5 Tips To Choose And Use Style Guides In eLearning

Style Guides In eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know

From Chicago to AP, there are a variety of different style guides that are widely used by writers, students, and eLearning content developers. However, finding the right guide for your eLearning course can be a daunting task, as it is a choice that is greatly affected by personal preferences and the subject matter. Even after selecting the ideal style guide, utilizing its guidelines may be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you identify which guide is best for your eLearning project and utilize it to create polished and effective eLearning course content.

Most Popular Style Guides

  • MLA.
    This is one of the most common style guides, especially for academic, foreign language, and humanity publications.  It’s been around since the 1980s and is widely used in universities across the United States.
  • Chicago.
    This is the must-have manual for history, religion, and philosophy topics. The Chicago Manual of Style is also known as Turabian, and share many similarities with the AP style. It is one of the most versatile style guides, as well, which makes it ideal for all-around studies.
  • AP.
    The Associated Press Stylebook, or AP, is popular in the journalism and public broadcasting sector. While the Chicago style features numbers and separate references, the AP style features a condensed version of these items. For example, eLearning content developers can simply mention the attribution in the text, itself, instead of providing a lengthy reference list at the end of the text.
  • Bluebook.
    If you’re creating a law-centric eLearning course, then you will definitely want to consider the Bluebook style guide, as it offers recommendations for legal citations. It is typically not used outside of the court system, however.
  • APA.
    The APA was introduced by the American Psychological Association, and is ideally suited for business and medical topics. This style is often found in medical journals and instructional aids.

5 Tips To Choose And Use Style Guides In eLearning

  1. Research your audience before making your decision.
    Due to the fact that every style guide centers on a specific industry or niche, it is essential to research your target audience to determine which is best for their specific needs. For example, using the Bluebook style might be ideal for legal learners, while the MLA style guide is best for those who are studying humanities. The prior knowledge of your online learners is also essential, as you need to know their personal experience levels and whether or not they are familiar with industry specific jargon.
  2. Make sure every member of your eLearning team is on the same page.
    A style guide is only truly effective if every member of your eLearning development team is on board. This also means that they should take the time to research the guide and ensure that they know all of the ins and outs. At its core, a style guide is simply a set of standards and recommendations, and it is completely up to your eLearning team how to use them. You should also get feedback from your eLearning team to see if they have any opinions or suggestions for the style guides they prefer.
  3. Be consistent when using references.
    The primary purpose of using style guide is to adhere to a particular set of standards, which adds cohesiveness and consistency to the content of your eLearning course. As such, you should stick to the style guide when citing your references. If you are going to be citing references at the end and simply including a numeral in-text, then you must so throughout the eLearning course. Also, steer clear of words like “he/she” or “that/this”, and instead be very clear about who or what you are referencing to.
  4. Style guides must align with your goals.
    In addition to your audience and subject matter, it’s imperative that you consider your personal preferences and goals when choosing a style guide. If you don’t particularly care for the Chicago style of referencing, then you may want to opt for the AP style guide, for example. You should also keep your writing and eLearning course objectives in mind. Creating medical eLearning course content that is more professional in nature, such as those that teach complex processes or theories, may require the APA style guide. On the other hand, if you are writing a casual online course that deals with more basic concepts, you may want to opt for the Chicago or AP style guide.
  5. Take time to learn the basic guidelines.
    To use the style guide most effectively, it’s wise to study the guidelines as much as possible and jot down notes on important points. However, it’s almost unfeasible to remember each and every item in the manual as every style guide has a myriad of “rules” and recommendations to follow. Thus, you may want to have the guide on hand when you are creating your eLearning course so that you can use it as quick reference. When you reach a point where you are a bit unsure about how to cite a reference, punctuate a sentence, or include a quote, you can simply look at the style guide to get your answer.

Although there are many style guides, doing your research and finding the one that is right for your needs can make a significant difference. If necessary, create your own style guide that features guidelines from existing manuals. Just make sure that you develop a detailed list of punctuation, formatting, referencing, and grammar recommendations for your eLearning team to follow.

While choosing the right style guide is essential, knowing how to proofread and edit your eLearning course is of the upmost importance. Read the article 7 Tips For Proofreading And Editing Your eLearning Course to learn about 7 top tips that can help you further polish and perfect your eLearning course.

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