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Selecting Instructional Materials

Finding materials that meet the needs of the course and engage learners can be difficult, especially when considering content, audience, and cost. Even then, learners do not always purchase or read required materials.  To make the most of your materials, ensure alignment with your learning objectives, your course syllabus, and your teaching philosophy (CUSE, 1997). Below are other points to consider when selecting instructional materials: 

  • Content - Does the content meet your needs by covering the topics necessary for your course objectives? Are there accreditation, industry, or state standards to consider? 
  • Audience - Does the material appeal to your audience in terms of reading level and style?  For instance, is it written for undergraduate or graduate audiences? Does it offer examples or case studies that would appeal to members of that audience? 
  • Sequencing & Pace - Does the sequencing and pace of the material align with your course? Though you can sometimes ask learners to re-order their reading, the volume of information may or may not meet your needs for brevity or depth.  
  • Cost - Are there costs associated with the material? Have you explored open educational resources that might be available at no cost? The library reference staff can help search OER databases.   
  • Supplements - Does the material provide supplements such as slide decks, case studies, practice activities, or test banks that you can adapt for your needs? Learners often use supplements if diligently reminded (Lang, 2009). 

Potential Material Sources 

  • Traditional Textbooks or Ebooks 
    • Educational textbook publishers (Cengage, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, etc.) often allow educators access to review copies of the texts they carry on a topic.
    • Additionally, many educational publishers now sell or rent digital copies of textbooks that are immediately available online and are often cheaper to obtain. 
  • Scholarly/Trade Books & Smaller Publishers - These are often hard copies from popular print vendors (Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, etc.) you might find in a retail bookstore. They are typically cheaper to obtain than traditional textbooks. 
  • Course Reserves - CMU librarians can also identify and place some books, articles, movies, and more into your Blackboard course shell before the course starts. They will explore copyright and request permissions for you. 
  • Open Education Resources (OERs) - These educational materials are licensed for public use, often for free. OERs can even be modified to meet your course needs. There are many OERs available for common undergraduate courses such as Algebra, Psychology, Biology, Composition, Spanish, Chemistry, Sociology, Political Science, and more. 
  • Multimedia Options - Instructional materials that are not in text form, such as videos, infographics, or industry created materials are gaining in popularity, especially in flipped or hyflex class formats. 

Additional resource

Meador, D. (2017). Suggestions to guide textbook adoption. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from


Committee of Undergraduate Science Education (CUSE). (1997). Chapter 7: Choosing and using instructional resources. In Science teaching reconsidered (pp. 47-54). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from

Lang, J.M. (2009, April). Choosing and using textbooks. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from