To be a designer one must have an aesthetic. An aesthetic can be interpreted as dealing with the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty. But it can also be scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values.
What one senses as beautiful is not beauty if it doesn’t work. For example, I would not hang the actual Mona Lisa paining in my living room. Although I might personally judge it to be a beautiful object, my house is not prepared for the throng of people who also share this value. It wouldn’t work.
Similarly a learning activity can be considered to not work if it is poorly designed. A lovely Powerpoint may have the learners remember the beautiful pictures rather than the information. A fun activity may have the learners remember it was fun, but not the learning objective.
There are many articles dealing with the relationship between asthetics and learning. An article from Denmark tells about how schools and classrooms are being redesigned with new finding in aesthetics and learning. Another article tells how aesthetics and learning experience design can be related. Meanwhile, Jesse Garrett and Andre Plaut present fascinating theories about learning experience design. If these two are too dense and abstract, a more concrete theory of learning design can be seen at Charles Burnetts IDesignThinking website.
To me beautifully designed learning design has 4 factors.
1. A pleasant and interesting learning experience.
2. An efficient learning experience.
3. An effective learning experience.
4. Always remember the instructor is “selling” the lesson to the learner.
I take these factors into consideration every time I design a learning activity.
I also have to consider the constraints on the design: audience, mode of delivery and subject. For this particular activity my audience is university students, mode of delivery is e-learning and the subject is Chinese language for pre-beginners.
I have previously taught this material to preschool children with ILT. So, I had to significantly change the tone and technique of the delivery. Although adults also can learn like children, they have to be put into a “play-like” context first, otherwise they often feel uncomfortable. The 15 minute time constraint is not enough time to establish a relationship of trust with the learners to have them participate in play-like activities, especially with a topic many adults are anxious towards- second language learning. Adults are also more critical, asking “do I need or want to learn this?” Thus the material was designed to have more information giving the learners self-knowledge.
I also had to change the type of learning activities. The pre-school F2F activities are mostly do type activities because the learners don’t have the attention span for absorb activities. Whereas my adult learners have the attention span and are more cautious in choosing to participate in do activities. Thus, I first prime for the do activity with an absorb activity.
Also the pacing of the activities is different for my adult learners. It will be self-paced because adults like to control their own learning. Also, they will be learning individually thorough e-learning rather than in a classroom led group.
Next step is to design the interface and learning experience. I will be sure to stick with my 4 aesthetic principles!
Kjærvang, U., (2006). Power of Aesthetics to Improve Student Learning, View From Denmark: Re-Imagining Spaces of Learning. DesignShare.com. http://www.designshare.com/index.php/articles/aesthetics-and-learning/
Parrish, P. E., (2005). Embracing the Aesthetics of Instructional Design. The COMET® Program, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Prepared for IVLA Conference, October, 2005. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CFcQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.unco.edu%2Fcetl%2Fsir%2Fmaking_happen%2Fdocuments%2FAesthetic%2520Principles_Web.doc&ei=U5hVU4nQH5PlsASgz4LICA&usg=AFQjCNFiPEugKIDppsNsi6H1GZ7kE3DX8g&sig2=t2nyWV5RVRY6CQqLiXA6iA&bvm=bv.65058239,d.cWc