Before we plunge into online course design, let’s imagine that we are at a zoo or a museum where there are classes of small children on field trips from their school. It’s chaos in a lot of ways, isn’t it? Although the kids are supposed to be with their teacher or leader, there are always a couple of them lagging behind, packed tightly together, or floating around with everyone else. If someone said, find the kid with the blue jacket and fair hair, could you? Yes, after your brain recovered from the overload! Now imagine that someone said, “Okay, go get all those kids to stand in a line and follow you to the dinosaur exhibit.” How would you do that?
Instructional designers get information that resembles those small children every day and are tasked with the job of getting that information to line up and move in a specific direction so that everyone benefits. They work with concepts and words, images, and media to accomplish this.
As important as the content is, the visual presentation of that content strongly affects how easily learners will be able to learn and apply new information. In this article, we are going to review six basic principles of graphic design that will help you build a compelling online course. The principles and examples follow those presented in a webinar hosted by iSpring and led by Llamasoft instructional designers Meg Fairchild and Sam deGeus (link at the end of the article).
Now let’s look at these principles in greater detail. We will explain what each principle is about, provide examples of good and bad slides, and share best practices on how to apply these principles in course design.