Friday, March 05, 2021

Happy learners with an attractive platform

Do you facilitate an online or blended course? If it takes longer than let's say a day or week, you may be using an online platform. Maybe you are already content that you understand all feature or you may have  someone 'doing' the platform stuff. That is a shame because a well-designed and attractive platform is important. So you should be bothered about the style and content of the platform, even if you think there is not that much that you can tweak (what you can tweak depends indeed). In this blog I explain why the attractiveness of your platform is important and will give a number of tips that you can get started with right away.

In this video you see the 'Rapping Flight Attendant David Holmes'. He explains the safety instructions via a rap. Not only musical and fun, but it also turns out to be effective. "This is the first time I have listened to the instructions" a passenger told him. Making fun can help capture attention ... How can you use this with your online platform?

Happy or sad online? The importance of emotions

Donald Norman writes about the importance of emotion in design in an article called Emotion & Design, Attractive things work better. Two elements are important for a great platform supporting learning. First, the attrractiveness - the immediate atmosphere that you experience as a participant on a platform. And secondly, the convenience - the ease with which the participant can use the platform and move around and find their way. Most importantly, the first influences the second: appearance affects the ease of use. A study of ATMs in Japan and Israel shows that an attractive ATM with the same buttons is perceived as easier. Norman explains this on the basis of emotions: an attractive design makes you happier and hence you are more open to finding solutions, for example clicking a few times before you find what you are looking for. On the other hand, if you are in a bad mood, you can keep clicking on something and get annoyed. So you can get away with more problems if it looks nice. 

How to make your platform attractive? You can do something about the design, font, color photos. What atmosphere do you want to create in the platform? That probably depends on your target group. Business- like or informal? With hand-drawn images you get a different atmosphere than with photos of well-dressed employees. Blue gives a different feeling than orange. Also play with fonts. And test. Ask participants what they find attractive and what they don't.

Tips for an attractive platform

  • Make use of illustrations, photos and drawings. Illustrations contribute to the attractiveness and atmosphere. If you have or can hire a graphic designer in-house, he or she can help you develop the style. If not, you can also ensure that you add images such as photos or cartoons. You can use sites with photos such as Pixabay or Unsplash for this. Or use icons such as Nounproject or Iconduck. You may also search for images with use rights using Google images.
  • Provide a clear structure. A participant enters the platform and must be able to find his way. A good menu function helps with this. You may put a welcome message on the homepage in which you give people a brief explanation. Remember that not everything has to be visible from the start, maybe you can keep a few themes hidden for later? Or do you expand the platform based on the wishes of the participants?
  • Put the most important thing first. Online you work with lots of hyperlinks. How often does someone have to click to get to the information? This has a great influence on the number of responses to a question, for example. When a question and all answers are visible straight away, this produces many more responses than when you first have to click twice before entering a forum. 
  • Use multimedia. You can work with text online. Such as exchanging ideas and experiences or answers to an assignment in a forum. It can be refreshing to work with other media such as video and audio. When you can "embed" videos (this is placing the video on your platform in such a way that the video plays there too) it is more attractive than a link.
  • Use appealing language. Language has a decisive role: use recognizable language, but also be creative. Calling a space for group a "bungalow" does something to the atmosphere. Or create a "garden" as a place to exchange ideas, which sounds different from "forum". Using a word like bungalow with a simple image can give the feeling that you are really sitting in a house together. 
  • Make activity visible. Nothing is more annoying than going to an online environment and feeling that little is happening there. A main page that constantly looks the same does not make you curious. Make the activity visible on the main page: tweets, latest activities, a newly started discussion, a posted blog post, an added video, a new link to an article.