One of the things we consistently find with training teams is their desire to reuse things they’ve already created.

Depending on the diversity of the courses you develop, you may not be able to reuse the content per se, but you could still create structures to serve as “templates” that can be quickly reused in future courses. This capability is something you should weigh when looking at various course development tools—and is something that Articulate Storyline handles quite well.

This was a topic we were recently discussing with one of our clients, and here are some of the considerations we discussed with them.

Determine Your Branding Requirements

As with any project, you need to determine what you want your courses to look and feel like. This is even more important when you are creating a look and feel that spans an entire library of courses. Work with the appropriate stakeholders (this often includes the Marketing department) to find out what requirements they already have in place, how closely you need to adhere to those standards for your courses, and what they have created that you might be able to leverage.

You want to settle on a look and feel that does justice to the overarching company branding requirements while also meeting the needs of your training courses.

Categorize Commonly Used Layouts and Interactions

Look at courses you’ve created before (or ones you’ve seen developed elsewhere) and try to categorize the different types of screens you see yourself using. This can include various layouts for content slides, and different types of interactions for various activities.

The whole point of creating design templates is to give yourself pre-built slides that jump-start your development on future projects. This means you need to think about the types of things you see yourself doing over and over again. Make sure you address the things you see yourself doing most often. However, don’t forget to also prioritize those types of screens that you may not use quite as frequently, but that take you a lot of time to create.

Achieve Diversity AND Consistency

Imagine if you used the exact same slide layout on every screen of your course. This would make for some pretty efficient design and development, but also for some pretty sleepy learners. On the other hand, if every single slide in the course was different, it would feel scattered and learners would never get into the comfort zone that familiarity brings.

There is a balance somewhere in the middle that allows courses to feel diverse, and yet consistent. You want everything in your template set to give your learners enough variety to keep things interesting, while still feeling like all your slides are part of the same family.

Don’t Customize Too Much

Adding custom interactions or advanced activities can be a great way to spice up a course. However, trying to turn these into templates can be challenging. The more complex your interaction is, the more work it takes to “break it apart” and make the required customizations.

Along these lines, make sure you think of things in terms of their global usability rather than specific use cases for a particular item. The more specialized an interaction is for a specific use, the less likely it will be that you can re-use it over and over.

Adding One-Offs is Still a Good Idea

Don’t feel like your templates need to encompass 100% of the slides you will include in your courses. Sometimes that perfect activity doesn’t fit neatly into a broadly re-usable box. With that being said, don’t let that discourage you from adding in some of this extra spice.

As long as your custom screens adhere to the branding guidelines and still feel like part of the family (probably more like a second cousin than a sibling) then they can be great to create additional engagement.

Remember, the purpose of creating reusable templates is to streamline development and create consistency, not to suck the creative life out of your courses. Look at it this way: if you can gain enough efficiency by creating re-usable elements, it will afford you the time to still include a few of these one-offs as well.

It’s All About Balance with eLearning Customization

Efficiency is a bit of a theme this month on the ThinkingKap blog, and for good reason. As with any business, time = money.

Find a course development tool that allows you to design efficiently and effectively, and then keep the balance between eLearning customization and reusability. As you do, your clients will learn to love you for the cohesiveness you provide to their training initiatives.