I will use a current project of a very loose remit to bring together film makers, artists and designers into a “creative hub” to inject creativity and innovation into eLearning practice and theory as a spring board to reflect on the concept of the visual in the context of a Russell Group university (LSE) which is traditionally biased towards the textual and against the visual.
In the first instance, we have used the ‘creative hub’ to accelerate a programme of ‘reward and recognition’, celebrating innovative teachers, which has met with positive feedback, renewed interest in eLearning, and desire to follow suit from both senior management and academic peers.
In the second phase, we will work on the back of these initial successes with a new VLE Innovation grant, with the aims to
- Encourage Teaching staff to take ownership of their Moodle courses and their use of educational technologies, and to integrate VLE use and educational tools at the Curriculum Design Stage
- Increase understanding of the importance of aesthetics & design principles in the context of virtual spaces and blended learning.
- Radically reduce the use of Moodle as an administrative tool by administrators;
With the promise of a process of ‘beautification’, ie support from the creative hub, I hope to make teaching staff realise that Moodle can
- accentuate communication between participants;
- support independent learning, collaboration and student creativity;
- facilitate peer learning and peer assessment;
- deliver ongoing, two-way feedback opportunities.
Communication – the basis of learning – happens in time and in space. The beautiful matters to us, and design aesthetics are not merely ‘nice but not necessary’, but essential in learning as much as in anything else.
Currently, this is worked against by two related problems: a) the persistent disregard for design and aesthetics in creating online spaces and b) the persistent abuse of the VLE as an administrative tool. I will explore how both have come about and perpetuate a fundamental problem with VLEs, namely a misunderstanding of what they are, and what (and who) they are for. I argue that a VLE, designed by and for the right people (instructional designers, teachers, students) can uniquely strengthen the communicative relationships between teachers and students. I argue that if we pay proper attention to aesthetics and design, we can resurrect some of the early promise that VLEs offered to education.
I should point out that the first actual ‘refurbishment of VLE’ project will only start over the summer 2016. The suggested session is meant to be speculative and reflective on current ideas in aesthetics and education, not on actual outcomes or evaluation of work done at the LSE.
David, A. & Glore, P. (2010). The Impact of Design and Aesthetics on Usability, Credibility, and Learning in an Online Environment. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 13(4)
Norman, D (2004). Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. Kindle Edition
Watters, A. (2015) The Revenge of the Monsters of Education Technology. Kindle Edition