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Make Sure Your Course Content is Understandable

Make Sure Your Course Content is Understandable

Make sure your course content is readable and understandable. Xen.ed courses have a global and diverse audience, including learners whose native language is not the language in which you created your course, as well as learners who have a disability that affects reading, such as dyslexia or a visual impairment.

Learners will be better positioned to access concepts in your content if you write in clear, straightforward language and the content is well structured.

1. Write Simply and Clearly

Avoid jargon. If unfamiliar words or phrases are relevant to the subject, explain them when they are first used, and include a glossary with your course materials. When you use an abbreviation or acronym, provide the full phrase the first time it appears. For example, “World Health Organization (WHO).”

The Center for Plain Language provides detailed resources on writing clearly and concisely, in language appropriate for your content and target audience.

See also the W3C’s new Working Group Note on Making Content Usable for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities.

2. Make Your Course Easy to Navigate
One aspect of making your course understandable is making sure that learners can easily grasp its structure, find content, and determine where they are within the course.

Name your course sections, subsections, units, components, and discussion topics in a consistent way, and make sure the names are useful and easy to skim. Make an element’s name descriptive of its content, and put important keyword information first in the name. These names are used in navigation menus, page headings, and section headings; they are signposts that help learners to navigate your course and read course content.

When you create written learning resources, break text into sections using HTML elements such as headings, paragraphs, and lists. Long blocks of unbroken text are a barrier to most readers. Segmented content is more inviting and is easier to navigate and search.

When you provide links to external materials, use link text that clearly explains the link destination (for example, “Review the Course Syllabus”). Avoid using constructs such as “Review the Course Syllabus here”, with only the word “here” serving as link text. For links that point to documents rather than web pages, include the document type in the link. For example, “Supplemental Reading for Week 1 (EPUB)”. Screen reader users frequently browse lists of links, or navigate web pages by moving from one link to the next. Ensuring that link text is understandable without surrounding context is important.

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