Course Materials

Types of Course Materials

In the face-to-face classroom it is common to use publisher-created textbooks and course content. This type of content still exists in distance education in the form of ePacks (also known as Course Cartridges).

There are, however, many different options for adopting, adapting and creating multimedia course content for the online environment that provide affordable alternatives to traditional textbooks. In addition to the various instructional technology tools that can be used to create original course content, there are also many resources available through the Shasta College library as well as openly licensed eTextbooks, eBooks and CourseWare, known as OpenEducational Resources (OER).

Shasta College-Supported Library Resources

Shasta College subscribes to numerous databases and online electronic full-text resources through the Shasta College Library. The use of these resources are subject to various copyright and fair use laws. The best way to ensure the material use is compliant with copyright and fair use is to create direct links to the items. If you need help with creating links to content contact Cheryl Cruse ( Please note that students must have a library card to access the content. Online students, who apply for library card online, will have one mailed to them.


Companion websites provide supplemental materials to a textbook; eBooks are texts that have been converted to digital format. e-Packs are entire publisher-developed courses that can often be loaded directly into the LMS.

e-Pack Considerations

At first it might seem that using e-Packs is beneficial, since having content that is already created can reduce the amount of time it takes to develop course content and activities. e-Pack content directly matches that in the textbook and is customizable (meaning that instructors can choose the order and content they wish to make available to students). There is a lot of engaging and well-developed content available .

However, when considering an e-Pack for a course, it is important to understand there are some issues with e-Packs that may outweigh the benefits. Before adopting an e-Pack for a course, it is necessary to make certain that the e-Pack addresses the following criteria for best practices in online education and compliance.

Legal Title 5 regulations (Section 59402) specify that students in distance education courses must be able to use electronic materials in the same way as they would face-to-face textbook materials. This means that students should be able to download, save or print materials not only during the course but after it as well. Any e-Pack that does not allow students to save materials is in violation of Title 5 regulations.
Financial In addition to tuition and what students have to pay for textbooks, publisher e-Packs charge additional fees for course access codes.
  • e-Pack codes cost anywhere from $15-$100 per course.
  • How and where to purchase e-Pack codes is not always clear (online, bookstore, bundled with the textbook). When publishers require students to buy codes online it may be a violation of student privacy rights, because it requires students to log in and use a credit card on a third party website.
  • Students who buy used texts may still have to pay full price for an e-Pack code.
  • Often the cost of the code is not refundable, creating an additional financial burden for students who drop the class.
Accessibility Because e-Packs are created by a range of publishers, there is no guarantee that the materials will be accessible to students with disabilities. Generally eBooks that come with a course are compliant, but the added content (flashcards, etc.) may not be. For some students, assistive technology and support may be available, but it may require students to log on to third party websites, which can violate student privacy laws. Each individual e-Pack must be evaluated for accessibility prior to adoption.
Copyright e-Packs are publisher-created and copyrighted material. Instructors can tailor the content to meet their needs. Any page that has publisher information on it must have the appropriate copyright information. Instructors can insert notes and comments onto copyrighted pages. For most e-Pack publishers, content generated by instructors remains the intellectual property of the instructor. However, it is best to check with the individual publisher to ensure that this is their policy.
Privacy All e-Packs must follow federal guidelines for student privacy, otherwise known as FERPA compliance. Publisher e-Packs are not always FERPA compliant.
  • e-Packs are sometimes hosted on third-party websites, meaning that students have to leave the LMS order to access information or contribute to the course.
  • If there is a chance that student educational record data – grade, comments, roster information – is stored on a website outside the LMS, this could violate FERPA guidelines.
Students cannot be required to use a site that requires them to reveal any information other than directory data. In addition, if students are required to use a third-party publisher site, they will need to be issued aliases if that website is not FERPA compliant.
Pedagogical There are numerous concerns with e-Packs and best practices in online instruction.
  • e-Packs are created by the publisher, and as such, may not meet the quality standards for the Course Outline of Record.
  • Even though e-Packs are customizable, there is not as much flexibility about how the content is presented than there is in instructor-developed courses.
  • Differences between the e-Pack material (tone, type of content, organization) and what the instructor creates may be confusing for students.
  • Presentation of material and assessments in e-Packs often do not encourage collaborative, student-centered or critical thinking activities.
  • It is not always clear to students how to access and use content, particularly if they have to register at third party websites. Students may be so overwhelmed by dealing with different content delivery systems that the course quality suffers.
Technical There are a number of technical issues with e-Packs.
  • There is limited on-campus tech support for e-Packs. Most technical issues need to either be dealt with by the instructor or go through the publisher. This shifts the focus of instructor from content delivery to tech support.
  • Instructors need to make certain they have the right version of the content. With each new textbook edition, faculty need to double-check that they have an updated version of the e-Pack.
  • It can take up to 2 weeks to acquire and load e-Pack content onto the LMS.
  • Moving content to new courses can sometimes present problems depending on what course section the e-Pack content is linked to.


This work, "Shasta College Online Faculty Resources", is a derivative of "PCCOnline Faculty Resources” by Pasadena City College Distance Education Program, used under a CC by Katie Datko, Editor.