Maintaining consistency and uniformity in online courses is essential, not only to sustain learners’ interest but also to have a positive impact on them. Content creation for online learning modules is often taken up by varied individuals/teams in an organization. Different individuals have different writing/presentation styles and preferences.
Why a Style Guide?
A style guide is an established method by which organizations can ensure that a semblance of uniformity and regularity is maintained in the content generated by different persons, at varied times.
A style guide lays down the accepted and commonly followed practices on basic template designs, written style including tone, spelling, and language, usage of symbols, numbers, and lists. It lays down common internal and external standards in grammar usage (capitalization, commas, etc.), fonts, page layouts, sentence structuring, graphic design, etc., that serve as reference and training tools for individuals creating content for online courses.
Let’s understand the importance of a style guide in e-learning establishments and the core areas of focus that style guides usually elaborate on.
Style guides are important as they set out rules on how the finished e-learning product looks and feels. For e-learning courses, or any written document or product, to have a professional and polished output, they need to be very careful in ensuring consistency and regularity.
A few key factors that make style guides essential and important in content creation and e-learning include:
E-learning output often reflects a creator’s individuality and preferences. When a number of individuals/teams work on various modules and courses, differences and variations are bound to emerge, which can often distract learners. Style guides are critical to create a look and feel in the output that is consistent and uniform. Creating a style guide is essential for organizations where various people in diverse units build training courses, and where the finished product needs to be consistent. One has to understand that learners get distracted easily and will lose interest and faith in content that is not consistent and professional.
- Having an established reference document for content development ensures employees don’t have to separately look up for reviewing and editing options. Looking for the style to be maintained, takes time. A readymade reference point, as provided in a style guide, encourages the usage of best practices, and thereby saves lots of time. It simplifies the review process also, thereby substantially reducing the time that might have been needed to search for and choose the writing style.
- Streamlining guidelines on the usage of fonts, colors, templates, references, presentation styles, etc. through a style guide reduces time in content creation and the review process, reducing production costs. It saves time as issues and queries on formatting, style, and accuracy that come up in writing or designing are answered at a single place, thereby reducing the time spent on writing, reviewing, and editing documents.
Aesthetics play an important part in impressing and sustaining a learner’s attention. Inconsistent use of fonts, sizes, bullets, user interface, screen layouts, etc. negatively impacts e-learning and learners’ appreciation of a course. A style guide avoids this predicament by standardizing the elements to ensure uniformity.
Correct and consistent spellings and punctuations, consistent references, and language usage – all are needed to create an output that has a professional touch and reassures learners about your professional competence. Inconsistencies have a way of gaining learner attention, that can often cast aspersions on the professional competencies of the course/module designer. It has emerged that in this age of technology and speed, a style guide ensures that the generated output helps in maintaining, reflecting, and enhancing the company’s brand values. It helps maintain and enhance your company’s external image. Style guides help in maintaining a level of sophistication in the output generated.
Creating and periodically updating the style guide is an important way of ensuring output that is polished, professional, and delivers its objectives effectively. Content creators and e-learning establishments are recommended to have a style guide which, while not inhibiting creativity, will guide all associated individuals/teams onto a common platform of presentation that is pleasing and attractive.