An E-Learning Stylebook

From E-Learning Faculty Modules


Contents

Module Summary

As part of some e-learning endeavors, instructors may work to build digital learning objects. They may take part in building lectures for a shared project. They may set up websites for their work. Any multimedia projects with any level of basic complexity would tend to work better with the affordances of an e-learning stylebook.

Takeaways

Learners will...

  • Explain the uses of e-learning stylebooks in a workplace environment (prior to a project, during a project, and after a project)
  • List the typical components of an e-learning stylebook and explain each of their functions
  • Describe the collaborative processes that contribute to the building of an e-learning stylebook
  • Highlight the features in an e-learning stylebook that will make it effective for applied work

Module Pretest

1. What are the uses of an e-learning stylebook in a workplace environment? How are such stylebooks used prior to a project, during a project, and after a project?

2. What are the typical components of an e-learning stylebook? What do each of these components bring to the work?

3. What are the collaborative processes that contribute to the building of an e-learning stylebook?

4. What are the features of an e-learning stylebook that will make it effective for applied work?

5. What are some projects that you’re working on that would benefit from having an e-learning stylebook, and why?

Main Contents

What are the roles of e-learning stylebooks in a workplace environment, prior to a project, during a project, and after a project?

In many workplaces, development teams will use work files (called “statements of work,” “proposals of work,” and “stylebooks”) to define the parameters of a project. Some of these files may be run through an enterprise-level shared work coordination software program, but others may use stand-alone work files.

Stylebook Purposes. The purposes of stylebooks are to coordinate the shared work, to define shared standards, and to have a reference file to support the work in three main stages:

Phase 1: Pre-work (the design phase)

Phase 2: During the main work (the development phase, including alpha and beta testing, and then revision)

Phase 3: After the work (the hand-off)

The reason why stylebooks are important is that they help people collaborate in more constructive ways. These works also enhance the quality of the shared work—so that the team members are building to a shared vision and shared requirements, on a shared timeline, with clear role definitions.

Prior to the design, a development team needs to collaborate around the defined standards of a project and plan strategies. They need to decide on shared deadlines. They need to know how the work should be submitted to the group. They have to be aware of the decision junctures of the project and how the shared decisions will be made.

In the development phase, the stylebook serves as a reference guide to make sure that the digital contents all follow the technological standards of the project.

In the third phase, when the project is handed off to others to maintain or when the project is considered fully completed, the stylebook serves as institutional memory for the back-end decision-making on the project. The stylebook serves as a reference for the guidelines for the information, the aesthetics, and other elements, for updates to the site as needed.

What are the typical components of an e-learning stylebook, and what are their functions? A stylebook needs to have the following items, usually:

  • A list of the development team members, their respective roles, and their contact information
  • A workflow showing what work needs to be done, when work decisions will be decided, when interactions will occur with the client (if relevant), and when deliverables will be delivered
  • The deadlines of the project—both hard deadlines, and some of the in-house soft deadlines
  • The pedagogical, technological, legal, accessibility, aesthetic, and other guidelines and standards of the project elements (both raw and processed files)
  • The software that the team will be using (to ensure compatibility of shared files)

What collaborative processes contribute to the building of an e-learning stylebook?

Even though project clients and stakeholders have a lot of impact on the “deliverables” of a project, they often define higher-level goals instead of the specific details of the digital deliverables’ aesthetics, technological standards, accessibility standards, and other requirements. Rather, the development team needs to co-develop standards based on whatever is extant in the field.

Also, the team has to assess what its capabilities are given the talent sets, equipment, and technologies.

The contents of a stylebook are not usually defined in a top-down fashion. Because most e-learning development teams are cross-functional and represent various types of expertise, a stylebook needs to be a representation of the voices of all the team members. Some basic roles represented in an e-learning team include the following:

  • Subject matter experts (from the domain field)
  • Faculty (if different from the SMEs above)
  • Instructional designers
  • Graphic artists
  • Web designers
  • Systems administrators, and
  • Legal counsel

What features of an e-learning stylebook will make it effective for the applied work?

A stylebook has to fit the project and the working style of the team. So each stylebook will have to be customized and often organically derived by the team. If a workplace has a generic stylebook that may be used as a template to ensure that organizational goals may be embedded, that would be a positive way to start.

Examples

Empty Draft Stylebook (.doc version)

Empty Draft Stylebook (.pdf version)

How To

Defining "Style" for Instructional Design Projects

Possible Pitfalls

Stylebooks are supposed to offer clear guidelines, but they’re not supposed to stifle innovation. These should evolve with the project. As the work progresses, the team members may find that they need to change the parameters in a stylebook. An e-learning stylebook should be highly editable (based on the workplace processes).

Another caveat: Some projects dealing with "emergent" curriculums may not use a stylebook early on. Rather, a stylebook may be evolved over the lifespan of the project.

Module Post-Test

1. What are the uses of an e-learning stylebook in a workplace environment? How are such stylebooks used prior to a project, during a project, and after a project?

2. What are the typical components of an e-learning stylebook? What do each of these components bring to the work?

3. What are the collaborative processes that contribute to the building of an e-learning stylebook?

4. What are the features of an e-learning stylebook that will make it effective for applied work?

5. What are some projects that you’re working on that would benefit from having an e-learning stylebook, and why?

References

Extra Resources

Using multimedia stylebooks for project quality

Jennifer Niederst Robbins’ “Learning Web Design”