As instructional designers we wear many hats – graphic designer, developer, programmer, project manager, and tester to name a few. Often, at the end of building a course we are so embedded in everything about it, from the way it functions to the way it looks and feels to the color palette and font choice. In fact, we probably have course fatigue and sometimes just want to be done with it. However, performing a quality assurance (QA) test of your course prior to publishing or turning over to the client for final review is essential. There are many things we need to check to make sure the course construction is complete. I’ll discuss three, big course-wide items to check.
Obviously, if you build a simple, content-heavy, click-through course, this isn’t as much of an issue. But, if you build something like a branching scenario, you want to make sure you are branching to the right scenes/slides in your course. If you build a course with custom previous and next buttons that don’t live on a master slide, you will need to check their destinations. You also need to make sure if you click on “Previous” you are directed to the right slide. Is it the slide right before the current slide in your course structure, or the slide you were on before coming to the current slide? Also, if you build a custom navigation set, make sure it has a consistent visual design. If you are using text, is it the same font family, weight, style throughout the course? If there are buttons, are they formatted consistently with regard to colors, hover states, etc.?
When building courses, I try to use two fonts, one for headings and one for body text. Text and media are really what your course is made of, so it is important to have a tight, consistent look for your text so as not to distract from the learner’s ability to absorb the content. When you QA your course, check for the following items with regard to text. First of all, is the same font family used throughout the course? Nothing cries distraction and poor design than text being in different fonts from slide to slide. Also, are the sizes consistent throughout the course? If you decide on 24 pt headers for each slide, are they all 24 pt? Is your body text all one standard size? Or does it increase and decrease, depending on the number of bullets you add, ala PowerPoint? By the way, you are trying not to use a lot of bullets in your course right? If you have certain key terms that need to be italicized or bolded, have you formatted these throughout the course?
Finally, what about the image assets in your course? Are your photos high quality or do they have that grainy, pixellated low-res look? If the latter, see if you can get better images from your client or find suitable substitutes online. Are your non-photo images good quality? Do they represent a consistent style or do they look like a mish-mash of bad clip art? Also, do your images or photos need borders? If so, use the same thickness and color for all of them. Rather than the standard black border, I frequently pick a color from my course palette or something that complements it.
Is that it?
Unfortunately, no. There are a multitude of items to check when reviewing your course. However, navigation, text, and images are the big three that learners will spot right away. Make sure these are consistent and fully-functioning to ensure a better learner experience.