Format Text to Enhance Readability

Quality Review Showcase

The Quality and High Quality online course reviews explore components proven to be best practices in online course design. This post showcases Quality item, “Course materials are properly formatted with headings, lists, and other styles to enhance readability and improve the structure of the document.”

Properly formatted headings and lists can help make your course more accessible for all students, including those who need assistive technologies, such as a screen reader.

Headings and Lists

Think of leveled headings (e.g. Title, Heading level 1, Heading level 2) as a way to communicate your document’s hierarchical structure, or outline, to your readers.

If your content includes any lists, consider whether they could be communicated more effectively with bullets (when sequence is unimportant) or an ordered list (e.g. 1, 2, 3 when sequence is important) rather than in a paragraph.

Headings and lists in textual content can help all your students:

  • Be more motivated to read and study it
  • Understand it more effectively
  • Organize their thinking
  • Find information they need

What are Some Ways your Online Course can be Designed to Meet this Standard?

  • Use the Rich Content Editor (e.g., in Webcourses@UCF, MS Word, Google Docs) to indicate the hierarchical structure of your textual content with heading levels, bulleted lists, and ordered lists, where applicable. Heading levels in one document should not be skipped.
  • Use the Module Page Template in Webcourses@UCF’s Templater Tool to edit sample text formatted with heading levels.
  • Use the UDOIT tool in Webcourses@UCF to check for (AND FIX) existing issues related to headings in a course. While in UDOIT, you can check for and fix other accessibility issues as well. Note that UDOIT scans only Pages, Assignments, Quizzes, etc., in Webcourses@UCF; it does not scan your course files (e.g., Word docs, PDFs, PPTs). So, course files need to be reviewed for accessibility issues separately.
  • Refer to Web Accessibility in Mind’s (WebAIM) Semantic Structure: Regions, Headings, and Lists for more information.

What Does This Look Like in a Real Online Course?

Example 1: Stacey DiLiberto, HUM3460, Latin American Humanities

Stacey uses heading levels and bulleted lists that communicate the structure of her textual content and make information easier to find, read, and understand.

Culture and People


The Maya are often compared to the Greeks in that they had a very sophisticated knowledge of math, science, astronomy, and art. For example, they had a very advanced number system which included a symbol for the value of zero and a calendar system comprised of 365 days. They also had a cyclical notion of time rather than time occurring in a linear fashion.


The Maya civilization can be divided into three periods:

  • Pre-Classic (~1800 B.C.E. – 250 C.E.) ​
  • Classical (250 – 900 C.E.)​
  • Post-Classical (900 – 1500 C.E.)​

While the Maya Civilization was vast, it was primarily located in Mesoamerica: the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, Western Honduras, and El Salvador. By the time of the Spanish Conquest, the civilization was scattered and in full decline.

Time Periods


  • Rise of the Olmecs​, the earliest Mesoamerican civilization that is thought to have influenced some of the customs and ways of life of the Aztec and Maya.  The Olmecs were known for their giant “baby head” sculptures.
  • Derive number and calendar system​
    • 365-day Calendar (more accurate than Julian Calendar in Europe)
    • Mathematics and astronomy (Invent concept of “0”)​

Example 2: Rich Content Editor in Webcourses@UCF

You don’t need to know HTML to properly format headings. A Rich Content Editor (see Figure 1) lets you select the correct heading levels to make your content structure easier to understand.

An image of text being formatted into Header and Subheadings.
Figure 1: Heading options in Webcourses@UCF Rich Content Editor

Example 3: Headings Issue Detected in UDOIT

No need to scour your course searching for heading issues. UDOIT will find the issues, including unformatted headings and skipped heading levels, and let you select the correct heading level right in the tool (see Figure 2).

An image of text that states, "Avoid Using Styles for Document Structure."
Figure 2: Heading level issue detected and fixed in UDOIT
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