According to Wikipedia, Aesthetics is defined as “a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty.” It is important for all of us to remember that aesthetics also plays a vital role in the success –- or, failure –- of the training programs we offer our students.

Too often, the importance of aesthetics in E-Learning design and development is, unfortunately, 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.

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 that can be labeled “communication.” Education and Training forget that salient fact from time to time — and, the result is “lost opportunity.”

In the past, it was not uncommon to find artistic qualities in soundly designed Interactive Laser Videodisc and CD-ROM programming.

However, E-Learning has yet to absorb the soundness of this principle. Today, far too many E-Learning programs lean on text and still-graphic screens at the expense of learner interest — which must first be kindled by the artistic use of aesthetics.

To achieve significance, E-Learning programs need to combine Art, Content and Technology in order to reap the great results in learning so desired by all of us who strive to expand the worlds-of-opportunity required by our society.

If you need real-world 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 can instantly recognize the indelible 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 Thursday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning