FutureLearn writing and editorial style guide
The FutureLearn writing and editorial style guide is designed to assist all individuals associated with writing Deakin FutureLearn courses, including unit chairs, academics, sessional staff, senior education developers, learning designers and multimedia developers to apply consistent <writing>, <editorial> and <referencing> standards to all Deakin FutureLearn courses.
It also includes information about <copyright> and a knowledge-sharing section for <digital developers >.
This style guide reflects current best-practice and is based on an amalgamation of the Deakin digital content and tone of voice style guides (n.d), DeakinCo style guide (2016); the Style manual: for authors, editors and printers (6th edn, John Wiley & Sons, Brisbane 2002); the FutureLearn style guide and information for course builders; and that of the most recent edition of the Macquarie Dictionary.
In cases where School- or discipline-specific conventions vary from this style guide, individual judgment should be exercised in terms of balancing these conventions with the overarching objectives of Deakin’s FutureLearn project. In such cases, any such deviations from the Deakin FutureLearn style guide should be applied consistently within a given School’s FutureLearn-delivered programs and courses.
1.0 Writing for FutureLearn
2.0 General editorial style for FutureLearn
3.0 Referencing and source attribution
4.0 Copyright attribution
5.0 Build formatting guide
This guide provides information about our key formatting styles. For more information about FutureLearn syntax/mark-up, see the FutureLearn markdown syntax guide.
Image and video specifications
Find the specifications (dimensions, resolution, etc) for images and videos on the FutureLearn partners' website. Note: You'll need to request access before you can access this site. Speak to <Hannah> about making a request.
Youtube videos can be embedded directly into content using markdown. See the markdown guide for more information.
Alt attributes (or alt text or tags) are descriptive text that Google’s search algorithm can sift through and are displayed on-screen when images can’t be. Alt attributes also have an important role in making content <accessible> for users with disabilities so it's important to include it where possible.
For open courses, we should also name image files appropriately for search engines by having each images’ file name feature at least one primary keyword plus Deakin (eg deakin-scholarships-at-deakin.jpg).
- Be accurately descriptive with your alternate text. Those with visual disabilities rely entirely on your description to allow them to visualise an image.
- If an image doesn't add significant meaning to a piece it may be assigned an alt text of 'decorative only'.
- For captions sitting below embedded assets such as diagrams and tables, use caption/ reference .
- Captions used for hero images should always convey meaning. Use your discretion and do not include a caption (or revise with your learning designer) if the hero image is self-explanatory, or the caption does not add meaning to the content
- Use a full stop for full sentences
- Avoid fragments (ask senior education designer to re-write as a full sentence). Sometimes, it's better to say nothing than to say something that means nothing
- We use 3PlayMedia to caption videos
- Captions are required for all videos on FutureLearn
- Video pdf transcripts no longer need to be included with videos - you may delete these if you see them included in existing videos.All video captions should be proofed for the following upon return from 3Play:
- Timing the captions should be in-sync with the audio
- The captions accurately reflect what's being said in the audio (even if at times it is not grammatically correct). 3Play is an automated captioning service so errors can slip through if we don't check - see tips below for some common mistakes to look out for.
- Supers, including logos, banners, other text/motion graphics, should not sit behind video captions. (Note: video captions utilise the lower third of the video screen.)
- Use the 3Play edit function or open the vtt file in a code editing software to make changes.
Errors to look out for in 3Play captions:
- Names misspelt (especially that of our lead educator Chie Adachi, not Chia Adachi!)
- 'Speaker 1' or 'interviewer' should be changed to the actual name of the speaker
- 'week one' should be changed to Week 1
- American spelling vs British spelling - we prefer British spelling (refer to the Macquarie Dictionary for preferred spelling conventions)
File naming conventions
Image, video and graphics file names should all include the correct and final step number they refer to. All assets need to be saved to the appropriate file in the server. For example:
- images: MIS782_Step 1.2_Getty12345678.jpg
- video: MIS782_Step 1.5_Step title_Finalised.mp3
- graphics: MIS782_Step 1.8_graphic_Caption or title.png
Deakin University is committed to providing content that's accessible to everyone. The current accessibility standards that we aim for are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. Accessibility includes:
- creating appropriate semantic tags within a website's structure to make it easier to navigate for people using voice readers
- including alternate text (alt text) on images
- ensuring that diagrams and pictorials have accessible versions available
- using colour schemes with high contrast for those with visual impairments
- including captioning on videos for those with hearing impairments.
For free open courses, FutureLearn requires that all content that we create is fully accessible.
For closed courses, although not an imperative of FutureLearn, we should still strive to continually improve our content towards the WCAG 2.0 standards.
Tip: Accessibility is an extremely detailed and constantly evolving subject so don't feel overwhelmed by the amount of detail you come across! Good places to start learning about accessibility are Deakin's accessibility training course and this free open course on FutureLearn.
For detailed tutorials on how to create accessible content, check out Lynda.
5.2 Structural Assets
Exercise steps need to be requested with FutureLearn. To request an exercise step, flag your item with Wendy by creating a post in Microsoft teams under the D@FutureLearn Project > Items for FutureLearn channel.
Tag Wendy and include the course name, step number, step location and a link to the exercise activity (eg Typeform). For example:
- "Hi @Wendy could I please request that an exercise step be created for MPL701.4, in step 1.5 here: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/mpl701-4/1/steps/448270. Here is the Typeform link: https://dlfuture.typeform.com/to/Tylyes"
Padlet and AnswerGarden
Occasionally within a course students may be encouraged to participate by contributing to an AnswerGarden or Padlet.
Padlet is another collaborative space for representing thoughts and ideas but it has broader capabilities. Students can pin images and text blocks to a digital wall and also contribute with likes and comments (optional) on others' posts. Login is required - Speak to <Johnny> for access.
Padlets and AnswerGardens are usually presented to students as a hyperlink within a Step. To grab the hyperlink, head to your Padlet/AnswerGarden (login first if necessary) wall and look for the 'Share' option.
Each rerun, existing Padlets and AnswerGardens should be checked. If the Padlet/AnswerGarden appears to be overrun with answers then it is time to create a new one. Otherwise, the same one can be carried over to the new run.
5.3 SEO considerations
The following SEO considerations only apply to open steps in open courses (closed courses are not accessible by public searches).
- Ideally course, week, activity and step titles should not exceed 55 characters (this is the limit shown by Google in search results).
- Use at least one or two keywords in each week and activity instruction, image file name or video file name.
- Open step types are limited to article and video steps, at least two of which should be listed as highlight steps to showcase content that is likely to encourage open course enrolments.
Wherever possible, html tables should be kept to two columns for optimal readability on small devices.
- For quotations of more than 30 words, use block quotes (>).
- Block quote text should be plain and only use italics if it's part of the direct quote or added by the academic team for emphasis (in which, [emphasis added] should follow the added emphasis in square brackets).
- Use sentence case
- Use lower case after a colon, ie If this is the title: this is an example
- Apply header styles as follows:
- H1 (hash #) for all page headers (this is fixed in FL and can’t be changed)
- H3 (hash ###) for main headers, including the ‘Your task’ sub-header
- H4 (hash ####) for sub-headers within body text and for the 'References' sub-header
Lists (bullet, nested and numbered)
For bullet lists beginning with a stem:
- there should always be a single line break between the stem and list
- each list item following as a continuation of the stem should start in lower case (unless a special noun)
- nested bullets can be included as sub-sections to list item (use three spaces for markdown)
- there are no full stops, colons or semi-colons at the end of each list
- a full stop should only be added to the last list item to indicate the list is complete.
Numbered lists should only be used if critical to the order or number of items.
See the FutureLearn markdown guide* for how to mark-up lists.
For marking up full reference citations following a ‘Your task’, use:
- H4 for title (e.g. reference/s)
Here are a list of useful tools you might find helpful as a builder. Speak to <Johnny> to organise access to these resources.
- FutureLearn Partners. An extremely useful resource where you'll find detailed guides on course creation, markdown, image, video and branding specifications, as well as news of the latest updates to the platform. You'll need to make a request to FutureLearn to access this space - speak to <Hannah> for assistance.
- Getty Images. Deakin owns licenses for purchasing video and image content from Getty. You'll need to organise access.
- 3PlayMedia captioning service. You'll need to organise access to sign in to our 3Play account.
- AnswerGarden. Encourage student participation by creating rich digital canvases for communicating thoughts and ideas using keywords. No login required, learn how to use it here.
- Padlet. Another collaborative space for representing thoughts and ideas but with broader capabilities. Pin images and text blocks to a digital wall and also contribute with likes and comments (optional) on others' posts. Login required - Speak to Johnny for access.
- Lynda. A great learning resource with detailed tutorials on how to do almost anything. Great for filling knowledge gaps. Access it for free through your Deakin Sync portal.
You may already have your own software preferences, but here are some that we have found useful so far:
Adobe creative suite
Visual Studio Code
Colour Contrast Analyser
VoiceOver (Mac only)
JAWS (PC only)
Snaggit (PC only)