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220803 Managing Educational Resources

Managing Educational Resources With PDF Tools

by Jen

You can also read this article in German, Spanish, French, Indonesian, Italian and Portuguese.

Educational resources are critical to any sound curriculum, but how can teachers manage them digitally?

In the not-so-distant past, when the traditional classroom was the only classroom there was, printing, photocopying, and handouts were fairly standard activities for creating and distributing information among teachers and students. But how are teachers managing their teaching resources as they shift to a digital environment?

Ask a Teacher


Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels.

At Smallpdf, we're always interested in learning more about how people manage their documents, because this helps us make better PDF tools for people from all walks of life.

Since teachers have had to maintain their commitment to their students and navigate a whole new world of digital documents during this era of remote or hybrid learning, we spent some time with a handful of secondary school teachers in the US to find out how they were struggling with documents and what they wished they had in document management software. While this helped us work on our products and improve them to better meet needs, we also want to share our findings with you. Maybe you’re a teacher facing similar issues or needing specific solutions to your document management problems—either way. These are the things teachers told us about managing educational resources.

PDF Resource Packs


In many secondary school settings, teachers are most often provided with approved learning materials for the year. They come from the county or district and are usually packaged in a large, single PDF document. Generally speaking, this is a good thing. Imagine teachers having to put together their own resource packs. However,, the format can seem overwhelming for many teachers. After all, they need to organize these materials, but typically don’t have any specialized, premium PDF software at their disposal.

Ownership & Control of Resources

One school representative we spoke to reminded us how, without the right tools, teachers can potentially lose complete ownership of the way they organize their teaching materials.

In this particular case, the teachers’ resources first had to be transferred to the district level to be organized, something that included the simple task of splitting the PDF resource packs into sections and further into chapters, or pages. Of course, the process of getting these PDF resource packs organized became unnecessarily bloated and inefficient this way.

Another scenario we learned about was that of a school that hosts counseling sessions for students. These therapy sessions are also reliant on multi-page PDF resource packs that must be split up in order to use individual sections appropriately. This became a time-consuming and work-intensive process that hindered preparation for these therapy sessions.

When we think of teachers as the live conduit between students and learning materials, we need no convincing of how important it is for them to have agency over the way they manage their teaching materials. A teacher's direct access to tools to split, merge, and compress PDF documents and convert all types of files comes with a host of benefits for both the teacher and the school. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Time savings
  • Fewer dependencies on school resources
  • Fewer dependencies on county or state governing bodies
  • Closer contact with learning material
  • Tools and flexibility to organize, manage, and present materials in a way that’s best for the teacher and their class
  • Quicker access for students to appropriate, well-prepared learning materials
  • Fewer resources needed to share and store smaller documents

Splitting PDF Resource Packs

For a teacher, the simple task of splitting a PDF resource pack into semesters, months, or even chapters can be a daunting task, especially without the right tools. In the traditional classroom, the content needed would be printed and subsequently copied, but the remote and hybrid classrooms of today have one particular requirement: digital documents.

In order to meet this demand, teachers have had to embrace digital document management in a way that covers every aspect of their job—and it all starts with resource management. The very first step to getting started with a hefty PDF resource pack is to split it into parts, not only for easier access to more specific materials but also for easier storage and more efficient sharing.

Granular Resource Preparation

One teacher we spoke to needed to give her remote students one worksheet per week for four weeks, but the worksheets she received from her school were all bundled together. You can guess what happened: She ended up sending her students this entire bundle all at once. Another teacher needed to unlock a form for students to fill in but had to remake the entire form from scratch because he just didn't have the right tools to edit the document.

What we took away from this is that teachers need far more detail-oriented tools than just splitting PDF documents. In fact, when it comes to the details of a lesson plan or a day's learning materials, teachers need several PDF tools in their toolkit to prepare digital documents that are both useful and accessible to students.

Sharing & Storing PDF Resources

The days of scanning, photocopying, printing reams of teaching materials, and then storing them in a folder or paper basket are soon to be over. After the forced shift to remote learning and the subsequent implementation of new tools, teachers have had to contend with storage and sharing their digital documents far more efficiently. Even though things have pretty much gone back to normal, the new systems have come to stay. For the benefit of less paper being wastefully printed and more use of modern technology in schools.

When teachers have access to PDF tools that can easily split and merge documents, this comes with even more benefits than document flexibility. With smaller documents to work with, teachers can save and store materials more quickly and efficiently and use less data and energy to share materials with their students, who will also save on data and storage space on their end.

A Personalized Learning Experience


Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels.

From learning materials to the student experience, teachers know best. A personal—and personalized—learning experience can make all the difference for a student, and, with the right PDF tools, this is something a teacher can more easily provide than you’d think.

Representation Matters

One teacher we spoke to was deeply frustrated about the learning materials she was supplied with because the characters in the PDFs all had the same skin tone, which did little to reflect the diversity of her classroom.

Because all the learning materials she had were in PDF format, she struggled t to switch up the characters' skin tones in order to give her students access to learning materials that showed characters that were representative of the whole classroom.

When teachers have access to PDF tools that help them edit documents so that they're more reflective of their students skin color, hair type, body shape, or ethnicity, they have the agency to foster a far more enriching, relatable learning experience for their students and contribute to a sense of dignity that comes with seeing oneself reflected in everyday media—including educational materials.

Bringing Language To Life

Editing the text in a PDF document is almost never as simple as it sounds, but access to editing PDFs and being able to add or remove text can be a game changer for teachers.

One teacher we interviewed knew that her teaching materials could be doubly useful to her students if only she could swap out the English labels with Spanish labels. She saw the potential for her native-English-speaking students to learn the Spanish language more hands-on. If given the right tools for the task, she even saw the potential for those learning resources to become available in any other language.

This type of document flexibility not only offers additional resource potential to students learning a new language but also has endless possibilities for resource translations and therefore greater accessibility to educational resources.

What Teachers Want From PDF Software


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

When teachers talked to us about managing their resources and finding the right PDF tools, their students and their access to digital resources always came first . A key part of PDF software may be to organize their learning materials for themselves. But at the end of the day, all of this and any further document preparation they do is primarily in aid of the student.

Based on our interviews with these teachers, we created a quick list of the top tools teachers find useful to make digital documents more accessible to their students:

  • Convert PDFs to Word documents.
  • Convert Word documents to PDFs.
  • Convert PDFs to Excel documents.
  • Convert Excel documents to PDFs.
  • Split PDFs.
  • Merge PDFs.
  • Extract images from PDFs.
  • Edit PDFs.
  • Make PDFs editable.

If your school is looking for simple tools to manage PDFs, why not start with a free trial of Smallpdf for Teams and get access to over 20 premium PDF tools to help teachers manage their resources?

Jennifer Rees
UX Writer