Another dot in the blogosphere?

Five tips on e-resource design (part 1)

Posted on: March 3, 2015

If we are sharp enough, we can learn important lessons from current media outlets about how not to design e-learning and teaching resources.

Five Ball by Dricker94, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Dricker94 


Here are just five lessons from two online newspapers in Singapore. I present them as bullet points below and brief-to-the-point-of-indecent explanations thereafter.

  1. Send consistent messages. Do not send mixed signals.
  2. Give learners a compelling reason to consume your resources. Do not assume the user wants to consume them.
  3. Give your learners choices. Do not assume the user is stupid by providing defaults.
  4. Design with student perspectives. Do not design for teacher eyes only.
  5. Make your resources social and open. Do not make it hard to share elsewhere.

1. Send consistent messages
TODAYonline published an informative and important piece on the use of big data in hospitals in Singapore.

However, the paper saw it fit to publish photos that did not really illustrate the story. They were not the worst photos. They were not even stock photos. But they were awkwardly posed photos that did not add to the story. Such photos are quite common public relations posters or pamphlets and are painfully awkward.

Images are very powerful. Publications like the Boston Globe’s Big Picture and National Geographic leverage skillfully on this.

Carefully chosen images can not only reinforce a message, they can also be the message.

Words may leave room for some interpretation and debate; photos are visual and require interpretation and generate debate. Used skillfully, images do not push content; they pull it from participants and can be used to negotiate meaning.

2. Provide compelling reason; do not compel
I used to click on links that STonline tweeted. But I would be led to pages that auto-loaded and auto-played embedded video advertisements in the Twitter web browser.

Not only were these advertisements loud and alarming, they also consumed huge portions of my data plan. I was compelled to view them and had to manually stop them from playing.

Instead of first pushing the who, what, where, when, or how of content, educators should start with the WHY of a lesson. The WHY provides the impetus for learning.

3. Give your learner choices
Of late, the auto-play videos seem to have gone away from the STonline pages when viewed with Twitter. However, they have been replaced with another design sin.

If you are reading on a mobile device and listening to music, the STonline site somehow reduces the system volume of the mobile device. You cannot override this default behaviour.

STonline assumes that I cannot read the news and listen to music at the same time. This takes away user choice and control.

If you do not design choice for learners, you are assuming you know best. You are not the only authoritative source of information, no matter how highly you think of yourself. You are certainly not their overbearing parent. Give them choices.

More tips in Part 2 tomorrow.

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