Topic 7: Developing Your Instructor Notes
Instructor's Notes


"I am not a teacher but an awakener."

The purpose of the Instructor’s Notes is to close the gap between what people already know and what they need to know in order to perform the module objectives.

In "Making Instruction Work," Robert F. Mager proposes the following formula for determining the content (in this case, the Instructor’s Notes):


What needs to be known


What is already known

(equals) =
What needs to be taught

To determine what content to include in your Instructor’s Notes, first review your objectives for one module.

Ask yourself:
"What prevents the student from already practicing the objective?"

  • Does the student need to know common errors to avoid?
  • Does the student need to know a procedure?
  • Are examples necessary?
  • Does the student need to read theory, history, or basic concepts?
  • Does the student need to acquire factual information.?

Did I remember to:

  • Discuss the relevance of the module to the student?
  • Clarify how this module fits into the big picture?
  • Provide logical guidelines, or a clear model, for competent performance?
  • Describe or demonstrate "how to"?
  • Offer specific alternatives to address diverse learning styles?

Which Medium is Best?

The best way to communicate information depends on what you are communicating and why.

According to two folks at, Jakob Nielsen and Donald Norman:

"We believe that education comes first, technology second. We exploit the power of each specific medium: Books, lectures, videos, the Internet, and the computer.

Books: Still the best presentation medium

Lectures and Videos of Lectures: Best for motivation and engagement, not for teaching

The Internet: A powerful tool for knowledge management, for social interaction, and for current events

The Computer: A powerful tool for simulation, allowing learners to explore the concepts they are learning and to try them out to see their impact"

More and more, teachers and instructional designers agree with the findings of Nielsen and Norman and are using books and videos as the delivery medium of whatever "content" is communicated.

Developing the content for an online course (like this one) is equivalent to writing a book. Unless you’ve already written the textbook for your course, the most practical approach is to create a course for which students use other media (books, Web sites, videos, interactive CD-ROMs) to get background information. Then you, as the teacher, can concentrate on developing meaningful assignments to help students contextualize, reflect, and build on what they learned via other media.

There are basically three ways to deliver the course content or Instructor’s Notes:

  • Majority of the content is online
  • Majority of the content is via other media, such as books, video, or audio (online components are reserved to facilitate collaborative work and online discussion)
  • Teachers offer content online to provide context, in addition to introducing material presented in other media, such as books and videos\

The Web then becomes not the online lecture hall, but rather, the communication medium for giving and posting assignments and class discussion.

There are basically three ways to deliver the course content or Instructor's Notes:

  • The majority of the content is online
  • The majority of the content is via other media such as books, video or audio. The online components facilitate collaborative work and online discussion
  • Teachers provide content online to provide context and to introduce material presented in other media such as books and videos

Examples of modules with most of the content online

Text based "Effective uses of online tools" by Kevin Oliver
Last Update, April 17, 2001
Text with graphics "The Biological and Cultural Evolution of Archaic and Modern Homosapiens" by Dennis O'Neil, Ph.D. Palomar College San Marcos, California
Text with graphics and interactive multimedia "Music in a Nutshell Tutorial and Quiz"
Graduate students Caroline Testard and Chad McDonald developed this online tutorial and quiz

Animated lessons

"Animation on the Krebs Cycle, Fat Synthesis, and Osmosis" developed by Nutrition instructor Betty Clamp, Multimedia instructor, Valerie Landau, and Multimedia student Nan Edmunston in 1999.

Interactive tutorials

Animated tutorial
"See It, Hear It, Do It: Flash 5!" by Valerie Landau at Round World Media

Lesson on linear regression written by Susan Dean, developed by Round World Media

Video online

"MIS214 Representations and Algorithms for Molecular Biology by Stanford Center for Professional Development"

"Ready2Net: Inside the Web for Teacher Education"
California State University, Monterey Bay

Audio online

"Oyez, Oyez, Oyez"
Audio recording of Supreme Court Hearings

Audio with graphics and transcript "HIV Case Study"
Eugene Seymour, M.D., M.P.H. Medical Director Center for AIDS Research and Training, Inc.

Examples of modules with the majority of the content delivered via other media such as books. The online components facilitate collaborative work and online discussion

Students read books and turn in assignments and work collaboratively on line. Barbara Tull's "Critical Thinking and English Composition"
Students watch videos, read a textbook and participate in online community and turn in online assignments

PBS Adult Learning Service Web-based
In this course there are 12 Web-based lessons & 3 research projects, a textbook, a study guide, a Faculty Manual, and a Test bank

PBS Adult Learning Services TeleWeb courses
Most of our current teleWEBcourses include the following:

  • Programs The telecourse programs are full audiovisual, documentary-style learning experiences featuring outstanding professors, on-location footage, and enlightening interviews.
  • Internet Component The Internet component offers students interactivity, a sense of community, and extensive Web-based resources and activities that reinforce course lessons.
  • Textbook
  • Student study guide
  • Faculty manual

All the content is in the textbook. The syllabus is online and assignments are submitted online

"College Orientation and Student Success!" Patricia B. Parma, M.A., L.P.C. Counselor
Scroll down to see the curriculum



Developing an Effective Online Class
© Valerie Landau, 2001