Handouts can be a useful way of enhancing your online course when you have a lot of information to convey, for example by creating a fact sheet rather than a video or text-heavy web page. The writing tips outlined in the Writing for the Web section of this course are very relevant here too.
Making your documents accessible is also essential. And remember accessible documents are usually better for everyone! Here are some tips for documents:
- Use headings and styles to structure the document. Structure hierarchically: heading 1 for the title/main heading, heading 2 for subheadings and so on.
- Use a sans serif font like Arial and avoid text smaller than point 12 (regulations don’t specify font size, but this is generally good practice).
- Align text to left. Do not justify as this creates uneven gaps between words which as well as looking bad, become huge and disorientating when text is magnified. On the topic of spacing, you do not need a double space after a full stop, this is a hangover from manual typewriting, not an accessibility practice.
- Ensure colour has good contrast eg, light on dark. Do not rely on colour to convey meaning.
- Use plain English. When providing instructions, use active language, not passive, eg, “contact learning support…” rather than “students are advised to make contact with learning support…” Avoid metaphors and culturally specific references in information. Be clear, say what you mean.
- Use meaningful hyperlinks so that when read by a screen reader, the link makes sense, eg, use “learn about meaningful hyperlinks” - linking the whole action being described - rather than “Click here to learn about meaningful hyperlinks”.
- Provide alternative text for images
- Use the Word accessibility checker to proof your document. As it is such a widely used format, WebAIM offers a four week course on Word accessibility .
If you can, it’s best to avoid using PDFs. Use HTML or Word instead. If you have to create a PDF, ensure it’s accessible. Adobe Acrobat has an accessibility checker and Adobe also has guidance on creating accessible PDFs.