By Antonio Calderón.
Reading Time: ~2 minutes.
‘Aesthetics matter: Interface design shapes learning’, The Manifesto for Teaching Online (p. 55)
I couldn’t agree more…! Do aesthetics inform your decisions around the interface design of your Sulis module sites? Aesthetics such as the colours, fonts, sizes, images, links, etc. that you use?
In this two-minute post, you will realise that those seemingly small details of how to structure and present information to your students, really matter. You may think that Sulis and many other virtual learning environments (VLEs) are not particularly friendly to the idea of flexibility and aesthetics, but there are plenty small things that you can do in this regard. Let me tell you what works for me.
As I discussed in a short ‘Spilling the T’ session I gave (presentation slides), the combination of the ‘lessons tool’ to create sections within my module structure, pictures from Unplash, Pexels, or Haiku and Google slides, and more importantly, my own module content, allowed me with minimal effort and time, to convert my Sulis sites into more dynamic and visually appealing places for my students to navigate (and hopefully, learn better). The first thing I would suggest, is to remove all the Sulis tools that you do not use in your teaching practice, and which your students will not need to use, from the left-hand side menu of your modules. Second, update your ‘Overview’ page on Sulis by adding a welcome picture (e.g. one like this, this, this, or a motivational quote like this). Third, use the ‘lessons tool’ and start small by creating two or three vertical sections (or rows) stacked on top of each other, each containing two columns (see my video summary at the base of this post for a demo). You might decide what information to include in each section and its structure, especially in the first two sections.
Once you have these three simple steps completed, you might ask your students to see what they think. They always have nice ideas. My own experience and my students' feedback is indeed very positive. I might reiterate at this point, that this process is not time consuming at all, because I use the same slideshows every year (with little tweaks) therefore, I save considerable time.
The take-home message from this post is that aesthetics matter. Start small and make simple incremental changes to the aesthetics of your module sites. Creating a visually appealing Sulis site is a step by step process. Perhaps start with your overview page and progress from there. Play with your slideshows and embed some in your module site. In time, you might even try embedding Panopto weekly videos explaining to your students the week in a nutshell. Remember that this is about you and your students so aim to find a balance that facilitates your teaching and makes their learning more engaging. That would be all! For a quick walkthrough demonstration of how I do this on one of my own module sites watch this video summary (~4 mins). Happy (online) teaching!