OSCQR – Standard #21

OSCQR – Standard #21

Text is formatted with titles, headings, and other styles to enhance readability and improve the structure of the document.

Review These Explanations

Titles and headings play an important role in catching the interest of the reader, and guiding their progress through information (Lazareva, 2006). By using titles and headings, instructors can effectively guide learners through an online course, while setting expectations on what to expect along the way.

Readability, in this context, refers to how words and blocks of text appear on a page, and how learners are able to scan from one item to the next. Titles and headings can indicate priority and provide direction within the visual framework of a page or set of pages in an online course. This helps to structure the document and help learners establish a flow through course content.

Hierarchy is a key element of readability. Titles and headings establish visual hierarchy, and enhance the learner experience creating a pattern or sequence through the learning content. This will help learners find their way and visually guide their progress through the course.


Lazareva, E. A. (2006). The headline complex of a text – a means of organizing and optimizing perception. Proceedings of the Ural State University, 40, 158-166.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

General Suggestions

  • Establish a consistent use of the heading styles built into the LMS for module headings, learning asset headings, and subheadings.
  • Keep your titles and headings short, and contextualize them with subheadings or an introductory paragraph.
  • Step back from your screen and squint your eyes to see if there’s a pattern that emerges on the page (there should be). This will let you know where you may need to add more visual cues and headings.
  • Create an outline and establish a hierarchy for every course page, considering what is most important, least important, etc.
  • Read through the first few words of every title or heading to be sure that they stand on their own and provide enough guidance for learners to scan through and know where they need to pick up reading again.

Explore Related Resources

Kordel, R. R. (2008, December). Information Presentation for Effective E-Learning. EDUCAUSE  Quarterly. pp. 10-12.

Share What You Know

OSCQR has been developed by a community of online practitioners interested in quality course design. There are numerous opportunities for community members to offer suggestions, donate resources, and help with future development.

Discuss this standard in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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