COMPARE the three interfaces of the learning resources provided below:
1. Binary Blue ESSO
I had a recent experience at one TAFE college where teachers refused to use the Blackboard as their elearning tool because, they argued, their apprentices found it tiresome to use and navigate. Instead, we developed a simple HTML templated training resource, which can be loaded onto a USB and worked through in a class or lab without having to go online.
Let’s face it – a lot of elearning is built in to a Learning Management System to enable quick assessment (quizzes) and to satisfy auditors and administrators, rather than learners. The resource features a list of topics with attached PDFs (learning material) and the odd video or link to a website thrown in for good measure. Functionality rules!
So does design have any bearing on student engagement?
This question raises the notion of pleasure in design. There is something intrinsically satisfying about good design – whether this is a building, lounge chair, car or toaster. It’s certainly something that Apple forsaw, and was extremely successful with their iPods, iPads, iPhones, etc. What gave them their competitive advantage was their design.
Web sites are designed with engaging interfaces, and a lot of time and money is spent on this, to get the design right to attract the right clientele, make the navigation easy and reflect the values of the organisation.
Children’s learning is stimulated in books with beautiful and pleasurable illustrations and words. And high quality text books pitched at older age groups continue with this strong design principle.
So what happened with design in elearning? Development time is a factor. Money is a factor. There’s a tendency to throw it all together. It’s modelled on what is seen to be a typical adult classroom: the teacher comes in, makes a presentation using variety of tools (mostly Photoshop), hands out some photocopied sheets of text, and that’s about it. So why not the same with online material?
But these are not comparable contexts. In most elearning, there is generally no teacher present. In the classroom, it’s the teacher who guides and entertains, who keeps everyone active and engaged, by asking questions of the class, responding with feedback, tying everything together.
Without an actual teacher then, engagement through design is essential in an elearning environment.
Another factor that has bearing on this is the Learning Management System (LMS) in which the content is framed. Most LMS do not include very robust design tools. The interface encompasses the whole system, rather than just the specific learning material. There is little instructional design.
Coursera, though, is interesting (see above). The interface design is clean and simple. The content is driven by video; close up and personal. This is similar to the Kahn Academy approach.
Coursera and Kahn, with their strong use of video, are bringing design and engagement once again to the fore in elearning.