Article steps are any plain text, typically 500-800 words with a reading time of 5-10 minutes. These might be case studies, literary extracts, instructions from educators or short essays.
Articles can include images (photographs, diagrams, slides etc).
How to add an article step
Select an activity in Course Creator and first selecting '+ Add a Step' then selecting Article from the dropdown list.
Add a title, description, main text and image following the guidance in Course Creator.
When editing article steps, you can check the ease of reading by using our readability checker. The reading ease and score is calculated using Flesch-Kincaid, and the sentence difficulty is calculated using 6 algorithms.
What should I aim for?
We recommend a readability score of 60 or above on the Flesch-Kincaid test, assuming a general interest course and a global cohort including many non-native English speakers. However, we recognise that the target score will vary depending on your subject and intended audience.
For example, we would expect many professional-level healthcare courses to have a lower readability score, given the prevalence of multisyllabic healthcare vocabulary. Similarly, a philosophy course might include passages of relatively long sentences, where the ideas cannot be communicated in the same way in shorter sentences (or where shorter sentences might change the meaning).
In short, while we have set the ‘recommended’ score to 60, context matters. We are providing the scoring tool but the use is entirely up to partners.
How is the readability score calculated?
The readability score is calculated using the Flesch reading ease algorithm. Higher scores indicate material that is easier to read; lower numbers mark passages that are more difficult to read.
How is sentence difficulty calculated?
We use six algorithms to identify sentences that are difficult or very difficult to read.
We convert the articles’ markdown into HTML and then analyse the text content of each element (e.g. paragraph tag), running this against the six different readability algorithms. The target reading age is set to 16 and we ignore sentences with less than five words.
- If text fails 4 algorithms, we highlight it as difficult to read.
- If text fails 5 algorithms, we highlight it as very difficult to read.
You can read more about these algorithms here.
Tips on making a great article step
- Design for learners with English an additional language: eg, simplified vocabulary, active voice.
- Design instructional text: clear text structure, summary of key points. Meyer (1985) classified the main text structures as follows:
- Description: describe a topic.
- Sequence: use numerical or chronological order to list items or events.
- Compare/contrast: two or more similar events, topics, or objects.
- Cause/effect: give one or more causes and then describe the effects.
- Problem/solution: pose a problem or question and then give the answer.
- Use images alongside the text to illustrate or enhance the meaning.
- Mark the text structure with paragraphs and emphasis.
- Signpost content by adding headers, highlighting important words in bold, pulling out quotations, and indicating logical relationships via bullets or numbers, can also help learners scan longer passages. Markdown syntax provides for all of these and more.