Tips for Building a Template for Your E-Learning Courses

Rod and Desiree have already shared tips on some of the steps to get a new e-learning project up and running: getting or creating a style guide and establishing design standards.  Another key step for getting started is to create page templates that can be used for the entire course.

Whether you’re the only developer at your company or one in a team of a dozen, it can pay to have templates. Templates save you time in the long run because you can program a lot of the functionality once up front. Having templates can ensure consistency across the courses and across developers. Below are several of the items you might want to include when creating templates.

1. Navigation and Utilities

Most courses have a set of navigation and utility elements such as a table of contents or menu, resources or help link, and navigation buttons such as Next, Back, Home, Replay. Depending on the software you use, some of these elements might have to live on every single page. Setting up that logic in advance saves a lot of time when it comes time to build the course.

2. Content Pages

Your courses probably include several different types of content screens, such as a content-only slide, a video slide, a drag-and-drop interaction, a question slide, question feedback, etc. You may also want to create a standard introductory slide, lesson title slides, a quiz instructions slide, and a closing screen.

3. Screen Elements

In addition to having full content page templates laid out, it is also useful to create commonly used screen elements, such as text boxes, lines and arrows, buttons, highlight boxes, tables, on-screen text, captions, and photos. Having these raw materials at your disposal makes it quick to create custom pages when one of your standard page templates won’t work.

4. Custom Programming

If your courses require any custom programming, the template is the perfectplace to include that. For example, I am developing a course in Storyline to work on the iPad. For a custom link to replay a slide, I need several triggers (stop currently playing media, jump to slide/layer, and trigger the media).

5. Developer Notes

Lastly, take the time to include detailed instructions and explanation for each element. This can be the most time-consuming part of the template creation process, but can also be the most important. Sharing the logic lets anyone in the organization use the template properly without having to figure out what you were thinking when you built it.

For example, on the Storyline iPad project, I’ve had to construct slides with multiple layers when there is more than one audio file. Someone new to the project might have trouble finding the audio files or accidentally delete some of the key logic that makes it work. A brief explanation makes it clear that there is, in fact, a method to the madness.

Taking the time to create a template for your courses can be a daunting task, but remember that the time you take to do it now multiplies your future time-savings! What else do you include in your course templates?

Nick Elkins

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