Student resource style guidelines

Style guidelines to support the development of student-facing learning resources.

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This document will provide an overview of the content and style requirements content creators must adhere to when creating resources – digital or printed – for the Online Learning Platform (OLP). Resources are primarily student-facing learning resources and any associated teacher support.

It is a content creator’s responsibility to adhere to these guidelines. This document serves as notice that audits will be conducted. Resources will be evaluated against the conditions of the agreement. If a provider’s content does not meet the minimum standards defined by the department, it will be deemed defective. Content that is found to be defective after publication will be removed until necessary adjustments have been made. Responsibility for these adjustments rests with the content creator.

This style guide:

  • will not outline every scenario or potential case where content creators must adhere to this style guide
  • is not static or final. This document is subject to updates and should serve as a reference point when creating department content.

Content creators can email for advice regarding these guidelines.

Prioritise student understanding

Students’ understanding should take precedence over strict adherence to a specific guideline which may impact student learning or understanding.

Some examples include:

  • A full stop after a numeral might be misconstrued as a decimal point in certain contexts.
  • A handwriting activity for the letter ‘a’ using a sans serif font would incorrectly demonstrate the letter formation. NSW Foundation font should be used in this scenario.

Content types

Content types for the OLP will fall into two categories:

  • existing content provided for specific use on the platform
  • new content, developed specifically for the OLP.

These guidelines are divided into two main sections – guidelines for both new and existing content and guidelines for new content. Content creators need to follow the guidelines for both new and existing content.

Not all guidelines may be relevant to a particular resource. Refer to the Australian Government Style Guide for anything not explicitly mentioned.

Guidelines for both new and existing content

Follow these guidelines for both existing and newly developed content.


All content should be AS EN 301 549 compliant. These standards incorporate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. Completing an automated check, such as one in Microsoft Word, does not ensure accessibility.

Content needs to be presented in a way that allows all students to complete activities and engage with the content.

This means:

  • Alt text needs to be meaningful for the activity. For example, if students are asked to compare images of a school in the past and the present, each image should have appropriate alt text that allows screen reader users to complete the activity. In this case, it would not be sufficient to simply state what the image is (“Two schools”).
  • Alt text should not give away the answer if students are required to interpret an image. For example, if students are asked to determine the type of pattern, describe the elements of the image without revealing the answer (such as “A row of shapes. One square, one circle, one square, one circle” rather than “Shapes showing an AB pattern”).
  • Video content should have sufficient dialogue to describe actions or written content if students are required to respond to these elements in an activity.
  • Audio-only content, such as podcasts, need to have a transcript where speakers are clearly identified.
  • Colour should not be the only visual means of conveying information. For example, highlighting verbs in red and adjectives in green.
  • The key concept to keep in mind is providing suitable alternatives for students to be able to complete activities, regardless of ability. It is not sufficient to simply pass automated accessibility checks.

Copyright and attributions

Any copyrighted material included within a resource, such as an image from Shutterstock, must be copyright compliant. This includes methods such as obtaining a licence for reproduction and/or requesting permission to use copyrighted material from an author.

Third-party material within a resource must be attributed, regardless of whether it is free to use or not. This includes the appropriate Creative Commons attribution or the preferred third-party attribution where copyrighted material has been used.

Attributing or referencing copyrighted material is not the same as having permission or a licence to use it within a publicly-available resource.

Syllabus material

Any NSW Syllabus material specifically mentioned or referenced should be attributed to comply with NESA’s copyright requirements. Attribute any NESA material, including syllabus outcomes, as follows:

[The title of the NESA document] © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, [publication year].



Printed versions of online resources do not need to be an exact replication. They should be optimised for use in printed form.


Any supplementary documents, including print resources, should be under 1 MB or as close to 1 MB as possible.

For further information, see reducing file size in:


Content creators should use these Public Sans as the main font. Arial can be used if Public Sans is not available.

In certain cases, a different font can be used to support student learning. Examples include:

  • NSW Foundation font for a handwriting activity.
  • Courier New to illustrate code snippets within a paragraph.

Sizing and line spaces

Sizing and line spacing should adhere to current WCAG 2.1 AA recommendations under AS EN 301 549.

  • Use em and/or percentage units

Specific spacing recommendations from WCAG:

  • Line height (line spacing) to at least 1.5 times the font size.
  • Spacing following paragraphs to at least 2 times the font size.
  • Letter spacing (tracking) to at least 0.12 times the font size.
  • Word spacing to at least 0.16 times the font size.

From Success Criterion 1.4.12
Copyright © 2017-2022 W3C® (MIT, ERCIM, Keio, Beihang). W3C liability, trademark and document use rules apply.

Refer to technique C14 and Success Criterion 1.4.12 for further information on sizing and line spacing.

Headings and body text

Content should have one heading 1 (H1), which should be the main heading of the page or document. Use subsequent headings (H2-H5) in order and do not skip heading levels.

Headings should not be used for design purposes. That is, they should not be used in place of bold because the look is appealing.

Further information

WAI tutorial on headings.

Hyperlinks and URLs


  • All URLs should be included as hyperlink text. The hyperlink text should either be the name of the destination of the URL, or the purpose.
  • It’s not necessary to create incredibly long hyperlinks – the key concept is the hyperlinked text should be understood out of context. Examples include
    • Complete the form to enrol, where ‘complete the form’ is the hyperlink.
    • Download the student workbook (PDF 1.2 MB) to complete the activities. where ‘student workbook (PDF 1.2 MB)’ is the hyperlink.
    • Watch the video on dogs (1:44) to learn more, where ‘video on dogs (1:44)’ is the hyperlink.
  • Note file size and file type are included in the hyperlink text. Video duration should also be included in any hyperlink text.

Content creators must avoid:

  • Hyperlink text that is click here, here, or variations of something similar.
  • Pasting in URLs.


When the content is explicitly designed to be printed, it is acceptable to use URLs. You should be mindful of URL length and can use link shorteners. See Student access for further information on allowed link shorteners. You can also supplement URLs (shortened or otherwise) with QR codes.

When the material could be used in both printed and digital forms, use hyperlinks but include the URL in a footnote or in brackets next to the hyperlink.


Images must:

  • comply with copyright
  • have appropriate permissions if students are pictured
  • have alt text (see WAI’s alt text decision tree)
  • be under or close to 100 KB where possible.


Any video or image content should include adequate depictions of diversity in Australia. This means respectful representations of:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • cultural diversity
  • people with disability
  • gender.

This inclusion shouldn’t be tokenistic. It should be a genuine attempt to represent the diverse community that we serve.

Content creators can refer to the following for specific advice:


It is recommended to include one or more interactive features to support student learning and increase engagement.

General interactives

The following examples can be used for design and user experience, but do not increase the educational value of an activity:

  • standalone flip boxes, drop downs or picture galleries
  • typing into a document, box or text input area without feedback
  • activities that are interactive but not tied to a specific learning outcome, such as an interactive find-a-word.

Educational interactives

Interactive educational content requires students to actively engage in content rather than passively absorb it. They usually take the form of embedded content from sources such as H5P, Articulate 360 or PhET.

Educational interactives must:

  • meet accessibility and copyright requirements
  • supply students with meaningful and relevant just-in-time feedback, and wherever practicable this feedback should extend beyond correct or incorrect answers.
  • require students to actively apply skills and knowledge
  • not rely solely on lower order activities that only use recognition or recall.

Categorising educational interactives


Lower-order thinking skills.

Simple recognition and recall activities.

For example:

  • flash cards
  • highlighting information
  • simple quizzes
  • hotspot images
  • memory games.
Understand and apply

Middle-order thinking skills

Respond to and process knowledge.

For example:

  • interactive videos
  • sorting and sequencing
  • quizzes which apply knowledge
  • manipulating digital objects and exploring virtual environments.
Analyse, evaluate, create

Higher-order thinking skills

Apply skills and knowledge in a critical and creative way.

For example:

  • branching scenarios
  • adaptive games and online environments with role-play or decision making
  • creating and composing.


If there is a combination of English and another language in a section of a document, the additional language should be written in italics. Use the ISO code at the word level.

Italicisation is not required if a document (or section of a document) is not in English. Set the language property at the document level.


Use ordered, or numbered, lists when the content is sequential and needs to be read in a particular order. Examples include:

  • Steps in a recipe. For example
  1. Mix the butter and the eggs.
  2. Add the flour.
  • Explicit instructions. For example
  1. Draw a 5-sided shape.
  2. Cut it out carefully.
  • Legal or policy documents.

Use unordered, or bulleted, lists when the content does not have an explicit order. Examples include:

  • Listing equipment items for a science experiment
  • Providing general points or facts about a topic.

Depending on the format of the list, content creators will need to punctuate them in different ways. See formatting lists for further information.

Numerals and equations

  • MathJax and MathML should be used in all digital content.
  • Use the ‘Insert Equation’ functionality in Microsoft Word documents to create equations and formulas. Insert MathML equations into Word.
  • Include one space between the numeral and the unit. For example: 9 km, 10 am, 12.4 cm and so on.
  • Any span or range should have a hyphen and no spaces either side. For example: 10-15 cm, 9-10 am and so on.



Navigation should be consistent and predictable.

Do not use colours exclusively to present a navigation option. For example, ‘Select the green circle to start’. The button should also include some text, such as ‘Start’.


Follow usual heading conventions and include a table of contents if the document is greater than 7 pages.

For both

Depending on the target age, key learning area and complexity of the content, it might be necessary to include some introductory text at the beginning of a resource to explain how students can navigate.

An example of this would be if students were required to answer questions and check the end of the resource for answers where only every odd-numbered answer is provided. If the resource is digital, these questions and answers could be hyperlinked to one another via anchor links.

Further information

Refer to WCAG 2.4 – Navigation.

Real objects and image alternatives

Wherever possible, present students with an actual object rather than a representation of an object. Use functions, styles or formatting in the authoring tool or software as opposed to simply screenshotting what you’d like to include.

This means objects such as:

  • Using an actual table rather than an image of a table.
    • Tables must be marked up in HTML if the resource is digital or appropriately tagged.
    • Use the ‘insert table’ function if creating the table in Microsoft Word.
  • Including actual text rather than a screenshot of text.
    • Be mindful of copyright when doing so.
  • Providing the Microsoft PowerPoint file alongside a PDF of the file, rather than only images of the slides.

Student instructions

Describe the list of materials students will need for an activity depending on the format of the resource.

  • Video only: start with a list of what’s needed at the start of the first video in the series, or at the start of a standalone video.
  • Document-based: include a concise list of all required materials near the beginning of the document.
  • Digital: required materials should be outlined near the start or top of the resource.

Students should be able to find any materials required for an activity in a classroom or home environment. Teachers and students should not be required to purchase any materials for a specific activity. Alternative materials should be suggested where possible, such as pegs or dried pasta as an appropriate substitute for counters.

Content creators should be mindful of having students print, as many households do not have printers.

Video guidelines

Videos should be introduced by a heading with the video’s name, the duration underneath (in body text) and a hyperlink to the transcript such as ‘[video title] transcript’.

Content creators must:

  • Be mindful of the target audience.
  • Include engaging videos of an appropriate length.
    • 2-4 minutes for primary students.
    • 4-6 minutes per section of direct instruction for secondary students.
  • Ensure background images on videos are appropriate for students and copyright compliant.
  • Film content in landscape with high resolution image quality.
  • Demonstrate a task and/or describing actions and text. Examples include
    • “Now we’re going to put our ingredients in the mixing bowl.”
    • “I’m going to move the one cube into the tens pile. What do you think will happen?”
    • Reading any text in the video aloud, for example, when reading a picture book.
  • Apply colour contrast rules to any text.
  • Ensure audio is clear and background noise is minimal.
  • Use 18pt font for any text.
  • Use inclusive terms like 'everyone' when addressing the audience.

Creators must avoid:

  • Using long greetings in the video.
  • Referring to a particular time of day or date, for example, “Today is Wednesday and we’re going to work on maths!”
  • Using gender-specific terms such as ‘guys’.
  • Creating presentation-style recordings with considerable amounts of text.
  • Wearing branded clothing or using branded products.
  • Using slang, overly casual or inappropriate language.

Captions and transcripts

Closed captions must be enabled on all video players and must be available on all video content.

Transcripts should be provided as web content (a web page). If the video is highly visual or includes a lot of visual-only context, include descriptions in your transcript to communicate this information. An example would be ‘The speaker puts their hands in front of their face to protect their eyes from the sun’.

General considerations for content

Content creators must avoid referring to contentious or popular issues in written, image or video content.

They also must avoid referring to specific current events or anything that may date the content, for example, referring to a new movie that is out.

Guidelines for new content

Content that has been newly developed specifically for the OLP.


Apostrophes are for possession and contraction only. They should not be used for plurals, even in acronyms. For example, 1990s and not 1990’s. URLs and not URL’s.

Bolding, underlining and italics

  • Bold can be used to emphasise one to a few key words within a sentence.
    • In HTML, bold should be included in a <strong> tag, not a <b> tag.
  • Do not underline text under any circumstances. Underlining text is reserved strictly for hyperlinks.
  • Italics can be used for one to a few words of a language other than English within an English paragraph. If the entire paragraph is in a language other than English, do not italicise it.
  • Do not use italics for book or publication titles. Place them in inverted commas instead.


Capitals or title case can be used for:

  • Full names or full titles
  • Proper nouns
  • Books titles
  • Year and term
    • When referring to Year 7 and Term 2.
    • Not when referring to the year or term in the general sense.

Capitals or title case should not be used for:

  • Words you want to be important.
    • Example: You should ask your Teacher for help with the Assignment.
  • Replacement for emphasis or to stress importance.
    • Example: You MUST complete the following activity.

See the following section, Formatting lists, for advice on capitalisation in lists.

Formatting lists

In addition to the recommendations in the lists section for all content, creators of new content should adhere to the following for unordered lists:

  • Use a colon to introduce the list and use lower case for the dot points with a full stop at the final list item.
    • Do not use a colon to introduce a list if the preceding text is a heading.
  • Capitalise the first word of a list item and put a full stop at the end if it can be read as an individual sentence.
    • An example of this is the two main dot points above.
  • Capitalise each list item if list of things or items. Do not put a full stop after each list item. An example, ‘Resources for the activity’
    • 2 sheets of paper
    • Blue pen
    • Red pen
    • Sticky tape
  • Do not use a colon to introduce a second level list or a sub-list. Keep sub-lists to 2 sub-levels at a maximum.


Common mistakes to avoid

  • Using colons in headings.
  • Using colons to introduce a second level list.
  • Putting spaces either side of a hyphen in the context of a span, such as 9 - 10 am where it should be 9-10 am.
  • Putting spaces before and after or after a forward slash.

Further information

Australian Government Style Guide page on punctuation.

Student access

Students’ internet access in schools is subject to NSW Department of Education web filtering processes.

Content creators must consider the following when embedding or linking to content:

  • Early Stage 1 to Stage 5 students cannot access Vimeo. It is available to Stage 6 students.
  • All YouTube videos are available for Stage 6. Note they must be signed in.
  • YouTube is accessible to students in K-10 in restricted mode, but results can be inconsistent, so it is not recommended to rely on YouTube content for K-10.
  • All major cloud services such as Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and Azure are allowed for students. If your content is hosted on a subdomain here, please provide it to us so we can ensure it is added to the global allow list.
  • It is preferable to host content on your own domain rather than other domains, especially if the site could possibly host other content not suitable for students.

Link shorteners

  • is allowed by the Department of Education filter.
  • Most URL shortening services are classified as IT/Computers and this are allowed by default.
  • Avoid using any link shortener that shows you advertisements or a page before redirecting you.

Web filtering queries can be logged by vendors by emailing

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