ARCHIVED: Distribute course materials and readings

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The information here is part of a series intended to help instructors Keep teaching in online or hybrid formats.

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You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more instruction online.

Considerations when posting new course materials:

  • Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in Canvas or cloud storage, be sure to let students know what you posted and where. You might even ask that they change their notification preferences to alert them when new materials are posted. Refer them to How do I set my Canvas notification preferences as a student?
  • Keep things phone friendly: Many students may only have a phone available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats, Microsoft Word being the most common. Consider saving other files (for example, PowerPoint presentations) as Word documents, which are easier to read on phones and tablets, and keep the file size small. You can also use Canvas Pages to create and share responsive course content.

Tools for distributing course content

Convert documents to PDF

Most programs for creating documents, including Microsoft programs (Word, PowerPoint, Excel), macOS programs (Pages, Keynote, Numbers), and Google programs (Docs, Sheets, Slides), have the ability to convert to PDF. Depending on the program, you may have the option to save as PDF, print as PDF, export to PDF, or download to PDF. You will lose the ability for others to modify the document, but if the purpose is to access content, that should not be a problem. If, however, you want students to modify documents for an assignment (complete a form, use a template, modify formulas), then PDFs may not be sufficient.

For Microsoft 365 programs, UITS recommends using Save as PDF rather than Print to PDF; this will preserve accessibility features in your document.


Work with PDFs

Many internet browsers have the ability to display PDF files, but when in doubt, Adobe (Acrobat) Reader is the gold standard. Adobe Reader is available for free download directly from Adobe, but be sure to deselect the optional offers for McAfee software; they are unnecessary and add to the bulk of the download.

If you want additional tools for editing PDFs (for example, the ability to combine PDF files, delete pages, or create smaller PDF files), use Adobe Acrobat DC via Adobe Creative Cloud. Creative Cloud is available without fee at IU to current students, current and retired faculty, and current staff. If you do not have administrator access to your computer, or you are working primarily from a tablet or smaller mobile device, you can access Adobe Acrobat Pro (and many other programs) via IUanyWare. You may be required to log into your Adobe Creative Cloud account. Using IUanyWare does not require installing anything, but you must have stable internet access as you work. For access to all features available while using Acrobat in IUanyWare, UITS recommends that you install Citrix Workspace app; see Set up and use IUanyWare.


  • For instructions on installing Adobe Acrobat Pro, see Adobe Creative Cloud at IU.
  • For details on accessing Adobe Acrobat Pro and other applications without installation (provided you have internet access), see About IUanyWare.

Share documents in Canvas

You can upload documents in Canvas to the Files tool and have students navigate there to find them. Organize the content logically in folders, as it will display in alphabetical order. You can make things straightforward by creating folders for specific weeks (Week01, Week02) or chapters, and similarly with files (Week01Reading01-articlename, Week01Reading02-articlename).

UITS recommends, however, that you organize your content using one of many tools in Canvas instead. Files can be embedded wherever you see the Rich Content Editor, such as in Announcements, Assignments, and Pages.

One simple way is to embed files in assignments using the Assignments tool; due dates can be helpful so that students know when to complete the content. Another option is to organize them using the Modules tool, which allows you to guide students through your content in a specific order.


This is document arxm in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2023-10-20 14:38:35.