CSULA Department of English | Distributing Digital Course Materials

When it comes to distributing course materials electronically, instructors at CSULA
have many options. This brief primer highlights some of the most common strategies used
by CSULA faculty to distribute digital copies of instructional materials to students. Use
the links below to jump directly to a topic.

Sending Email Attachments

Using Library Electronic Reserves (CSULA Library)

Course-in-a-box Online Handouts

Instructional Materials Online

Online Document Sharing Service

 

Sending Email Attachments
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One of the simplest ways of distributing course materials is through
email. Most email programs and services allow users to copy and paste
text into the body of an email. To retain the formatting of
instructional materials you can send documents as email
attachments. 

Student email addresses are available through GET. 

  1. Login to GET and display a list of your courses for the term.
  2. Click on the "Class Roster" icon (the three-person
    symbol) to display the class roster for a particular class.
  3. The next step depends on how you normally send and receive email
    messages. 
    1. If you normally use a program on your computer (i.e. Microsoft Outlook,
      Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora, and so on) for email, click on "Email to All Students".
      Your email client software should start with a new message open and the email
      addresses of all students in the class displayed in the BCC
      field. Type your message and use the email client's procedure for attaching a file.
    2. If you use web-based email (i.e. Google, Yahoo, or some other
      online email service), you might want to click on "Send Me the Email List".
      You will be prompted to provide an email address to which the
      list of student email addresses will be sent in the body of a
      message. When you receive this message you can select and copy
      the email addresses in the body of the message and paste them
      into the BCC or TO field of a new message. You would then type
      your message and use the email service's procedure for attaching
      a file.

Cautions About File Format

Email attachments are a quick and easy way to share documents.
Problems arise, however, when files are sent in their native
format. Most word-processing and desktop publishing software use
proprietary formats that can be difficult for other programs to read and
so can make sharing files a hassle. Microsoft Word
users tend to be unaware of these problems because most other word
processors have been forced to get along in a Microsoft-dominated world.
Users of other word processing software have undoubtedly encountered
recipients complaining about unreadable attachments. To ensure that
all recipients will be able to open and read the file, you should save
the file in an interchange format, such as RTF, or create a PDF version.

Save As RTF

Before sending an attachment, users should consider saving the
document in an interchange format, such as Rich Text Format (RTF).
Virtually all word processing programs have a "Save As"
feature, which allows a user to save a copy of an open document in a
different format. In Corel WordPerfect, for example, a user can select
"Save As" from the File menu (or simply press F3) to save a
copy of the currently open file to a new name and new file format (or
"file type" as it is sometimes called). One of the available
file types is RTF, a format supported by most other programs. Please
note that most formatting will be retained in RTF, but complex page
formatting might be lost.

Create a PDF

Another option is to create PDF versions of documents before sending
them as attachments. PDF, or Portable Document Format, is the digital
interchange standard for exchanging documents. The added advantage of
PDF files is they maintain all formatting and prevent users from editing
the text. The disadvantage is most users do not have easy access to the
software needed to create PDF versions of their documents. If you have Adobe Acrobat, you
can create PDF versions of your files with ease. Additionally, some word
processors and desktop publishing software allow users to create PDF
versions of documents. Corel WordPerfect
includes a "Publish to PDF" option (on the File menu), which
allows users to create a PDF version of the currently open file.
OpenOffice Writer (open source and free word processing software from
Sun Microsystems) has an "Export to PDF" option on the File
menu. 

Microsoft Word, however, does not support direct creation of PDF
files. (A plug-in with this feature is available, however, for Microsoft Office
2007.) To create PDF versions of your Microsoft Word documents, you have
two options:

  1. Download and install a "PDF converter," such as PrimoPDF.
    These programs are easy to install and use. 
  2. Use one of the free online services that allow you to upload
    documents and have the PDF versions sent to you as email
    attachments.  PrimoPDF (https://online.primopdf.com/Default.aspx)
    provides an easy-to-use free online PDF converter.

Using Library Electronic Reserves (CSULA Library)
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Any materials can be placed on reserve at the library, including class
notes, student papers, exams, and handouts. Of course, books, articles
and other materials can also be placed on physical and/or electronic reserve.
Please note that there is a 3-5 working day wait for materials to be
available and given current library staffing the wait could be longer.

For more information, visit the library’s web site
(/library/facultyreserves.htm)
or drop by the library and speak with a librarian.

Course-in-a-box Online Handouts
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If you are using one of the department’s "courses-in-a-box" for
095, 096, 101, or 102, then virtually all handouts associated with the
course are available online in PDF format. The only course instructional
materials not available online for the course-in-a-box are the syllabi,
midterms, and final exams. If you are using a course-in-a-box, simply
instruct students to visit the "Base Course Handouts" pages for the
course. An overview page is available at
/academic/english/cboxhandouts.php,
which can be accessed from the Composition Faculty Resources main page.
The base course handouts page for each of the courses-in-a-box are
listed below:

ENGL 095 (/academic/english/cbox095.php)

ENGL 096 (/academic/english/cbox096.php)

ENGL 101-1 (/academic/english/cbox101-1.php)

ENGL 101-2 (/academic/english/cbox101-2.php)

ENGL 102 (/academic/english/cbox102.php)

Instructional Materials Online
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Some common composition course handouts are also available at the
department’s Composition Faculty Resources website. Go to the
"Instructional Resources" page (/academic/english/cresources.php)
to access a range of common handouts.

Online Document Sharing Service
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Some
faculty have access to webspace (i.e. have previously requested file
storage space on the campus’ web server) and can post their course
materials online and either create web pages for courses, or link the
files to their faculty web page. Some faculty have used WebCT or
Blackboard and so have access to online file storage through those
programs. Most faculty though probably have neither. For them, there is
always the wide open spaces of the Internet.

Everyone
knows about video sharing sites like Youtube, but almost as popular are
document sharing sites like Scribd. These document sharing sites combine
social networking with texts allowing users to post, share, collect, and
categorize a wide range of online documents. Some educators have
discovered the utility of these sites for sharing course materials. One
word of caution, though, before you get too excited—be sure to read
the terms of agreement to make sure you understand what you might be
surrendering when you upload a document to a document sharing site.

It
is not too difficult to get started with a document sharing service. The
procedure described below is based on Scribd, the most popular of the
document sharing sites, but similar procedures apply to most of them.
The short version is

  1. Log in to the service (become a member first if necessary).
  2. Upload your documents.
  3. Make your documents easy to find by your students by
    giving them meaningful names or by tagging them (assigning meaningful
    search terms to them) or by collecting them into a category or group. (Scribd
    calls these collections "groups".) For example, you might
    tag all documents for a course with the keywords "CSULA,"
    "ENGL 101," and your name.
  4. Search for the documents yourself to make sure they can be
    found with appropriate search terms. If possible copy down the URL of
    the category, group, or individual document. You might be able to give
    students this URL to simplify their access.
  5. Make sure you know whether students need to be members of
    the service to view, download, and/or print your documents. (Scribd does
    not require membership to view and/or print documents.)

The long version for setting up a group for your class on Scribd is shown
below. (You might want to print out this page since there are
several steps in this procedure.)

  1. Go
    to www.scribd.com and click on
    “Log In” (top-right of the screen) to log in or if you don’t
    have a member account to create one.
  2. From
    your Scribd home page (it should display “Hello,
    <username>” at the top of the screen), click on
    “Community” in the navigation bar at the top of the screen.
  3. From
    the “Community” page, click on “Groups” (listed below the
    categories on the left-side of the screen).
  4. From
    the “Groups” page click on “Start Your Own Group” (left side
    of screen).
  5. From
    the “Create a New Group” page, select “Managed Public” as
    the type of Group you want to create.
  6. From
    the “Create a New Managed Public Group” page, enter a name in
    “Group Name” that will associate the name with a course (if
    that’s what you intend to use the group for). For example, I
    created a group named "CSULA ENGL 467." (Be sure to type the scrambled
    code at the bottom of the form.)
  7. From
    the “Upload Picture” page, you can upload a picture to associate
    with your group. This step is optional.
  8. From
    the “Upload Picture” page, you can also start uploading
    documents to your group. Under your group name (on the left side of
    the screen), click on “Add documents to this group” to start
    uploading documents.
  9. From
    the “Upload to Share” page, click on “Click to Choose Files”
    and then select the files on your computer that you want to upload
    to your Scribd group. On a PC you can use the CTRL or SHIFT keys to
    select multiple files. On a Mac you can use the Apple or SHIFT key
    to select multiple files.
  10. When
    your selected files are listed on the right side of the “Upload to
    Share” page, click the box “By checking this box...” and then
    click on “Upload Docs”
  11. After
    the documents have been uploaded, the “Describe Your Documents”
    page will be displayed. You can choose a category and enter tags to
    be applied to all the documents you uploaded (if you uploaded more
    than one) or you can choose categories and enter tags and a brief
    description for each document. Since you will probably be giving
    students a URL that will take them straight to your group, extensive
    tags and descriptions are not necessary. When you have completed
    this step, click on “Save Changes” to continue.
  12. From
    the “Share Your Documents” page, click on “Go to My
    Documents”.
  13. You
    should now be looking at a page with all (or the first 25) documents
    uploaded to your account. To see the group you created and the
    documents placed in the group, click on “Community” at the top
    of the screen, and then on “Groups”
    (as you did in steps 2 and 3 above). Your group should be listed
    under “Your Groups” at the bottom left of the screen.
  14. If
    you click on the group name you should be taken to a page that lists
    all the documents you uploaded to that group. Note the URL shown in
    the address bar of your browser. You can give students this URL and
    they can then access any document you place in this group simply by
    going to group page. For
    example, here is the URL for the group I created for ENGL 467: http://www.scribd.com/group/81908-csula-engl-467
    .
  15. When
    students go to your group page, they will see a list of the
    documents you have uploaded. They can click on the document to read
    it online. They can click on “Print” to print a copy of it. They
    cannot download and save it, however, unless they have a Scribd
    account.
  16. To
    add more documents, simply login to Scribd, find your group, and
    click on “Add documents to this group”

While the above process looks very complicated, most users find sites like
Scribd very easy to use.