Teaching materials and support

We learn using all our senses and so it will not be enough to expect students to learn only by listening. Visuals in the form of images and texts, experiments, demonstrations, simulations and opportunities to practise 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 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.

Your notes – if precise and coherent – will always be a valuable resource for your students. While designing your teaching materials:

  • You could consult a colleague who may have already developed similar materials and would be able to offer helpful ideas.
  • To help you further you could consult a teaching advisor from CAPE .
  • 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, the L’Integrale 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. E.g. Open Washington is an open educational resources network that contains links to a number of sites for open textbooks

The ‘polycopié’ (lecture notes) is a big part of the teaching and learning culture in EPFL – perhaps more so than in other countries where textbooks are more commonly used. The benefit of the lecture notes is that they only contain information relevant to your course. They can also allow students to avoid worrying too much about correctly transcribing what the teacher has said and instead focus on making notes that synthesise the main points. At the same time, developing a polycopié is time consuming and 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. These can be made available to your students before class, (on Moodle or by using the repro- print centre). You can then build on them during the class and provide students with marked up copies after class.

A second step may be to benefit from the students in your class. If you encourage your students to take hand-written notes (see here) you could use their notes (including keywords, questions and important connections that might not have been obvious to you) to help you build your polycopié for the following year. As a next step, you can integrate comments and questions on your slide presentations which will help students build their own notes. 

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 (For example, see here). 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 L’Integrale. 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 EPFL Press has a primary objective of the publication of valid scientific and pedagogical content. They also have a specialised catalogue with full series for each domain (publications in both French and English).

An important resource that you can leverage to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in your course is your teaching team (which includes your teaching assistants). See How to Get a TA for more information on getting teaching assistants to support your teaching. 

Here are some suggestions that you may wish to consider:

  • Setting clear goals and expectations. Your teaching team is there to help you and your students achieve their learning goals. However, they need to be made aware of those goals, and shown how to specifically help you progress towards them. Organise a briefing session before the semester starts to give them the big picture overview, clear guidelines about your expectations, ideas about session preparations, and specific instructions about how you wish them to supervise the students and mark their assessment submissions. If possible, meet them more frequently (before every couple of classes, or once a month) to discuss specifics with respect to upcoming classes. 
  • Support them during the semester. Visit the classrooms (particularly at the beginning) to ensure that they have all the tools they need to help your students succeed. Additionally, this will give you the opportunity to observe how your students are progressing towards their learning goals under the supervision of your teaching assistants. h.
  • Debrief periodically. Debrief your assistants as frequently as possible, but at least once after the course. Frequent debriefings will give you a better idea of the status of student learning and prompt you to implement changes if necessary. 

Share feedback: Share the feedback you get from students with your teaching team if applicable. Think of this as an opportunity for them to grow as teachers and develop their teaching skills.

Your teaching assistants have a big influence on the quality of the teaching and learning process in your course. To help them enhance their teaching skills you can suggest that they benefit from the training opportunities tailored to their needs: CAPE organises specific teaching workshops for assistants, which they can attend.