Templating

From E-Learning Faculty Modules


Contents

Module Summary

For complex group projects, templating is an important tool in the development of contents to support online learning. This short module addresses what templating is, how templates are created and evolved, what standards templates are built to address, and other information.


Takeaways

Learners will...

  • explore what templates are, the main features of common templates used in instructional design, and their application in an instructional design context
  • consider ways that templates are developed and evolved over time, and the main differences between static and dynamic templates
  • review some laws, policies, and standards that templates are built to address…as well as branding considerations
  • think about why it is important to maintain the raw documentation behind templates and also examples of fully realized digital learning objects
  • review the importance of occasionally using non-templated designs for digital learning objects


Module Pretest

1. What are templates? What are the main features of common templates used in instructional design? Why are templates useful in instructional design?

2. What are some ways that templates (for instructional design) are developed? How are they evolved over time? What are “static” vs. “dynamic” templates?

3. What are some laws / policies / standards that templates are built to address, in an instructional design context? What are some branding considerations that templates are built to address?

4. Why is it important to maintain the raw documentation that led to the development of particular templates? Why is it important to augment templates with fully realized (and pilot-tested) digital learning objects based on those templates? How are such exemplars insightful? Why is it important to have both a nascent sense of templates and instantiated senses (as a continuum)?

5. Why is it also important to leave room for non-templated digital learning objects for instructional design projects using templates?


Main Contents

1. What are templates? What are the main features of common templates used in instructional design? Why are templates useful in instructional design?

Templates, in this context, are essentially patterned forms used to help designers and developers of digital learning objects. A template may be built for any type of digital file: a slideshow, a transcript, a Q&A, a podcast audio, a video, a gameplay sequence, a simulation, and so on.

The main features of common templates vary. Templates generally define structures, such as built-in data structures, time structures (for sequencing), navigational structures (like development sequencing), and others. (For example, a slideshow may have a cover slide. It may have several introductory slides that serve as tables of contents or overviews or introductions. The subheadings may be applied for sequencing. There may be a source reference citations section. The conclusion may contain contact information. As another example, a video may contain a particular “intro” and a particular “outro,” with particular print information, music, timing, and so on.) Templates define stylistic features: fonts, font sizes, word forms, labels; visual elements like “skinning” and logos and glyphs; overarching stylistic patterns, and so on. Templates often contain requirements for legal: copyright notices, credits releases, and so on.

Templates come in all digital forms that are used in authoring tools, with placeholder text and other elements (“this goes here…” “ that goes there…”). For example, video templates may be forms created in the proprietary file formats of the editing tools for video. This way, video content may be ingested into the project files and edited with the available visual and sound (waveform) overlays. As another example, the code may be pre-written for various online appearances, behaviors, and branching logic, for objects in immersive virtual worlds or sequences in online surveys.

Templates are very important in instructional design because they enable some or all of the following:

  • consistency (down to the pixel)
  • comprehensiveness
  • capture of necessary details
  • design and development efficiencies
  • enforced standards

In instructional design and development, templates are often used along with stylebooks, so that those who are using the templates know the project-based standards for the contents.


2. What are some ways that templates (for instructional design) are developed? How are they evolved over time? What are “static” vs. “dynamic” templates?

In general, shared templates in an instructional design project are developed in a consensual way, with the mixed team members meeting to co-develop the templates and then ensuring that these are available to all team members. If a generic template requires revision, with all prior-created works requiring updates, that updating is done as early as possible—so that all subsequent work can include all necessary standards.

Authoring tools will update over time, and with those changes, the related templates will need to be updated. As important, the content needs will likely change over time as well. Templates may change as new laws or policies require new information…as new theories of learning are applied…as new designs are applied…as new design or development features are available, and so on.

Most templating will be explored at the beginning of each instructional design project, to ensure that the project needs will be met by the particular templates.

A “static” template is designed once and not updated again. A “dynamic” one evolves over time as new needs are discovered.


3. What are some laws / policies / standards that templates are built to address, in an instructional design context? What are some branding considerations that templates are built to address?

In instructional design, some common applicable laws include the following:

U.S. Copyright law

web accessibility per Section 508

trademark law from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

general Media Law (particularly issues of privacy, trespass, and defamation)

Templates should be designed to consider the various legal needs that need to be met. If there are disclaimers in play, those should be applied clearly. If copyrighted contents are used, the original owners should be credited, and the legal releases for the contents should be documented formally in the raw files collection supporting a learning object. If items are released to the public domain, that should be noted. And so on.

Technologically, there are underlying reference models and standards that enable digital learning objects to be reusable. These systems require both metadata and specific technological outputs, and these may inform the templates as well.

Branding refers to the look-and-feel of a learning object or a series of learning objects. Branding is partially created included design logos. Digital learning objects should have clear branding, specific to particular color palettes and legally-used designs.


4. Why is it important to maintain the raw documentation that led to the development of particular templates? Why is it important to augment templates with fully realized (and pilot-tested) digital learning objects based on those templates? How are such exemplars insightful? Why is it important to have both a nascent sense of templates and instantiated senses (as a continuum)?

It is important to maintain the raw documentation that led to the development of particular templates to help a design and development team understand the reasoning behind particular decisions, to reaffirm their commitment to follow through on the templates’ usage, and to clarify decision-making whenever the handoff of the project is made to others.

Having fully-realized digital learning objects built on the template structure broadens users’ understandings of how the template supports the design and development work. It also, more importantly, shows how much creativity may be built over the structures of templates. A digital learning object does not have to be deeply constrained.

In other words, it helps to have a sense of the entire continuum for templating: from their initial design to their application in finalized and polished digital learning objects. This way, users of the templates can understand their rationale…and how they apply to actual finalized objects. Designers and developers can be freed from unnecessary restrictions but encouraged to stay within the requirements of the necessary ones.


5. Why is it also important to leave room for non-templated digital learning objects for instructional design projects using templates?

In every instructional design project, only some elements will be sufficiently generic and common to require templating: the slideshows, the videos, and so on. If the learning is based on cases, having templates of cases would be helpful, maybe one version for text-and-image-based and another version for multimedia-rich. There is often an interplay between patterned experiences and unpatterned ones.

Beyond the basic contents of an online learning course, there will be anomalous experiences—like simulations or plays or virtual world experiences. One-offs may not require templating.

Also, the point of templating is to support the work of designers and developers to create the optimal online learning experiences. If the templates are getting in the way of the work, they should be redesigned for efficacy and appropriateness. If they are getting in the way, they have not been designed properly.

Also, the templates should not get in the way of the work. They should not limit thinking…but free up cognitive space for unique and engaging designs (even if these sometimes require the uses of non-templated digital learning objects).

Examples

How To

There are a number of ways to create templates. One is to create a digital learning object first, and then save a version of the DLO as a template, and strip out all contents. This stripped down version should be reformulated as a template, with the retaining and addition of all requisite elements…for a generic template.

Or build a template from ground up after defining what is relevant for the respective project and digital form.

Possible Pitfalls

If the templates are not designed consensually and with input by the mixed teams, the resulting templates may not be particularly effective.

If the templates are not updated regularly, they may no longer be particularly relevant. Remember that a lot of factors affect the relevance of templates: laws, policies, technologies, technical specifications, and others.

Templates should not restrict creativity; they should enhance it.

Module Post-Test

1. What are templates? What are the main features of common templates used in instructional design? Why are templates useful in instructional design?

2. What are some ways that templates (for instructional design) are developed? How are they evolved over time? What are “static” vs. “dynamic” templates?

3. What are some laws / policies / standards that templates are built to address, in an instructional design context? What are some branding considerations that templates are built to address?

4. Why is it important to maintain the raw documentation that led to the development of particular templates? Why is it important to augment templates with fully realized (and pilot-tested) digital learning objects based on those templates? How are such exemplars insightful? Why is it important to have both a nascent sense of templates and instantiated senses (as a continuum)?

5. Why is it also important to leave room for non-templated digital learning objects for instructional design projects using templates?


References

Extra Resources