Using templates to make eLearning development easier

The email has arrived, the “BIG” project has been signed off, all systems are go, you just need to produce over a thousand screens of content before the grand unveiling.

B Online Learning went through this process when we were selected via a competitive tendering process by NSW Health to develop a comprehensive online training package for Get Healthy at Work – a NSW Government initiative available to all businesses regardless of size or industry. The content was to be made available to both businesses and Get Healthy at Work service providers and was required to use the same design and interactive elements across all of the modules. The colour schemes for the modules were required to be varied based on the broad topic group. (There were 4 distinct colour schemes, 4 distinct topic groups, 13 modules varying in length from 30 minutes to 2 hours).

The biggest challenge in this project was to have multiple developers working across multiple content items but achieving a totally consistent look, feel and function between each content item which ranged from each of the program cycle steps to support Workplace Health Program development and each of the health focus areas within scope of Get Healthy at Work including; healthy eating, physical activity, healthy weight, active travel, smoking and alcohol.

I have included some screen shots from this content build so that you can see what we achieved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When building a large piece of content or a suite of interrelated content items you have to think big picture before you delve into the detail.

First Choice. What is the right tool for the development? This may seem like a straight forward choice however there are a few elements that make some development tools superior to others when building multiple content objects.

The main consideration in the tool is how easily it can create and share design elements from one content object to the next. Ideally you want to set up one template and from that one template be able to create all of your individual content elements with the standardised functionality and look and feel, but at the same time be able to easily adjust design elements like colour schemes so that where the function of a drag and drop will be the same the look and feel will suit the topics branded colour scheme.

You also should have a tool that makes sharing this adaptive template very easy. If everyone is using their own personally adjusted version of the template then consistency starts to deteriorate.

Any changes made to the master template over time should automatically update pre-built screens when the template is applied. If nothing else this is a massive time saver.

All of these functions are a native part of Articulate Storyline development tool. That’s why we use it.

Now that you have your tool selected you need to create the actual template and that design process should encompass at least the following items:

  • Correctly branded fonts
  • Branded colour schemes for shapes
  • Branded colour schemes for interactive elements like buttons
  • Client logo placement
  • Screen frame
  • Standard character sets

Storyline takes this several steps further by allowing you to include specific interactive elements as part of the template such as:

  • Non-Standard navigation controls
  • Custom menus
  • Custom resources
  • Interactive screens
    • Tab interactions
    • Drag and drop
    • Hover and reveal
    • Timeline interactions
    • Process interactions
    • Quiz screens
    • Results slides
    • Navigation slides
  • Animated introductory screens

Actually any screen you can build in Storyline can be turned into a template, which means that your developer group will always create perfectly consistent work, even if they work from home or even in another state.

On top of this, because Storyline files are so easy to share across a network, you don’t even need to have one person working on the template by themselves (Which could slow down the eventual build as everyone waits for the template to be finished). The template development can be shared amongst different developers who have been tasked to just focus on one template aspect.

Now that you have your tool and your template, you can go ahead and populate the words and interactions for the content and get a perfectly consistent result. But one large element remains and that is your media.

  • Imagery
  • Video
  • Audio
  • External Links

The media elements are usually added in the final stages of the build because they are often items that take longer and cost more to produce as well as being difficult or costly to remake once they are produced.

All of these items need to be considered with the same thoughtful planning as your content template. Unlike the template for fonts and colours etc, these elements are going to vary from screen to screen as they are generally employed to coincide with subject specifically on that screen. So how do we control these elements and achieve our professional design and consistency.

The two best tips I can offer for these media items are:

  1. Have a written media guideline that outlines the requirements for all media elements, e.g. for images it would specify the image type, quality, size or for your audio voiceover, whether the voiceover should match the screen text or talk around the screen text.
  2. Use a share network resource store the media elements for the whole build. This way the developers can see what other media elements people are using, share those elements and source new elements that thematically match the existing ones.

With all of these pieces in place, a robust yet flexible tool like Articulate Storyline, a standardised template that is easy to use share and maintain, covers all of the visual design and interactive elements, guidelines for the use of media and share network resources and your massive and scary project becomes a completely manageable and enjoyable task.

For more information on Get Healthy at Work and to access the online training tutorial package visit the Get Healthy at Work website.

To learn more about our Articulate content development services please visit our website here.