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.
The use of open-access resources is a growing trend in education. Open Educational Resources (OER) include any teaching material (i.e. syllabi, lesson plans, worksheets, videos, games, readings, textbooks, applications, etc.) that is available free of charge to anyone with permission to reuse, revise or redistribute.
I have been using an OER as the textbook in my General Psychology face-to-face classes for 5 years, and when I started teaching on-line just over a year ago, it seemed a natural fit to continue using the same resource.