A leading e-Learning authoring system provider lists four reasons for using their authoring tool.  Here are three of those reasons:  “Save time creating courses” – “Scale your learning program quickly” – “Everybody can create e-Learning now (this one makes me cringe).”

Did you notice?  None of the three have anything to do with learning!

All three have to do only with time and money.  Shame!

There are, however, many important factors that go into creating effective learning.  One of the very important, and too often ignored, is aesthetics — and, that’s the subject I will address today.

“Visual imagery has an important role to play in global entertainment, communication, and education. Images can convey complex concepts in a succinct manner, and visual tools . . . can improve understanding and foster peer collaboration.  Design and aesthetics have a profound impact on how users perceive information, learn, judge credibility and usability, and ultimately assign value to a product. To dismiss design as merely visual is to make a fundamental mistake. Style does not replace substance, but style and substance in balance work much better.

Online courses are becoming increasingly important  .  .  .  It is therefore important that visual and aesthetic concepts be considered in both course design and e-learning platform design and selection. Insufficient focus on aesthetics and inadequate levels of faculty support currently prevent aesthetics design from being fully implemented.”   (The Impact of Design and Aesthetics on Usability, Credibility, and Learning in an Online Environment by Alicia David and Peyton Glore)

The importance of aesthetics in e-Learning design is often ignored.  For some unknown reasons, the creative artistry that more often distinguishes the exceptional learning experience lies unexplored.  And yet, every program or production that we remember is most often the one that appealed to our senses —- which, 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.  Education and Training forget that from time to time — and, the result is “lost opportunity.”  Online learning needs to incorporate Art and Technology in order to expand the worlds-of-opportunity that our society requires.

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 and the iPad.  Sure, the technology is breathtaking.  But, so is the artistic design and the aesthetics surrounding the users’ experience.

And, so it should be with the e-Learning programs that you produce or purchase.  Information, by itself, is not nearly enough.  It’s the aesthetics that will make your choices memorable; enhance learning more completely; and, increase the length of the retention.

More on Wednesday  –  –  –

        — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning

       May 21, 2018  (Mondays & Wednesdays)


 (This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner,, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)