CityU Library Reviews: “Visual Design for Online Learning”

Visual Design for Online Learning

Review by Jennifer Bodley, Librarian

What does your Blackboard course shell look like?  Would you say it is pleasing to the eye?  Is it chock-full of great content?  Is it easy for your students to use? Or, is it a hot M.E.S.S.?

Librarian Jennifer Bodley
Librarian Jennifer Bodley reviews “Virtual Design for Online Learning”

In Visual Design for Online Learning, Torria Davis describes how using evidence-based design strategies in Blackboard increases student learning.  Davis is an instructional designer at California Baptist University.  In an easy-to-read voice, Davis discusses text layout, embedded content, copyright, color and many other issues of visual design that directly impact student accessibility and learning online.  Don’t think of reading this book cover-to-cover.  She suggests the reader immediately begin pulling out practical information that can be applied to building or revising a course.  “Use this text like a workbook” (p. 15).

My favorite sections of the book are in Chapter 1, “How do I start?”  In this chapter, Davis introduces the acronyms M.E.S.S. and L.I.T.E. M.E.S.S. refers to the chaos and confusion of a poorly designed course.  M.E.S.S. stands for (M)any new technologies, (E)xcessive amounts of extraneous content, (S)everal different content areas for the same content, (S)upplemental or optional content mixed with required content.  Take a good look at the content in your Blackboard shell.  What is the need-to-know content directly related to course learning objectives?  Where is it located?  How is it displayed? How much nice-to-know content is in your Blackboard shell?  How are students accessing the content?  Do you know what is in all of your folders and modules?  How many layers of folders within folders do you have? Is your shell a mess?

L.I.T.E refers to keeping the design of the course light.  L.I.T.E. stands for (L)inks to external content, (I)ntegrate similar or related content, (T)ypography, (E)mbed content at the point of need.  By keeping the course design light, content is accessible to students and focused only on learning objectives.  Students can easily navigate to information and resources when they need them through fewer clicks.  Content is easily readable through the use of fonts, bullets and white space.

If you missed the most recent CityU Faculty Development Conference, you’ll want to review the end of Chapter 1, which includes screenshots of how to embed content in Blackboard.  If you attended the CityU Faculty Development Conference and want to learn more about making your course better, browse through the strategies in this book.  I suggest jumping to Chapter 3, “How do I facilitate instruction and interaction?” I particularly enjoyed the section on readability.  Look for screenshots that show examples of how to go from text-heavy to readable displays of information.

Don’t miss sections in this book on how to use screencasting and how to streamline content.  Start applying good visual design to your course today!

Visual Design for Online Learning. Davis, Torria. 2015. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 197 pages. [CityU login required]

Curriculum Connections

All disciplines would benefit from exploring the themes discussed in Virtual Design for Online Learning. Online teaching occurs in fully online, partially online, or even for in-person courses, which might feature supplemental instruction outside of the classroom.

Related Resources

Please note: Resources listed with [Login Required] are available to CityU students, faculty and staff, and may be available to other readers through their local libraries.

CityU Library book reviews feature materials relevant to academic programs. Each review includes curriculum connections and a list of related resources.  We hope you enjoy learning and discovering new resources with us!

Published December 17, 2015



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