A guide to designing and developing basic documents for trainers and TAFE teachers


From my experience, many new and existing trainers and TAFE teachers struggle with the design and development of learning resources. And some struggle with the basics of using software applications and developing basic documents.

The Australian VET system has units that can provide a structured approach to learning the basics:

  • BSBTEC201 Use business software applications
  • ICTICT216 Design and create basic organisational documents.

These two low level units of competency can be seen as foundations for others units, such as the TAEDES502 Design and develop learning resources unit.

Also, a person studying for their TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification need basic computer skills. Most trainers and TAFE teachers use technology on a daily basis to perform their role.

Using software applications

The BSBTEC201 Use business software applications unit of competency can cover:

  • Using a word processing application, such as Microsoft Word
  • Using a presentation application, such as Microsoft PowerPoint.

Managing files including version control of documents is another basic skill required. And a trainer or TAFE teacher will usually need technology skills for:

  • Using an Learning Management System (LMS), such as Moodle or Canvas
  • Using a web conferencing application, such as Zoom.

Developing basic documents

The ICTICT216 Design and create basic organisational documents unit of competency gives a useful framework for learning how to design and develop basic documents. The following lists the elements and performance criteria for the ICTICT216 unit.

I have interpreted, simplified, and reworded the above performance criteria to develop a 9-step procedure for designing and creating documents. The following outlines the nine steps with reference to the associated ICTICT216 performance criteria.

The ‘design document stage’ can be relatively quick compared with creating the document. The time and effort required to create a document can vary greatly depending on the type and size of the document being developed. The time and effort for the ‘finalise document stage’ can also vary depending on the feedback received.

How to design and create basic documents

Over a series of articles, I will explore how to design and create basic documents. Some key topics I will cover are document design principles, copyright compliance, and how to use software applications to create basic documents.

What is a basic document?

My aim to cover the basic knowledge and skills required to produce basic documents. I won’t go beyond the basics. I believe that we can create quality documents without having advanced capabilities. However, the more experience we get, the better our documents will become.

Basic documents that may be produced by a trainer or TAFE teacher are:

  • Instructions
  • Procedures
  • Forms
  • Checklists
  • Presentation slides
  • Brochures
  • Posters.

Other basic documents may include letters, agendas, minutes of meetings, and reports.

The 9-step procedure

I will use the 9-step procedure to guide my exploration of how to design and develop basic documents.

Let’s start looking at the first three steps associated with the ‘design document phase’.

Step 1. Establish and confirm document requirements

The following questions can help us establish and confirm the document requirements:

  • What type of document is to be created?
  • Who will read or use the document?
  • Who will provide the content?
  • Is there a style guide?
  • Are there any special requirements?

Step 2. Determine document orientation, style, and format

A document can be ‘paper-based’ or ‘screen-based’.

A ‘paper-based’ document will usually be A4 sized or A3 sized. Typically, the default size will be A4. If we are using Microsoft Word and want to change the size to A3, we select [Layout] then [Size].

The design of screen-based documents, such as presentation slides and web pages, is different than paper-based documents. I will cover this topic in greater depth in later articles.

Document orientation

A document can be orientated in two directions: portrait and landscape. If we are using Microsoft Word we select [Layout] then [Orientation].

Most basic documents will have a portrait orientation with the exception of presentation slides. However, a basic document may include a diagram or table that would require a landscape orientation. A document can have a mix of portrait and landscape pages.

Another consideration is the width of margins. If we are using Microsoft Word we select [Layout] then [Margins].

I recommend ‘normal’ margins for most basic documents. But ‘narrow’ margins might be used for some forms, checklists or landscape documents if required.

Document style and format

Document formatting refers to the way a document is laid out on the page, in other words, the way it looks and how it is visually organised. It may include:

  • Font type, size, and colour
  • Line and paragraph spacing
  • Margins and alignment.

I do not recommend the use of columns. It is becoming more common for ‘paper-based’ documents not to be printed on paper. Instead, these documents are being read and used onscreen. Reading up and down columns on a screen decreases readability and increases the time it takes to read the document.

My one most important guiding principle is to keep our documents simple. We should always think about the readers or users of the documents that we produce. We want them to find our documents to be easy to read and easy to use.

Style guides

If your organisation has a style guide, this eliminates the need for you to devise your own style and format for documents. A style guide is a reference point that sets standards for creating documents within an organisation. It may include:

  • Logo size and placement
  • Colour scheme to be used
  • Image and photography guidelines
  • Layout and document formatting.

The topic of style and format will be comprehensively covered in the articles:

Step 3. Select application software

From my experience working with Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), Microsoft applications are more widely used compared with Apple or Google applications. Having said this, I know that some trainers and TAFE teachers prefer and use Apple, Google and other software applications.

Microsoft Word will be used for most basic documents, and Microsoft PowerPoint will be used for presentation slides. Either of these Microsoft applications can be used to produce brochures or posters. However, I have a preference to use Microsoft PowerPoint. This will get explained in the next and later articles.

In conclusion

The ICTICT216 Design and create basic organisational documents unit of competency can be used to provide a structured approach to learning how to produce basic documents.

The ICTICT216 unit has been interpreted and simplified, resulting in a 9-step procedure for designing and creating documents. The first three steps can be relatively quick to complete:

  • What type of document is to be developed?
  • What software application will be used?
  • Will the document use a portrait or landscape orientation?
  • Will the document be A4 or A3 sized?
  • Should the margins be kept at ‘normal’ or changed to ‘narrow’?
  • Is there a style guide to be complied with?

This has been the first of a series of articles about how to design and develop basic documents.

I hope you have liked this article. And I hope you will ‘like‘ it.

LinkedIn adds celebrate, love, insightful and curious reactions to spur  more engagement | TechCrunch

I welcome your feedback and comments. Also, it would be great to hear about your experience:

  • What software applications does your RTO use?
  • What types of document do you need to produce?
  • Does your RTO have a style guide?

Australia’s VET system

Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) system is complex and forever changing. People studying for their TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification may find useful information on this website. Tap or click on the following ABC logo to find out more.

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This article supplements the TAE resources that have been developed by On Target Work Skills.

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