LEARNING & THE SENSES
The importance of aesthetics in e-Learning design and development is often ignored. For some unknown reasons, the creative artistry that more often distinguishes the great learning experience lies unexplored. And yet, every program or production that we remember is most often the one that appealed to our senses and that, in turn, stimulated our mind to learn, absorb and retain.
In their article, “The Impact of Design and Aesthetics on Usability, Credibility, and Learning in an Online Environment,” authors Alicia David and Peyton Glore offer us the following:
American and global cultures are innately visual, and visual methods of communication predate written language. There are cave paintings in France that are estimated to be 16,000 years old (Cooper & Holman, 2008). There are few aspects of our daily lives that do not involve a visual component. Technology has allowed for access to visual media such as digital media, video games and television in a way that young adults have integrated these media into their daily lives (Glore, 2010). . . .
The first step in understanding the function of visual media in the technology culture is to define aesthetics and design. The digital aspects of aesthetics and design are not merely photos or graphics displayed on a screen, but are the method of deliberately arranging elements to appeal to the senses or emotions of the user; or the act of creating something that has not or does not exist (Batiha, Al-Slaimeh & Besoul, 2006).
Unfortunately, while we all know the importance of the SME, the computer programmer, and the instructional designer — far too often, we select those individuals solely for their skill set, ignoring the importance of their “artist’s eye.” And yet, it is often the aesthetic distinguishers that lift our programs into the higher planes of learning.
We all have the deepest respect for the advances that have been made in Science and Technology. But, we must be careful. The primal importance of Art must never be lost. Whether that Art is in Music, Writing, Painting, Architecture or Design, it has an equally important place in almost everything. Education and Training forget that from time to time — and, the result is “lost opportunity.” Certainly, e-Learning needs to combine Art and Technology in order to reap those great results in learning so desired by all of us who strive to expand the worlds-of-opportunity for our many trainees.
John Rosenthal, one of America’s premier art photographers and a long-time contributor to NPR’s “All Things Considered,” has written about the necessity for this combination — in every aspect of life:
“No matter how brilliantly Science has understood the mechanics of the material world, it is a remarkably ineffective tool for deciphering the mysteries of human misery. Even with thousands of “experts” telling us what’s wrong, and measuring it, self-knowledge is on the decline. In America, the most technologically advanced country on earth, one has to be oblivious not to hear a din of sorrow and private disappointment just below the gabble of our TV’s and the hum of our personal computers. Where is the expertise that can explain us to ourselves? The scientific method is inadequate for such revelations. No matter how many developmental models we formulate to explain why and when we do things, no matter how extensive the revealed neurochemical connections, psycho-biology must always collaborate with human freedom – the curse of dealing with a creature for whom visual symbols, art and language, are a defining characteristic. Such a collaboration entails nothing less than a deeper respect for the singularity of our lives, a recognition of those immensely specific contingencies that belong only to our own individual experience. In other words, the business of art – the inner gaze, and those strategies for sharpening its clarity. Who else but the artist, insisting upon the primacy of individual experience, can reclaim the private territory ceded to experts – to those well-meaning and well-socialized professionals who created the idea of normal people just when the corporations needed a work force?”
If you need examples, just take a look at the iPhone or the iPad. Sure, the technology is breathtaking. But, so is the artistic design and the aesthetics surrounding the users’ experience. We readily recognize the importance of line, mass, form, and color when we use those products.
And, so it should be with the e-Learning programs that you produce or purchase. Information, by itself, is never enough. It’s the aesthetics that will make your choices memorable; enhance learning most completely; and, increase the length of the retention.
We engineer many products and the result, with the best of them, becomes a well-baked cake. But, the cake will taste much better after you apply the icing. And, that is where the aesthetic choices you make will turn your courseware “cake” into either something special or something bland. Both useful, perhaps, but one will be to savor.
More on Tuesday – – –
— Bill Walton, Founder
“ THE WORLD RELIES ON THE HANDS OF ITS MEN AND WOMEN ”