Monthly Archives: June 2012

Fonts in eLearning

illustration of a blue pencil with letter A in uppercase and lowercase

Before you read any further – or if you’d rather not read – check out my 3-minute instructional video on Fonts in eLearning, where you can also learn a bit about using fonts in Microsoft® PowerPoint®.

There’s a LOT of information on the use of fonts as an eLearning element. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m overwhelmed by how much there is to know about fonts and typography. That’s probably because I’m not a graphic designer. So, if you’re looking for detailed information about typography design, feel free to move on to another post, like this one, which I discovered via a Mike Taylor tweet (@tmiket).

My goal is to provide some broad guidance on the use of fonts in eLearning design. To that end, I’m going to provide an example from Microsoft®. Many people disparage using their fonts in eLearning. One argument is that they’re overused. Since I haven’t done any research, I can’t confirm or refute that. But I can say that I find many of their combinations,  like the one in this screenshot,engaging and pleasing to my eye.
Image of PowerPoint Slide with text

Headings vs. Body Text

The slide in this screenshot (above) was created using the Newsprint design and font theme in PowerPoint®. The heading uses the Impact typeface, 49 points. Body text is in Times New Roman, 24 points. You can find this theme, and many more, by clicking the Design tab; change Fonts by clicking the Fonts drop-down arrow.

This theme adheres to the overall approach that most people agree upon: use one font for the headlines and another for the body text. In this case, the body font is a serif font; that is, there are little lines at the top and bottom of each character that purportedly help guide a reader’s eye. The headline font is sans serif, minus the “guiding lines.”

Serif or Sans and How Many Fonts?
By the way, there are many articles recommending that ONLY sans serif fonts be used for eLearning because they are easier to read in digital format than serif fonts. Ah, and now you’re beginning to see the complexities around this topic!

Typically, you should use no more than two fonts. Contrast can be achieved, as it’s done here, by changing scale and style. The body text is smaller; the heading text is larger and bolder.

More Resources
Check out Articulate® David Anderson’s (@elearning) Screenr (instructional video) on using scale, style, and color to create emphasis in eLearning content. And the eLearning coach (@elearningcoach) has an informative blog entitled What font should I use?

You can of course move beyond the fonts provided by Microsoft®. Do a web search and you’ll find gazillions (well, almost) of fonts, both free and for a fee.

Pencil Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/

Note: Microsoft and PowerPoint are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

Tooltips: Just in time eLearning eLements

Many “eLements of eLearning” are so subtle that we don’t even recognize them as such. Tooltips are a good example of that. As we move our mouse over image of what a tooltip might look likean element on a screen, more information about that item appears in a box. It might look something like this

When we move the mouse away from the item, the tooltip disappears.

In this way, a tooltip is a kind of “just-in-time” eLearning element. We need more information at a particular moment in time, get the information we need, and move on.

Tooltips can be used in a variety of ways, and I was recently inspired by a few discussions in the Articulate® community forums to think about how they might be used in an association’s organizational chart. The instructional video I’ve embedded here shows how to create a tooltip in Storyline®, since the community member specifically asked about that product. But tooltips can be created in a variety of products and applied in many different ways.


Script Writing Tip

As I mentioned in my first post (5/15/12), I plan to discuss a variety of “eLements of eLearning” in this blog. One of the elements, for some of us, is script writing.

I typically prepare a script ahead of time, and insert comments to myself. I type these in red, to separate them from the script itself. In this video, I describe how to create a macro in Microsoft® Word® that quickly removes these comments so a clean script can be sent along  to the client.


Many of us don’t himage of two hands holding a paper with typing on it - one hand is holding a penave the luxury of having copy editors to proof our work, and yet proofreading is really an important eLearning element.

I use a variety of methods when I proofread, but the one I wanted to share today involves listening rather than reading.

It’s really surprising to me – or maybe it shouldn’t be any longer – that I can re-read content several times and STILL miss an error here or there. Somewhere along the line, I got the idea to copy my text into a text-to-speech application and listen to it as it was “read” back to me. Inevitably when I’ve done this, I’ve picked up at least one (embarrassing) mistake.

Free Natural Reader
The application I usually use now is Natural Reader. There are different versions available here, including free, personal, professional, and ultimate.

Microsoft® Anna comes with the free version. If she’s reading too quickly, I can adjust her pace with the speed bar. There are also controls to stop, pause, and resume the playback. And I can rewind back to the previous sentence or fast forward to the next one.

By default, a yellow highlight appears around each “narrated” sentence and a blue square appears over each word as it is “read.”

There are many more features available in the Free Version, including a Floating Toolbar that eliminates the need to copy and paste the text. And of course, the versions that you pay for include even more options.

Other Free Text to Speech Tools
Recently a post appeared in my Twitter feed with a link to 10 Free Text to Speech Tools for Educators.

If you’re a Twitter user, you may want to follow the individuals who provided this link: @cpappas and @medkh9. Oh, and you can follow me at @refco27.