Adding Decor to Your Online Course
Let’s be honest; most of us judge a book by its cover. Similarly, students will have a reaction to the look and feel of our online courses. Most learning management systems have themes, an option to add a banner, and other colors choices to offer instructors some customization. I use pre-made themes and then further customize colors to create a distinctive look. Perhaps other instructors are doing the same exact thing! (Are you using a Confetti theme right now in one of your online classes and also changed the text color to a shade of purple for the left sidebar?) I now add Adobe Spark pages among other online tools to my course (more on this below) to decorate a bit further ensuring that when a student logs on to my course website, it will be a distinct experience.
Every instructor is unique and we can embody a little bit of ourselves into the aesthetics of our courses.
Every instructor is unique and we can embody a little bit of ourselves into the aesthetics of our courses. Even the font choices you use have an impact! I want my classes to be expressions of who I am and give glimpses into my personality especially because the course lives online. Students who take online courses can be anywhere in the world; accordingly, many cannot just walk into your office to meet you and to see what you have on your desk and walls. (I recommend including at least one video where students can see your face and hear you speak. In my course information folder, I embedded a video in which I used a combination of Loom and H5p interactive quiz video. Even if the students don’t actually click and watch this optional video they still see what I look like that shows up as a not-so-flattering still from the video.)
Attending and speaking at as many conferences and workshops on online learning as possible is a great way to discover what other instructors do in their courses!
With that said, why not add some decor to your course that reflects your personality? If the themes and colors are like the walls of the classroom, let’s hang up some pictures too and make the online environment a bit more representative of who we are as instructors. What you put up on your “walls” may be immensely different than what I choose to incorporate and that is great! I am always on the lookout for new tools or ideas to bring into my online course. My best friend, Google, I use the most to explore and find inspiration. Attending and speaking at as many conferences and workshops on online learning as possible is a great way to discover what other instructors do in their courses!
The latest hands-on workshop was about making courses more visually engaging for students. I was one of the guest speakers for The Office of Online Learning and Academic Technologies at my school- specifically on how to use Adobe Spark to enhance online courses with its graphics, web pages, and videos. As of now these are the three different options available and I use all of them regularly in my courses. There are many themes and customizations possible that can enable you to create professional looking material in little time.
Spark is one of my new favorite tools for this reason and the main source of decor for my online courses. Its web pages are what gives the courses their look. I embed these pages in my learning management system and students have the option to make them full screen. Spark pages especially allows for such quick and vast customizations that even if every person teaching the same subject used them they would not look identical!
While Adobe Spark is what I prefer these days, there are so many other sites out there. Even extensions like Bitmoji for Chrome is a cool idea. I use Bitmojis in emails to colleagues often, but for me, it doesn’t match my course theme aesthetic. For others, adding Bitmojis throughout the course can be that extra decor you’re looking for.
If you have any suggestions for decor to use in online courses, feel free to send me a message about it!
(Of course, content is the most significant part of the course but every aspect plays a role in student learning, comfort, and engagement. I wrote this post to share ideas on personalizing online courses beyond the content itself.)