How Much is Too Much?

Tips on Selecting the Right "Some" from among the Overwhelming "Many"


Tim Roufs, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

24 February 2001

Editor's Note: Tim Roufs, veteran in using technology as a teaching tool, has been teaching a resource-rich course in Prehistoric Cultures. If you are interested in his considerable experience in making the right choices from among the many options, you may visit his site on the topic of selecting materials that are available with texts at <>. The links in the site will provide you with the actual resources which students can use and will flesh out this skeletal article. Both Tim's site and his article will provide insights into figuring out whether the myriad of materials are overkill or opportunity and guidance how to make choices.

Publishers increasingly package textbooks with traditional and high-tech support materials. Often they provide too many materials for practical use in the classroom. For example, the text and text resources available for Anth 1602 Prehistoric Cultures include a choice of three versions of the textbook, in addition to both traditional AV and study aids, and Web resources.

Traditional supplementary materials provided by the publishers include a Student Lab Manual and Workbook for Physical Anthropology, a Study Guide, an Instructor's Manual with Test Bank (and test creators), 50 professionally prepared transparency acetates, a set of 35 mm color slides of the art found in the text, and a selection of 4 feature-length videotapes (from two dozen available at no charge to UMD), and 3 one-hour videotapes containing a hundred selections of CNN news headlines "ideal for launching lectures and showing students the relevance of anthropology in everyday life."

Locally Available Traditional AV Materials supplement each lecture. These include over 3000 35-mm slides developed for the course over the last 30 years, which are now available to students as Power Point presentations accessible on the Web (or an examples see "Class Slides Sets" for Week 01: Introduction / Orientation), and nineteen 16-mm and Video programs specially selected to supplement traditional course lectures (review at <>.

The publisher also supplements the customary AV materials and Student study aids with sophistocated web and digital materials. These resources, which are hotbuttoned at, include

  • Virtual Laboratories for Physical Anthropology CD-ROM, with its own set of online Web resources
  • Prepared PowerPoint presentations from the publisher
  • AnthroLink 2001 CD-ROM containing over 350 images, art works, figures and tables from the text
  • ANTHROPOLOGYonline from the Wadsworth Anthropology Resource Center - guides to current news from professional associations and subdisciplines, WebSurfing guides and lessons, specialized search engines, Career Center, more on-line text resources, etc.
  • Class self-standing WebForum
  • On-line individual Chapter Resources -- hypercontents, flashcards, quizzes, internet projects, studyguide, and Thompson Learning Web Tutor (a great study and course management tool designed to take the course beyond classroom boundaries.)
  • "Author! Author!" -- introduction to the author in his own words
  • Infotrac® College Edition online library, providing access to thousands of searchable, full-length articles -- not abstracts -- from more than 900 scholarly and popular periodicals. This is similar to UMD's Infotrac® and JSTORE.


There's more.

In addition to the text resources, hundreds of pages tailor-made for the course may also be accessed from the top of the Prehistoric Cultures course pages. These items are alphabetized by subject, A-Z. Each item and topic covered in the course has a separate Web page. For example, Darwin, Goodall, Chimpanzees, neanderthals, Cro-Magnon, Piltdown . . . each has a separate course Web page.

Pop-down menus on each course page offer access to main topics of the course, course "housekeeping" information, useful on-line maps, and other useful WebSites.

This is an abundance of riches, to say the least. But with blessings there are burdens: picking some from among the overwhelming many.

Picking a Package, whether high-tech, low-tech or no-tech, in the end falls back on principles that have endured the ages. Selections should be driven by considerations of:

Audience . . .

In higher education our audiences are predefined - 1xxx, 3xxx, 4xxx-level students, students taking courses to complete Lower Division Liberal Education Requirements, International ... Requirements, Diversity Requirements, majors, minors, skills oriented, etc. Or are they? Do we sometimes confuse educational goals with audiences?

But how much do we really know about the individual students in the classes? In Liberal Education classes, for example, or for all classes without a prerequisite, what do we actually know about students' background, experience, and training. Periodically taking inventory helps one keep up-to-date in more effectively matching course materials with changing audiences, without sacrificing academic goals of the course. RICEOWL (The Rice University On-line Writing Lab <> suggests useful specific questions:

How much does my audience know about the subject?
How much do they know about me?
What do they expect from me?
How interested will they be in what I say?
What is their attitude toward me?
What is their attitude toward my subject?
What is their age group?
What positions do their occupy in the organization?
What is their educational background?
What is their cultural/ethnic background?
What is their economic background?
What are their political and religious views?
What kinds of cultural biases will they likely have toward me and my topic?

I teach aspects of evolution in Prehistoric Cultures. Nationwide, over a fifth of college and university students do not believe in evolution, including, I'm told by our Med School staff, several of our UMD M.D. graduates. Notwithstanding student beliefs one of the goals of Prehistoric Cultures / Physical Anthropology is to leave students with a basic understanding of evolution in an evolutionary perspective. Knowing that one out of five of the students in class will likely reflexively erect an learning shield when the subject of evolution arises guides the choice of how the topic is approached, and what high-tech and low-tech approaches are taken.

Purpose . . .

What do you want to do ?

Why do you want to do it ?

What is my purpose in giving this oral presentation?

Is there (should there be) a long-range purpose?

What is the situation that led to this presentation?

Given my audience's background and attitudes, do I need to reshape my purpose to make my presentation more acceptable to my audience?


Determining the Goal of Your Presentation -- Rice OWL

Personal Style . . .

How do you want to do it ?

What works best for you ?

What kind of tone do I want to use in addressing my audience?

What kind of image of myself and my organization do I want to project?

What level of language do I need to use, based on my audience's background and knowledge of my subject?

What approach will my audience expect from me?

How formal should I be?

Choosing an Appropriate Style -- Rice OWL

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