Your written course content and assessments are critical parts of an online course. But, what else can you provide students to broaden their horizons, challenge their perspectives, or simply offer them more information?

Readings (a term which covers an extensive variety of primary and secondary sources) are fundamental to sharing information in any class, whether it’s taught face-to-face or online. So, it’s highly likely that during your course development, you’ll need to identify some specific texts to include.

When choosing course readings, think about what’s most relevant to your course content. There are lots of engaging, unique materials you could incorporate into your course to give students new perspectives on a topic. Think outside the textbook.

Here are some examples:

  • Peer-reviewed journals
  • Fiction books
  • Non-fiction books
  • Anthologies
  • Historical documents
  • Scripts
  • Speeches
  • Blog posts
  • Video transcripts

Think of yourself as a curator. You don’t have to write out everything in your course from scratch. Instead, bring together and sequence how students will encounter readings, multimedia, and activities.


After you’ve identified readings for your online course, consider their availability for students. An online student may be geographically distant or have a schedule that’s not compatible with visiting the on-campus library. Make sure that your students can access their readings wherever they are, whenever they need to.


A great option to ensure that your selected readings are available for your students is to reserve readings online. At UNC Greensboro, instructors can place readings on e-reserve through UNCG’s Jackson Library for students to access 24/7.


Web accessibility is another priority when selecting course readings. As an instructor, you are responsible for fostering an inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students, especially people with disabilities. Ensuring your course readings are accessible for all students is vital to the course development and teaching process. Read more about common accessibility issues affecting students. Being familiar with these issues will help you think more accessibly when choosing reading materials for your courses. Also, refresh yourself on the legal rules and regulations covered in Part 1 (specifically ADA).


Don’t steal content! It can be tempting to do a quick Google search and snag whatever pops up first, but always check to make sure you have copyright permissions to use the content. Search for materials in the public domain or that are available under a Creative Commons license. The UNCG library also has extensive resources regarding fair use and copyright restrictions for various readings and other materials you may want to include in your course. Check out the Distance Education site for guidelines, but always check with your institution directly for their most updated policies. You may also consider utilizing Open Educational Resources (OER), public domain materials instructors may alter and use within their courses. OER can be an excellent option for free literature and other materials.

Test Yourself

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