Lecture Materials

The lecture provides an instructor perspective on the topic covered. You will need to give additional information, examples or demonstrations, and perspectives on course topics. The lecture partnered with course materials will help prepare students to apply learning to assignments where they will demonstrate growing skills and knowledge through performance.

Recommendations for presenting lectures in online courses:

Deliver concise lectures

Research by Middendorf & Kalish (1996) suggests that the average adult attention span for learning and retention is about 15 to 20 minutes at a time. If you have more lecture content than you can present in 20 minutes, it’s better to break up, or “chunk” the content into separate, shorter segments that students can view and review as often as they need. Use other activities such as the discussion board or peer feedback to explore topics in greater detail. This method emulates a live interactive classroom facilitation style and keeps students involved and interested.

Use multimedia in intentional ways

The human mind can only process a certain amount of information at one time before experiencing cognitive overload. Include multimedia (e.g., visuals, audio, animation) as shown in Figure 6 in your lectures only when it supports or enhances learning and comprehension.

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Develop lectures that are accessible to students with a range of abilities

Consider the needs and preferences of the students viewing your course materials. Always include multiple versions of a lecture, e.g., include text transcriptions of any audiovisual material and add notes to your PowerPoint lecture (as shown in
Figure 7). Students can then choose what type of format works best for their learning style and ability. This also affords flexibility as it enables all students to access the course materials from any location at any time.

When recording your lecture, include captioning. This will serve as not only the narration for your multimedia lecture, but it will also be an additional resource for students with hearing impairments to access the lecture as well as for those for whom text is the best learning option.

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Follow basic principles of good presentation design

Create lecture content that is visually appealing and easy to read on screen or in print. If you use PowerPoint, use short bullet points to highlight key ideas or “talking points” but type your longer narrative into the Notes field below the slide. Leave ample white space on the slide and use font sizes and colors that are easy to see both on screen and in print.

The following figure below shows an example of converting a text-based lecture into a multimedia PowerPoint lecture.

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Organizing Your Course Content

An effective online course is well organized and easy to navigate. Northeastern University Online’s course templates organize course materials into folders containing like content (i.e. readings, lectures, discussions etc.), which keeps the weekly course materials page from getting too crowded. Students should be able to access materials quickly and the page should be free from unnecessary scrolling and clicking. Use folders only if there are multiple items you wish the students to view. If there is a single item, post it by itself.


Breaking text into smaller chunks of information (or “chunking”) improves retention and also provides a more easily readable format. Using bullet points also breaks up large paragraphs of text and is easier to process.

Research suggests that students learn best when presented with information that is broken down into smaller, more easily digestible sections. According to Taylor (2010), “content chunking puts cognitive load theory into practice by helping to diminish students’ cognitive load (i.e., mental burden) as a result of reading content in smaller segments. By contrast, reading an entire syllabus from one continuously long page on a computer monitor/handheld device screen may result in cognitive overload (e.g., excessive mental burden, disorientation).”

Next: Interaction/collaboration in your course