When you think about great design, what comes to mind? Art? A product you use every day, or a favorite piece of furniture? Maybe a favorite app that manages to be both gorgeous and utilitarian? How about e-learning?
Yeah, probably not. If you're like most people, your encounters with any sort of online training are not likely to have left you dazzled. We've always worked with our clients to create something different, something special that will blow people away and change the way they think about e-learning. Great design is a critical part of that for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we believe e-learning should be held to the same standards as the consumer software your learners are used to interacting with on a daily basis. Design also goes a long way toward fostering learner engagement. But what about the goals of the learning? Does visual design provide critical support to learning objectives?
DESIGN AND SCIENCE: AN UNEXPECTED PAIRING
"Scientists are smart. Designers are, er, good with color."
This quote opens a Quartz article about The Leading Strand, an initiative that pairs academic researchers with designers to help those outside of the scientific community understand the nuances of important research. Some examples of initial projects (launching in July) include, "a multi-screen motion piece to explain how memory failure happens in aging adults" and "a drum circle to show how neurons move when we think."
The ideas behind this project aren't necessarily new. If you've spent time in a children's museum, you've experienced interactive exhibits that break down complex scientific concepts to a level that sparks the interest of young minds. Personally I would love to witness the drum circle that demonstrates activities of the neurons in my brain (business trip to New York, anybody?).
I believe The Leading Strand is an important project because I am neither a scientist nor a visual designer. While my preferred learning modality is reading, I recognize that some concepts are better explained through visual metaphors. And I cannot design my way out of a paper bag, but I sure can appreciate great design that successfully translates complex concepts.
VISUAL DESIGN AND E-LEARNING
When it comes to e-learning design, many of you will think about the instructional designer--the role responsible for translating content into learning. And yes, the activities, the flow of the content, and the overall structure of the course are important. But visual design has so much potential to convey content and concepts, particularly those that are difficult to convey through language.
It's yet another reason that the four pillars of e-learning development are equally important to a successful project. Visual design provides the first and last impressions of a course. It supports easy navigation around a piece of software. And it's an invaluable tool for translating complicated material in a way learners can quickly grasp.