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We’re launching an online ‘Introduction to Content Design’ course

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Content design, People and skills

A person is holding a printed booklet. The left page reads "Content design makes things so much easier for the user to complete." The right page reads incomplete text.

Last year, we piloted an ‘Introduction to Content Design’ course on FutureLearn with 100 learners from across government and the public sector. 

We learned a lot from the pilot, and we blogged about some of it last year.

Next month, we’re launching the second iteration of the course. This time, it will be an open course, which means there will be no limit on the number of spaces. More than 500 people applied for the pilot last year, which showed us there is demand and need for more training in content design skills. 

The 4-week ‘Introduction to Content Design’ online course starts on 18 May and you can register now

Who is the course for?

The ‘Introduction to Content Design’ course is for new content designers or those who work in other roles that involve content design. 

Our community work has shown us that not all organisations have roles that focus just on content design. For example, you may be working in communications and doing content design as part of your role, alongside other things. If that sounds like you, you can sign up for the course to develop the skills you need to do the content design part of your role. 

What will you learn?

You will learn about a range of topics, including: 

  • what makes good content, what skills you need as a content designer 
  • user needs, user research techniques, prototyping 
  • designing accessible content
  • writing in plain English 
  • testing and evaluating the success of your content 

Our aim is to equip you with the knowledge and skills to enable you to design content that’s clear, user-centred and accessible to all – content that gives your users the information they need quickly and allows them to reach their goals.

Why online?

We’re not delivering this training in person. Our aim is to build learning experiences that are scalable and adaptable. We want to serve the entire community and we want to be able to respond quickly as learning needs evolve. 

Using FutureLearn to create a self-paced course that people can join online and complete in their own time allows us to do that. 

We also want to make sure we’re using our time wisely. We’re a small team supporting a growing profession across the country. 

You can imagine the impact we can have by delivering an online course that can be taken by thousands of learners at the same time is much bigger than what we could do in person, delivering the training to individual teams.

Social learning

A screenshot of the webpage for the course. It falls into the Business & Management category, and is called Introduction to Content Design. The description for the course is "Discover the fundamentals of content design. Learn about user-centred content that's easy for everyone to understand and access." The duration of the course is 4 weeks and the weekly study is 4 hours.

Learning online does not mean learning by yourself. At least that’s not how we want it to work. 

FutureLearn, where the course is hosted, is a social learning platform. Interaction between learners is built into the platform’s functionality. It’s also something that our team of educators, who will be moderating the discussions throughout the duration of the course, strongly encourage. 

When we ran the pilot last year, there were more than 1,000 comments on the course from learners sharing knowledge and ideas with each other. 

Getting learners involved also allows us to get useful insights into what their needs are, what their strengths are and how else we can support them – either with future iterations of this course or with other learning products and programmes our team builds.

We’re hoping to get even more insights with this iteration of the course. The pilot only included 100 learners so we’re expecting even more feedback and comments this time round.

Our work continues

Last year, we blogged about the work we’re doing to develop a new learning approach for the content design profession

The ‘Introduction to Content Design’ course on FutureLearn is only one of many ways in which we’re supporting our community. Our work continues – we will keep learning, iterating and creating new opportunities to equip content designers with the skills and knowledge they need.

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  1. Comment by Anne Turner posted on

    I work as a Prison Librarian.
    Although I have access to IT, I have very limited access to online resources, so I wouldn’t be designing any websites or anything.
    However, I produce lots of leaflets, reading promotions and competitions and I think the plain English part of the course would be particularly beneficial to my role.
    Do you think I would find the course useful?
    Thanks, Anne

    • Replies to Anne Turner>

      Comment by The Content Community Team posted on

      Hi Anne,

      Thank you for your comment. You can certainly apply the principles we teach on the course to any type of content, including print. The course is free so you can enrol and see whether it meets your needs.

      The Content Community Team

      • Replies to The Content Community Team>

        Comment by Anne Turner posted on

        I'll give it a go.
        I'll sign up next week.

  2. Comment by Ciaran Murdoch posted on

    How long will this course stay active for? Is it just for 6 weeks after 18 May? It'd be good is this remained as a free resource.

    • Replies to Ciaran Murdoch>

      Comment by The Content Community Team posted on

      Hi Ciaran,

      The course is available for free for 6 weeks after the start date, which is 18 May. After that, only learners who upgrade will have access to it. We will, however, be doing another run in the autumn but the date hasn't been confirmed yet. Do keep an eye on the course page on FutureLearn as the information will be posted there in due course.

      The Content Community Team

  3. Comment by Daniel Lowry posted on

    Can I just clarify the length of this course, as I have not completed a GDS course before.
    Does '4 weeks' imply 20 consecutive working days? Or when it says 4 hours of study, does this mean that the course actually takes approximately 4 hours study for 4 weeks (i.e. approximately 16 hours) to complete?
    How is this course delivered?

    • Replies to Daniel Lowry>

      Comment by The Content Community Team posted on

      Hi Daniel,

      The course is self-paced, which means you can go through the materials in your own time. The 4 hours of study means that it will take you approximately 4 hours each week to go through the course materials.

      You will have free access to the course for 6 weeks – the 4 weeks the course goes on for and 2 weeks after that. If you upgrade to the paid version of FutureLearn, you will have unlimited access to the course, but this is not required.

      The course materials include video lessons, articles, quizzes and discussions with other learners.

      We hope you can join us on 18 May.

      The Content Community Team

  4. Comment by Olubunmi Fatungase posted on

    Thanks for this opportunity. It’ll be a first for me, would I need to be very techie, have knowledge of design software tools, and do I need specialist software for the course. Would you be doing a similar training for User research as there’s not much out there. Thanks

    • Replies to Olubunmi Fatungase>

      Comment by The Content Community Team posted on

      Hi Olubunmi,

      The course is designed especially for people who are relatively new to content design, and you do not need to be familiar with any software or tools to attend and benefit from it. You also do not need any specialist software. The course contains audio and video clips so you will need to be able to play those on your computer. However, we do provide transcripts as well.

      In terms of user research, there is already a good amount of content focusing on user research in this course. Having said that, we are collecting our learners’ feedback and reviewing the needs of the content community regularly. If we do decide to create a separate course focused on user research, this blog will be where you will find out about it.

      The Content Community Team

  5. Comment by Rebecca Maddison posted on

    Hi, roughly how many hours per week are required over the 4 weeks?

    Rebecca Maddison

    • Replies to Rebecca Maddison>

      Comment by The Content Community Team posted on

      Hi Rebecca,

      We recommend that you spend approximately 4 hours studying each week.

      The Content Community Team

      • Replies to The Content Community Team>

        Comment by Rebecca Maddison posted on

        Thanks for your reply - are there any plans to make this course available later in the year? as you can imagine, a lot of potential course attendees are working flat-out on Covid-19 related work at the minute.

        • Replies to Rebecca Maddison>

          Comment by The Content Community Team posted on

          Hi Rebecca,

          Yes – we are planning another run in the autumn, most likely in September. Do keep an eye on the @GDSTeam Twitter account as we will be announcing the dates there.

          The Content Community Team

  6. Comment by Tanya Aldridge posted on

    Would this course be relevant to someone responsible for social media posts or is it aimed at web designers? I am not a content designer but I am responsible for social media posts for my work place.

    • Replies to Tanya Aldridge>

      Comment by The Content Community Team posted on

      Hi Tanya,

      The course is aimed at people who design content for websites and services, and it does not specifically focus on social media content. However, many of the skills we expect our learners to develop will be transferable. For example, you will learn about using plain English, identifying your users’ needs, and accessibility.

      The course is free to attend so you can always sign up and follow the first week to see if it’s relevant to your particular role.

      The Content Community Team

  7. Comment by Matt posted on

    Looks like a great course and I've shared with colleagues.

    Please do a similar course for web accessibility! It is very much needed and I anticipate it would be very, very popular.

    • Replies to Matt>

      Comment by The Content Community Team posted on

      Hi Matt,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing the link with your colleagues.

      Accessibility is certainly a popular topic right now. We’re constantly reviewing our users’ learning needs to see what courses we can offer next.

      Keep an eye on the GDS blog and Twitter account to keep up to date.

      In the meantime, you can find a lot of guidance on accessibility on GOV.UK.

      The Content Community Team