How do we set up guidelines for eLearning?

Howdy Heroes - We just received this question from a blog reader. Because this is  one of the more common questions new designers ask, I thought it would be a good one for the forums. 

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A few of my colleagues and myself have been trained in Articulate and soon, we will be developing some eLearning packages for plant-wide use.

As there will be many hands on the development, I need your advise on how to set up the guidelines so that everybody can follow.

14 Replies
Minh-Triet Nguyen

We were fortunate (or unfortunate) to have corporate branding style guides handed down to us which constrained the look of our courseware to our marketing department's standards.  But then the important things like interactions and instructional design were fair game for our trainers to implement, so long as their designs aligned to meeting the courses' objectives.

One way might be to share a common skin or create a Presenter module with a set of master slides that dictate the color schemes and typeface you want people to follow. You could also embed Engage interactions that demonstrate when it would be appropriate to use one type, like a circle interaction, over another, like a timeline or tabbed interaction.

We also implemented an internal review process where any module is first vetted by another team member for spelling, grammar, brand, and usability, before being sent off to the SMEs for their review.

Jeff Kortenbosch

We have a similar approach. Togheter with our brand center we've developed a template and made it available in various company color schemes. In the slidedeck we provide:

  • a title page in various layouts
  • a welcome page (optional)
  • a course objectives page
  • a course map (menu) page
  • a chapter title page
  • a chapter introduction page
  • various chapter content pages (various standard layouts)
  • a chapter summary page
  • some example pages on how to use tables and graphs in the appropriate color scheme

This and the company styleguide document pretty much covers the look and feel. Interaction wise we are now in the process of creating slides and instructions on how to create interactions like how to create popup window and lightbox interactions.

Poornima Ramachandran

Nice. It will also be a good idea to decide upon a common Engage color scheme. If you are building a customized template, you can share that with your teammates as well. Here is teh blog by my teammate on how to share an Engage template - http://e-learnbasics.blogspot.com/2011/10/eureka-screams-apple-hit.html

Natalia Mueller

We have a bit more freedom in our department as far as look and feel. When multiple people are working on a project/series we want each team member to have the flexibility they need to focus on the instructional design of the course while still maintaining a consistent look and feel throughout the series. 

We make a lot of templates. Here is what some of them include:

PowerPoint - We'll create a color scheme, Title slide, make several background options, choose multiple fonts for different elements (Titles, headers, body, notes).

Along with the course template, we'll also make a shared Graphics & Animations deck. This will include all of the MAIN graphics- like icons, notes (post-it and pin), that sort of thing. These are static in files as well, but we like to keep them in a ppt deck with the animations included. That way everyone can copy/paste into our courses and the animations will be included. We will also use that deck to share any other animations we come up with along the way.

We are currently creating modules for software training so we also set a standard for screenshot size, callout style/color/size etc.

Word - We include support documents and practice exercises. For those we prefer to have a style guide over a true template. Word templates drive me nuts (personal opinion). So we limit the actual template to the logo and border. The rest is set up as a sample with font, size, layout, etc.

Presenter  - We have a player template that we all use so the color and controls are the same. 

Quizmaker- This template is also for consistent controls (buttons) , feedback style and Results terminology.

I do a lot of the template designing for the team because I enjoy it. One thing that we do that I think is very important- nothing is fully locked down. It's easy to get so caught up in creating standards that you take away a designer's ability to do what's best for the course and learning experience. When you have multiple people working on their own modules, there's going to be some variation and I think that's a good thing. As long as the main elements are consistent, the whole series will have a cohesive feel.

Catharina Olsson

I agree with Natalia. Try not to lock yourself into graphical guidelines as it will have effect on the instructional design. Especially, do not let anyone who doesn't understand the concept of elearning make PowerPoint templates. What looks decent on a big screen with an interesting speaker and peers to chat to about the content - it is not the same as sitting alone in fron of a computer doing elearning.

I'd suggest to get graphical elements that will give the 'feel' of the company or organisation you work for. It may be as little as one or a few  of the following: the title side and the final slide, the use of photos, the use of the logo, the color scheme,  the font etc. But as Natalia said, try to keep an open door and not lock anything. It prevents creativity and innovative ideas and simply can turn good learning experiences to boring ones.

Sean Bengry

Great responses by everyone... we have more than 40 Articulate developers based around the globe.  Very early on, we set up the following:

  • PowerPoint template (including slide masters for presentation slides, course title slides, lesson title slides, etc...)
  • Presenter player template and colorscheme (passed by using the playertemplate.xml file, so there is no question).
  • Engage player template and colorscheme
  • QuizMaker player template and colorscheme

We also have settings documents for each of the Articulate Studio tools above that walk through each of the dialog boxes and features detailing what the settings are, so that there is no question.

That usually takes care of the technical implementation, but then we also have a separate Visual Style Guide, Editorial Style Guide, and Animation Style Guide to provide strong principles and best practices about each of these areas.

Thus far, we've developed around 400 Articulate courses over the past few years, and the results are very thematically and visually consistent.  We have sets of different documents/settings for different sub-groups or product types.

Of course, there is a whole set of instructional design guidelines and principles that we also adhere to, but in terms of the media execution and deployment, the above templates, documents, and settings guide us to the final product after the content has been developed.

As well, we have a set of official brand guidelines that were used as the foundation to create the others.

Bruce Graham

Hi all...

I would just like to raise what, I think, is an important point here, based around design - similar to what Catharina mentioned.

In any (corporate?) eLearning, there are 2 x elements:

1> Branding/"style" - I soulw suggest you see this at the player level

2> Look and Feel - which happens at the slide/"stage" level.

When I am talking to clients I try and seperate these 2 out, because it allows you to address some of the issues raised above. For example, letting the "internal branding police" havea logo and a colour scheme in the player keeps them happy, sell it on the basis of "it gives an importance to the course".

On the other hand it ALSO then frees up your slide/stage from cases of "We must have the logo top-left on EVERYTHING" obsession, and allows the creative/eLearning types to change the look and feel at the COURSE level.

Another trick, if you have really obsessive requirements is to provide Downloads that always adhere to "the rules" to everything, but sell the concept that making things different each time at the slide level. People notice VARIETY, and the brain recognises DIFFERENCE. If you are in a planning meeting for this sort of stuff, ask (after checking!) everyone to descrive, exactly, the colour of the wallpaper in the main office. Very few will instantly be able to do so - becase it's something they have got used to. It's a great way to illustrate this simple concept to people.

As mentioned, rules stifle creative Instructional Design, but try and get the idea of difference embedded early on if you can.

Interesting content keeps interest.

Here's something I once created to try and illustrate the concept of "not the normal..." for a perfectly acceptable (?) eLearning course, on (ironically...) eLearning design.

Hope this burbling all makes sense.

Bruce

Chris Fletcher

In my previous job, we had strict branding rules, however where I am now, the brand is fuzzy to say the least.

When I cam e into the business I decided to build my own look and feel for the training modules based around the brand logo, colours and fonts. I find that having a template in place is really useful when you are designing large numbers of modules (such as compliance modules) as it means they all have the same consistency.

My termplate also means that people in the business know when the content has come from the L&D department. I tried to keep it slick, and use minimal real estate in the branding leaving me loads of room to be creative.

Ultimately though, if you create a ppt template, and include the line-guides for where you want headings etc to be placed, you can't really go wrong. You can define the font size and colour straight into the main document, and all anyone has to do is open the template when they're creating something new.

Sometimes though, a template wont do. In those instances, just encourage people to try and be true to as many elements as is possible for that piece of work. That's all I can suggest.

Oh, and DONT stretch images. Its a pet peeve. I can't stand proportionally wrong images. They look naff, and when it's a logo, it can really impact  people's opinion of your capabilities!!

C

Nikki Harris

Bruce Graham said:

Hi all...

I would just like to raise what, I think, is an important point here, based around design - similar to what Catharina mentioned.

In any (corporate?) eLearning, there are 2 x elements:

1> Branding/"style" - I soulw suggest you see this at the player level

2> Look and Feel - which happens at the slide/"stage" level.

When I am talking to clients I try and seperate these 2 out, because it allows you to address some of the issues raised above. For example, letting the "internal branding police" havea logo and a colour scheme in the player keeps them happy, sell it on the basis of "it gives an importance to the course".

On the other hand it ALSO then frees up your slide/stage from cases of "We must have the logo top-left on EVERYTHING" obsession, and allows the creative/eLearning types to change the look and feel at the COURSE level.

Another trick, if you have really obsessive requirements is to provide Downloads that always adhere to "the rules" to everything, but sell the concept that making things different each time at the slide level. People notice VARIETY, and the brain recognises DIFFERENCE. If you are in a planning meeting for this sort of stuff, ask (after checking!) everyone to descrive, exactly, the colour of the wallpaper in the main office. Very few will instantly be able to do so - becase it's something they have got used to. It's a great way to illustrate this simple concept to people.

As mentioned, rules stifle creative Instructional Design, but try and get the idea of difference embedded early on if you can.

Interesting content keeps interest.

Here's something I once created to try and illustrate the concept of "not the normal..." for a perfectly acceptable (?) eLearning course, on (ironically...) eLearning design.

Hope this burbling all makes sense.

Bruce


Bruce,

The course you created is awesome!!  Definitely going to share it with our team members!

Carla Stewart

Jeff Kortenbosch said:

We have a similar approach. Togheter with our brand center we've developed a template and made it available in various company color schemes. In the slidedeck we provide:

  • a title page in various layouts
  • a welcome page (optional)
  • a course objectives page
  • a course map (menu) page
  • a chapter title page
  • a chapter introduction page
  • various chapter content pages (various standard layouts)
  • a chapter summary page
  • some example pages on how to use tables and graphs in the appropriate color scheme

This sounds very desirable for helping us build out our templates. Would it be too much to request sharing a screenshot of each layout? I'd particularly interested in how the common elements are carried across the various screens.

Natalia Mueller

Here is a slide sorter view of one our course templates. This deck is what we all begin with in a course within this particular series. The content slides are actually under the slide master, but I pulled some of them in so you could see the types of things we use. What is not showing here is one more slide that we store in the master that includes the fonts/sizes/purpose and the most frequently used slide- blank (white). 

We like to use a regular ppt file for our standards versus a true template for the freedom is gives us. We also have some general animations built in to the beginning and end common slides for consistency. Other things we add for consistency is an Engage labeled graphic with navigation instructions, some intro/ending scripting and general graphics for things like "Tips" or "Caution". 

For the most part, all of our course designers have the freedom to do what they want with any of these elements so they don't get locked in to something that doesn't benefit the instructional design. The beginning, end and main color/font scheme is the same across all courses in the series. For everything in between, we are pretty flexible. We also design a completely different template for each series of courses so our employees aren't staring at the exact same design elements for every single course they take.