Authoring Modules II: Using the Online Authoring System

by Jessica E. Zimmer, Yana Mikhailova, Anthony Carpi, Ph.D.

Visionlearning provides an online authoring system to upload modules directly to our web site. While this system is easy to use and provides some editing capabilities, it is generally best to draft and finalize your module in a word processing program that can conduct a spell check, such as Microsoft's Word™. As you will see below, there are three main categories of ‘objects’ that you will upload to modules: text, graphics and links. This lesson will provide concise instructions on how to upload each of these objects, more detailed instructions are provided in our Authoring Handbook.

Getting Started

If you are submitting a module to our site in response to a request from one of our editors, please submit your lesson as an MSWord file via email to your assigned editor. Authors that have contacted Editors must register for our site and must then send an email to their Editor or our central staff ( asking for author privileges (approval may take 1-2 days). After approval, an Author link will appear in the yellow right-hand menu of our site. If your are submitting a module for use in your own MyClassroom, you may do so without prior approval.

The Author link will forward you to your personalized Author Module List page. If you are a new author, your list of modules will be empty. The My Modules classification bar on this page contains five terms: Title, Volume, Update, Status and Notes. Some of these terms are self-explanatory. Update will provide links to allow you to edit an existing module, Status lets you know at what point in our editing process the module is in. Status will also tell you how many people have reviewed the module since it was submitted. Finally, Notes will allow you to add notes to your editor about the module, the Notes area also allows you to view notes from your editor about a module.


To begin, click on the link Start a New Module. On the next screen, name the module, assign it to a discipline and grade level (most commonly undergraduate) and provide a subtitle. Then enter a description for the module and hit the Create Module key. If you have any questions about the content that should be entered in these fields, a description is provided in a second module in this authoring series. All of the information entered at this point can be edited later through the Module Info page.

Once you have created a module, the next screen you will see is the main Module Editor. This is the template you will use to create your module. Just below the module title and author, you will see a shaded blue menu as follows:


This is the main menu used for uploading module objects. As you add objects (text, graphics, links) to the module, you will see additional menus appear to allow you to continue.

Text: The add “Text” link will open a text entry block as seen below.

Text block

The text entry block will allow you to copy and paste single paragraphs of text from another document. IMPORTANT: Please use separate text blocks for each individual paragraph of text in a lesson, this will facilitate formatting the lesson for publication.

At the top of the text entry block, you will see several features that will help you create your lesson.

  • Simple HTML Tags provides directions on HTML formatting so that you can add superscripts, subscripts and make lists in a lesson. All of these features open in separate windows.
  • Object Library will allow you to add graphics or links directly within paragraphs of text or within tables. For additional information about this feature refer to the Author Handbook page 8 or email us at
  • Module Links will allow you to include links to other modules in our library within your lesson. Once you search the alphabetical list of library modules that appears, simply click ‘add’ and the link code for the module link will be inserted at the end of your paragraph. You can cut and paste it into the proper location.
  • Glossary allows you quick access to the Visionlearning glossary. Glossary words CANNOT be added to our library by individual authors. If you do not find a glossary term needed for your module, please submit a concise definition of the term to
  • Reset takes you back to a blank starting point for your module.
  • The HTML Tables links will insert coding for simple tables into your text block. You will then have to add text or other objects within the appropriate area. Simple tables can be expanded by adding new table column (td) tags or table row (tr) tags.
  • Bold VLBold_button and Italics VLItalic_button buttons will insert HTML code for these two features around a highlighted block of text. In general, bold should be limited to section headers (as you will see in this document) and italics should be reserved for scientific names or other appropriate uses. Do Not use underlining for emphasis as it can be confused with links.

At the bottom of the text area you will see two formatting options: Auto Format or Manual Format. Auto Format is selected as the default and should nearly always be used. Don’t forget to click the Save Text button once you are done entering a text block or you will lose your work.

Graphics: To enter a graphic in the body of a lesson, click on add Graphic in a blue Module Editor menu in the proper position within your lesson. This will open a page from which you can select the type of object to add. To add a graphic, select image from the drop-down menu. This will allow you to search for a graphic by name or browse our library of graphics alphabetically. If you find an appropriate graphic, select the add option and choose a proper alignment option from the menu given. If you do not find an appropriate graphic, you can choose the Add New Image option at the top of a graphic library page. This option will take you to a screen from which you can upload an object. If you choose to upload a new graphic to our library, please ensure that appropriate copyright permission has been obtained (see the Author Handbook for more details). Once you upload a new graphic, you will be taken to a page from which you can choose to add the object to your module. Select the proper alignment for your image to complete the process.

Links: In addition to text and graphics, links can be uploaded through our Module Editing system. To enter a link in the central box, click on add Link. This will let you add a link from Visionlearning’s Link Library or create a new link. You can search for an existing link in the library or browse them alphabetically. Once you find an appropriate link, normally you should select the option Open Link in Module Window. A second option given is Open in New Window, this option should be used rarely and only if a site requests that you do not ‘frame’ their pages. As with graphics, if you do not find an appropriate link for your module, you can upload a new link through our link library.

Right and Bottom Menu Links: Once the text of a lesson is complete, authors should find and place appropriate links in the 8 sidebar hyperlink categories. Adding links and graphics (in the case of the biography section only) is done in a similar manner to that described above. More information about the types of links that are appropriate for each category is provided in a second module in this series.

After you have finished editing the text, links and images for your module, you should create a 10-15 question multiple choice quiz for your module. On your Module Editing screen, navigate to the Resources section at the bottom left of the page. Click on the Add Quiz link in this section and enter a title (the title should mirror the name of the module, i.e. Atomic Theory I Quiz). Click on the Start a New Quiz link, from this screen you can select the type of question to add and then upload each quiz question individually.

Finally, click on Edit Module Info. link in the top gray menu bar. Here you can edit your title and add keywords, a description of your module, and categorize it according to the National Science Education Standards. Please see page 19 of the Author manual for further detail.

The Add Notes option on the top row is a place for you to express concerns about your module. You can write a note to the staff or your editor to fix HTML errors, question how a tool such as the glossary works or ask the site to wait to load the lesson until you add a specific link. Please title your note so that it is clear what it addresses. The View Notes option allows you to read notes that you or others have written about the module. Finally, the Submit Module button lets you submit the module to your editor and the Visionlearning staff if you are a pre-approved author. If you are a teacher in a MyClassroom, the submit button will prepare your module so that your students may view it.

Jessica E. Zimmer, Yana Mikhailova, Anthony Carpi, Ph.D. “Authoring Modules II” Visionlearning Vol. HELP-2 (2), 2005.