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Designing Online Tutorials

Designing Online Tutorials


Online Instructional video compelling

Summary of ideas:

Bowles-Terry, M., Hensley, M. K., & Janicke Hinchliffe, L. (2010). Best practices for online video tutoriasl in academic libraries: A study of student preferences and understanding. Communications in Information Literacy, 4(1), 17.

Bury, S., & Oud, J. (2005). Usability testing of an online information literacy tutorial. Reference Services Review, 33(1), 54-65. doi:10.1108/00907320510581388

Oud, J. (2009). Guidelines for effective online instruction using multimedia screencasts. Reference Services Review, 27(2), 164-177.

Add a Creative Commons license to tutorials linked from our Open Educational Resources LibGuide.  For examples of what other libraries are doing, see

Fortney, K., Hennesy, C., & Murphy, D. (2014). Share the wealth: Creative Commons licenses for library learning objects. College & Research Library News, 75(7), 370-373.

Tips for Designing Tutorials

A tutorial is used to introduce concepts and ideas and consists of multiple learning segments such as screencasts, readings, and quizzes. Keep the screencasts short. Add links individual segments so students can advance and repeat sections at their own pace.


  • Analyse your studentsto determine their learning needs. Where are the gaps and misconcpetions? Beginners need more structure, detailed explanations of concepts, practice opportunities, and worked examples than learners with some background knowledge.
  • Design tutroials from what students already knowUse a chart to map actions on the screen against narrative.
  • List learning outcomes on a slide but do not read them. Alternatively, say them to save time as part of the introduction. Content should be planned around these outcomes.
  • Include standard QUL branding to open and close the first and last screencast.
  • Design a multi-part tutorial in a LibGuide with a Creative Commons license so it is publicly available.
  • Students should have control over sequencing of content, help, and pace
  • Use the same design principles throughout such as placement of navigation buttons.
  • Provide a linked Table of Contents to move directly to specific sections.
  • Organize topics in clear sections using white space, colour, and boxes.
  • Use visual cues to identify tasks for completion. For example, exercises or quizes can be set off within a table and labelled with trigger words such as Time for Practice – Test Yourself, etc. Icons that identify specific actions are also helpful.

Use Visuals

  • Integrate graphs and charts when they can help to clarify ideas and concepts. For example, a comparison chart of what types of materials can be searched in Google Scholar versus a single academic database or the features of two different websites that address the same topic.
  • Use a matrix to showcase the differences between databases or search tools.
  • Use concept maps to identfy relationships visually such as the types of resources on the web or the concepts in a research question.

Pace and Length

  • Keep introductions very short. Students often leave tutorials by the half-way point. Place the most important ideas first.
  • Speak slightly more slowly than normal.
  • Keep videos 1-3 minutes long.
  • Create table of contents, even for short 2-3 minute videos.


  • Design from the journalistic persepctive of the "inverted pyramid": most important infomration first followed by contextual information.
  • Don't aim for entertainment value. Introductory and closing music and professional graphics do focus attention.
  • Provide the content in separate written format for those who prefer to read it.
  • Link videos at point of need within an online learning module.
  • Send completed tutorial to Discovery Systems for uploading into the QUL YouTube channel if appropriate.

Learning Tasks

  • Provide interaction that helps students practice skills and concepts using relevant and realistic examples.
  • Activities align with learning outcomes and promote student engagement.
  • Exercises should require learners to apply knowledge to realistic situations and problems.
  • Use interactive exercises. Interactivity requires a response, selection, or strategy by the learner followed by immediate feedback. (e.g. manipulate variables to see what happens; select an answer to receive specific outcome; choose a strategy to see if it succeeds or fails). Interactivity is not clicking on a link, clicking NEXT, or watching animations.
  • Use questions that prompt critical thinking rather than rote recall. Refer to Bloom's revised taxonomy of learning levels below as a prompt to provide learning tasks that engage higher levels of thinking. Bloom's Taxonomy
  • Distribute exercises throughout the lesson rather than keeping them in one place.
  • Present directions for activities clearly in the text.


  • Provide feedback on learning. For example, scenarios can ask students to map out resources for a research topic followed by diagrams and explanations of possible choices. Quizes may be useful for certain topics. Live search and analysis is also a way of providing feedback.
    Place feedback close to questions.
  • Place memory prompts and help near the initial question.
  • Include training in self-questioning when e-lessons lack practice exercises.


  • Create tutorials that are born digital.
  • Provide closed captioning and a transcript of the video content.
  • Use alt tags for all images and screen captures on a webpage.