requires tech help, is a key component to the overall success of the implementation of the resource into your course. Determine if:

  • The university supports the resource. If not, who can?
  • The resource was updated recently. If not, when was the last update made? Often, if a resource has not undergone a recent update, or if an update is not anticipated, support may no longer be available for that resource.
  • FAQs or Help information are available to users. Is this information quickly and easily found and what supplementary information may need to be provided?
  • You have the availability to field technical questions if no tech support is available. If not, how will students be assisted?

Learning Curve

We have all found a great resource and believed in our students’ abilities to just pick it up and go. Keeping in mind that resources can present varying levels of complexity and detail, ask yourself:

  • How comfortable am I with using and navigating the resource and how long did it take me to learn how to use it?
  • How much time will it take students to learn and become familiar with the resource? Has this time been factored into the planning of the course?
  • Does the benefit of using the resource outweigh the time it will take to learn how to use it?

Privacy

Our students’ privacy is important to the university. With every developer wanting to know who, how, and why people interact with their content, it is important to think about who owns the data. A few considerations that can help in keeping your students’ information safe are:

  • What type of data is being collected by the resource?
  • If a resource requires personal information for the creation of an account, will students be subject to unnecessary spam or follow-up emails from the developer?
  • Are there alternative resources that do not affect students’ privacy?

If you would like assistance in finding resources for your course, please contact us aoi.li@wsu.edu.

Happy resource hunting!

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing aoi.li@wsu.edu.

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact aoi.li@wsu.edu or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.