Providing services in instructional design, virtual training, and human performance improvement.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Developing Templates: Style Guides

Developing a style guide (sometimes called a stylebook) is one of the most important support documents we create and maintain within a project. By creating a strong style guide prior to design and development, you set expectations and standards for the project. This means you avoid costly time spent going back to make revisions and corrections across a sloppy or inconsistent product.

In essence, a style guide sets the standard for the writing and design of a document or other deliverable. Style guides vary from company to company, but here are some basic categories to consider including:
  • Accommodation requirements (American Disabilities Act, Section 508 Compliance)
  • Document and asset repositories (file locations, shared sites)
  • Editorial
    • Capitalization
    • Grammar
    • Punctuation
    • Spelling
  • Formatting and style
    • Assessment format (question types and format)
    • Fonts and colors
    • Storyboard/Screen layout conventions
    • Text formatting
    • Titles and subtitles
  • Media conventions (audio, image, video)
  • Naming conventions
The style guide categories will vary depending on the format of your deliverable. A basic text document may only need editorial and formatting conventions. A web-based training, however, may need conventions for screen layouts, media use, and other product specific considerations.

If you are creating a style guide for the first time, keep in mind that you don’t have to start from scratch. You may be able to start from a corporate style or marketing guide that addresses items commonly encountered in that particular company.

With regards to spelling, grammar, and punctuation, you can also consult a published stylebook as a secondary guideline. Some popular stylebook options are:
  • Chicago Manual of Style (preferred in book publishing)
  • Associate Press Stylebook or AP (preferred in magazine and newspaper writing)
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association or APA (preferred in academic
From these resources, client needs, and your own best practices, you can create a strong template to ensure consistency and professionalism across your projects.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Developing Templates: The CDD

After project kick-off and scheduling is complete, one of the first documents created and delivered to a client is often a course design document (CDD). This document can take many forms and can include different sections and content, but it serves as an agreement between the client and designers on how to proceed forward.

Our basic Victor 12 CDD is a Word document that outlines the proposed design, content, and delivery methods to be used. The CDD is usually created in concert with or directly before the first prototype. It is a “living document” in that it may be updated as the project progresses to reflect approved changes in the design strategy or technical specifications.

In this post, we’ll consider a few sections that we typically include in a CDD template.
  • Audience
This section outlines who needs this course or training. What is their position? What roles do they play in the organization? Where are they geographically located and are they in the same time zone? Do they work the same shifts? And, often overlooked but very important, what tools is your audience able to use? (Macs, PCs, laptops, cell phones, shared computers, etc.)
Ideally, all of this information would be provided prior to beginning course design, but including this section helps to remind everyone of who will ultimately receive the training.
  • Assumptions
In order to move forward with course design and development, it is often necessary to make assumptions. These assumptions help avoid project delays and, when documented in the CDD, can encourage team members to obtain missing information. Some assumptions may include:
    • Minimum technical specifications that a user’s computer will have
    • User’s internet access and speed, as well as their browser configuration 
    • Ability for users to perform technical functions (such as dial into a private line while concurrently accessing internet on an individual computer) 
    • Estimated “seat time” for the course 
    • Section 508 compliance needs
    • Any assumptions about content the client did not provide or clarify, such as acceptable references to use moving forward
  • Objectives
Course objectives should be listed very clearly. Depending upon client needs, you may want to include behavioral indicators, terminal learning objectives, enabling learning objectives, and cognitive levels for each objective. It may also be helpful to outline where each objective is supported in the course.
  • Delivery solution(s)
Include how the course or training will be delivered. Are you using web-based training (WBT), virtual instructor-led training (VILT), face-to-face, performance support, or other solutions? Is your solution consistent throughout or will you blend the options by module, lesson, or topic? It is also helpful to explain the appropriateness of each solution and why it was selected.
  • Learning activities
What learning activities and strategies will occur during the course? There are several ways to organize this section. We often find it helpful to create a table outlining the course by module and/or lesson with columns for learning objectives and the supporting learning activities and strategies.
  • Content and references
What content information will support each learning activity? What is the source for this information? Include references and designated subject matter experts (SMEs) that can be consulted during design and development.

The CDD is very customizable per client and project. Additional sections, such as timing, instructional strategies, and evaluation strategies, can be added to the document, as needed. When complete, the CDD provides a framework for the course design and, upon acceptance by the client, allows full design and development to commence.

What other sections have you found helpful to include in course design documents?