Create or curate? Making decisions about content


Course content can take many forms, from readings to video lectures. Finding the best resources for your class doesn’t mean you have to create them, but sometimes it does. This pathway will walk you through how to decide which content to re-use and which content to create.

This pathway assumes that you have already made some plans around your course design or you have a robust syllabus with plans for your course.

At the end of this pathway, you should be able to have a prioritized list of content to curate or that you might need to create on your own.

Time to complete: 30 minutes to an hour

Recommended timeline: Ideally, at least 3-4 weeks in advance of teaching (or whenever you start preparing)

Revisit your learning objectives.

Every time we design anything for the online space, we always remind ourselves what outcomes we are trying to achieve. So before you spend any time thinking about content, go back to your learning objectives to make sure they will align.

Writing learning objectives and outcomes

Do a content inventory.

If you used a planning guide, this would be a great time to brainstorm what you have already in terms of materials for your class. Content can be readings or book chapters, but also online articles, media and guest speakers. You could consider content-focused activities like case studies too. They may be assessments, but they help you understand the broader picture of what you might need. Organize what you have by week or by module.

Look for the gaps.

Maybe there is a topic where you never found a good reading. Or a week where questions about a specific topic usually required your intervention or explanations. Think about places where you have seen students typically struggle with a topic. Some topics may have a lot of information, others might need more. You may also have some concerns about copyrighted materials

 Learn more about copyright

Is curating possible? Then by all means, don’t recreate!

It can take a lot of work to build an online course. There are going to be places where your unique perspective is critical to students. But there may also be places that other people have done really good work too. Open Education Resources Commons (OERs) and Canvas Commons are great places to find content created by other experts so you can focus on creating the content that is specific to your course.

Learn more about Open Educational Resources

Prioritize what needs to be built.

Did we mention that creating content takes some time? Depending on the type of resource, everything from custom handouts to lecture videos takes varying levels of time to plan and create. Instead of assuming that you need to create a 45 minute lecture for every class in order, focus on the places that you know students struggle the most with understanding, needs the most clarification, or you are bringing a really unique vision to the material. Do those first. If time runs out, you have the most important things created.

Next Steps

Now that you have a content plan, learn more about how to create recordings of your lecture or content.