Teaching material

We learn using all our senses and so it will not be enough to expect students to learn what they hear.  Visuals in the form of images and texts, experiments, demonstrations, simulations and opportunities to practice will all contribute to students’ learning.

Here we describe how you might go about developing your own class support material as well as how you can find ‘traditional’ learning resources (like textbooks).

Remember too that a wide variety of digital resources already exist, and you can integrate these into your teaching. More information on digital resources can be found in the Educational Technologies section.

How to choose from a variety of teaching material

Your notes – if precise and coherent – will always be valuable (if not during the semester, certainly during the exam period). To design your teaching materials, you might wish to discuss with a colleague, who may have already developed similar materials and may offer helpful ideas.

To help you further with this issue, a teaching advisor from CAPE is always there to help you make the right choices and gain time!

Another resource to benefit from, is the Main Library’s student reserve collection, where you can find books related to the courses given at EPFL (Bachelor and Master cycle), most of them recommended by teachers as a support to their courses. Moreover, La Fontaine bookstore, also situated at the Rolex Learning Center, can give you access to additional lecture notes.

There are now a number of sites for “open” textbooks, which may have material which is relevant to you – especially if you teach a more introductory course.  For example, Open Washington is an open educational resources network that contains links to a number of sites for open textbooks.

How to produce your own teaching notes (polycopié)

The “polycopié” (lecture notes) is a big part of the teaching and learning culture in EPFL – perhaps more so than in other countries were textbooks are more commonly used. The benefit of the lecture notes from a student’s point of view is that they clearly direct the students’ attention to what is being addressed in the course (many textbooks cover far more than the teacher actually intends to address in a course). They can also allow students to avoid worrying too much about correctly transcribing what the teacher has said and instead to focus on listening and understanding in class. At the same time, developing a polycopié is time consuming and – in a context in which students will complain long and bitterly over typos – the cost may seem higher than the benefit. So, how can you make the process of developing a polycopié easier?

A first step may be to work off your lecture slides. You will have these in advance of class anyway and so they can be made available to students (on moodle or by using the repro- print centre). You can then build on this, little by little, to make more comprehensive notes.

A second step may be to benefit from the students in your class. There will always be some students taking notes during your course. They are already a first filter of your lecture, and they may provide you with valuable material and questions you hadn’t thought of.  You could recruit 2 or 3 committed students in your course to take notes of your presentation. They can take turns each week and base their transcripts on their own notes. Once you have checked their notes, they will serve as a basis for sound documentation for the following year. As a next step, you can integrate comments and questions on your slide presentations with the help of 2 or 3 student assistants. To hire student-assistants contact the HR department.

An alternative approach is to select those sections of a textbook that are directly relevant to your course and to gather these into a course text. Some publishers offer you the service of designing customised textbooks in this way (see here, as just one example).  You can also select material from more than one textbook if appropriate. It may be possible, subject to copyright restrictions, to do this yourself (by scanning or copying texts) without involving the publisher – you should check with the library for advice on how copyright would apply in your own specific case.

Once you have a “polycopié” developed, you can supply your lecture notes through the bookshop ‘La Fontaine‘. They duplicate your notes, manage the stock and handle the sale to students.

Finally, a good polycopié is a solid step towards publishing your own textbook. The ‘Presses Polytechniques Universitaires Romandes’ (PPUR) incorporates the EPFL Press and has as a primary objective the publication of valid scientific and pedagogical content. They also have a specialized catalogue with full series for each domain (publications in both French and English).