Collating external digital resources

A rich and valid learning experience will likely need to enable students to critically engage with a wide variety of sources found outside of the University. Material available externally can also provide useful support for core learning, meaning that you can spend your time on creating content that does not exist elsewhere to deepen students’ learning.

External sources refer to materials used in teaching that are not produced by the University, such as:

  • Reading materials such as online journal articles and ebooks accessed through Leeds Library
  • PDFs and other files of external reports and published or unpublished literature
  • Websites, blogs, digital archives or data repositories, video hosting platforms like YouTube or TEDTalks, and external learning platforms like FutureLearn, Coursera and LinkedIn Learning

This guide discusses key issues you should consider when using external sources. It also provides a list of common sources for external materials.

Accessibility and inclusion

You will have no control over external resources, so should be cautious in how you use them to ensure you continue to provide an accessible experience to your students.

  • For library materials, share a link to the electronic version of a resource via the library catalogue rather than sharing PDFs
  • Provide supplementary resources and alternatives for external content so that they can meet the needs of students in combination

Planning how to use external resources

Things to consider when using an external source:

  • How accessible is the content? Is it provided in a variety of forms so students can choose how they can access it?
  • How relevant is it? Should students complete the whole course/read the whole page or is only a section of it relevant? Do you need to point students in the direction of what they need to do?
  • Is the material the best way to teach the topic? Is it covering the topic in a useful way or is it distracting from the learning journey of your course?
  • How reliable and reputable is the source? Is the site where you found the material the original creator of the content? Is there a possibility the content could be taken down?

Answering these questions should help you to evaluate whether and how you should use a resource.

Developing the narrative for your resources

Develop a clear narrative which links the different materials. When considering what (and how) to present to your students, align your content to the learning journey your students are taking. For example, you might:

  • Begin with introductory texts or materials
  • Move towards materials which offer alternative or contrasting perspectives
  • Support students with critically evaluating materials.

While this might sound like common sense, it is important to design your materials so that students are guided through them at each stage. Often, just by making the sequence of materials clear in the text you choose to accompany them, students have a clearer sense of the progress they’re making. It also enables them to understand how different resources are connected.

Adding signposting

You can use signposting and instructional text to guide students through your teaching materials and connect different resources together. These techniques help you to link your resources. You can do this by:

  • using language to direct your students, such as ‘Next, you will…’, ‘You will now…’ and ‘You previously explored…’
  • revisiting key points and summarising resources students have read or are about to read
  • stating key differences in focus, tone or audience between the resources you are using
  • referring to the connection between the resources and your learning outcomes.

To support you in this stage, you can review the following selection of examples of digital content for a learning activity from different disciplines within the University.

External online learning platforms

You may be able to find online courses that you can use to support your content. The University of Leeds has access to several sources:

LinkedIn learning

LinkedIn Learning provides short courses which can be combined with longer development paths. The site focuses on skills in the workplace and professional development, as well as practical training in software. Students can add badges and certificates to their LinkedIn pages as proof of course completion. The courses are provided in videos and quizzes, with interactive transcripts available.


FutureLearn provides short online courses (MOOCs), online degrees as well as microcredentials and programs. The content is developed by world-leading universities and organisations. The courses are web pages which can contain video, audio and interactive elements. Students learn in a community, with the site focusing on social learning. There is a wide selection of academic content as well courses focusing on practical technological skills.


The courses provided on Coursera are developed by leading universities and companies. Most of the content on the site are videos and quizzes with transcripts available. Students can earn industry-recognised credentials and course certificates.