Using Design Themes to Build Course Starter Templates in E-Learning

Using Design Themes in E-Learning #450: Challenge | Recap

Learning new features requires time and effort, even in familiar apps like PowerPoint or Storyline 360. This holds true for new users as well as seasoned e-learning pros. 

Now, I totally get it. If you're out there grinding as a course designer, you're always racing against the clock. Finish one course, jump to the next - it's a never-ending cycle.

This type of crunch can push beginners to sidestep foundational techniques, opting for just getting things done.

For the more experienced users, they've developed a set of skills and routines that work for them. There's an aspect of familiarity and comfort. They know their way around the apps so well that stepping out to explore new workflows feels tedious or unnecessary.

And if there's one area that new and experienced users frequently avoid, it's design themes

What are Design Themes?

Storylines like PowerPoint uses design themes to manage your course's text stylestheme colorstheme fontsslide masters, and feedback masters

These features aren't the flashy ones making waves in marketing ads or headlining e-learning conferences.

But trust me, once you get the hang of using elements like slide masters and theme fonts, you'll hit a new level of efficiency and customization.

And working smartly and efficiently is what this week's challenge is all about.

🏆 Challenge of the Week

This week, your challenge is to show how design themes can be used in e-learning.

NOTE: This is more of a technical than a visual design challenge. I’m less concerned about your visual makeover than seeing how you leverage design theme elements to create an efficient and editable template.

You can create your theme colors, fonts, and slide placeholders from scratch or modify an existing slide or template. The goal of this challenge is to show how design themes can be used to ensure consistent designs that are quickly and efficiently updated.

How do I show design themes?

That's a great question. Since everything is below the slide, it can be challenging to appreciate how the design themes work.

Here are a few ideas for sharing examples to help others appreciate how your design theme elements were used:

  • Share your source files. 
  • Create a before and after demo. This can be simple, like using two slides to show the default and custom theme.
  • Include screenshots of your theme colors, theme fonts, and layouts.
  • Create a screencast and walk through the changes you applied.
  • Create a simple course starter template to show how your design themes carry across multiple slide types.

🧰 Resources

✨ Share Your E-Learning Work

  • Comments: Use the comments section below to link your published example and blog post.
  • Forums: Start a new thread and share a link to your published example.
  • Personal blog: If you have a blog, please consider writing about your challenges. We'll link to your posts so your great work gets even more exposure.
  • Social media: If you share your demos on Twitter or LinkedIn, try using #ELHChallenge so your tweeps can follow your e-learning coolness.

🙌 Last Week’s Challenge:

Before you customize what's under the hood of your e-learning slides, have a peek at how designers add emphasis animations to give life to the objects on top of the slide:

20+ Ways Course Designers Use Emphasis Animations in E-Learning #449

Emphasis Animation Examples RECAP #449: Challenge | Recap

👋 New to the E-Learning Challenges?

The weekly e-learning challenges are ongoing opportunities to learn, share, and build your e-learning portfolios. You can jump into any or all of the previous challenges anytime you want. I’ll update the recap posts to include your demos.

Learn more about the challenges in this Q&A post and why and how to participate in this helpful article.

📅 Next Week’s Challenge

  • Challenge #451(02.23): Self-promotion week! Share your e-learning portfolio to highlight your e-learning work. You can build a portfolio in Rise 360 or Storyline 360 or use your own website to showcase your work.
  • Challenge #452 (03.01): Using AI in e-learning. I last hosted a similar challenge nine months ago, but things are evolving quickly in this area. 

🚨 Contact Information

Just a quick heads up – if you want your blog, website, or LinkedIn included in our recap posts, could you do me a favor and add or update those links onto your ELH profile sometime this week?

I found some broken links last week when I pulled the recap together. You spend a lot of time building creative examples, and your work deserves all the attention it can get.

If you make changes, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

Jonathan Hill
Phil Foss
Jodi M. Sansone

Course Starter Template Demo: Download: Whenever I start working with a new client the first thing I do is create a template to explore what style, look, and devices (buttons, sliders, icons, etc.) they envision in their e-learning. Some clients are not super-experienced and they don't know what Storyline or Rise can do. We nail down the template elements and then I'll start developing their materials. I'll do 10 slides and then get more feedback before I waste time on something that doesn't work for them. Today's demo was inspired by a project I completed last December in Rise for a business services firm--I adapted the color palette to include Peach Fuzz ... Expand


Hi! A really interesting one this week! Looking forward to see how y'all work. Not much to "see" on my template: Since I work with different clients, I can't have a one size fits all template. BUT I do use the same file to start, because: - My first slide always contains guidelines to give feedback - I have a progress bar that is inserted inside the player to gain some space on my slides (thanks to a bit of javascript I found somewhere in the articulate community) - I'm using the idea of the accessibility webinar to have all the keyboard shortcuts accessible from the player - I have a slide that is not linked to anything but contains stuff I might have to copy paste like buttons with their st... Expand


Bonjour Heroes. I'm not very familiar with Design Themes because, as Jonathan and Jodi and Julie said, every project is special. However, I'd like to share with you something I do first every time I start a project. For me, with my own way of thinking and doing, it's a great time saver. I create a master slide mask (only one if possible, from an empty master slide) containing everything the slides will share: essential buttons, recurring layers, progress bar, timer, rewards, Menu, instructions, etc... and as many elements as possible. This is my first step. The advantage is obvious: if you need to change 1 thing, it will be the same for all 200 screens in your project. I'm curious to know if you share this method. (NB: little graphical effort in this demo. Mostly technical. File.story ... Expand

LinguaGraphics Articulate-Team
Kate Golomshtok
Amar Kulshreshtha