Attention and Aesthetics

Aesthetics are one of the tools that advertisers can use to distract, deflect criticism or deceive. In websites, each viewer has a minimum standard for aesthetics that must be met or else they will go elsewhere. The content is irrelevant  in this initial snap judgement of the worth of the site despite how well thought out, how good or how useful it is. Aesthetics are assessed almost instantaneously in an intellectual and instinctual way. By getting people to start paying attention to aesthetics, we can increase the intellectual assessment of aesthetics.

EDIT: In a fit of irony, I’m being distracted too much to do this subject justice.

EDIT: OK, now at a different venue, I can continue.

Paying attention to aesthetics is important for instructors because while good, tasteful learning spaces can assist learners in making good choices in what to pay attention to, ugly spaces make it difficult for learners to learn. Students already have a myriad of barriers in front of them, why add more?

Sure, I suppose I’m advocating that teachers invest time in “selling” their content – but that’s what we’re doing (poorly) already. And the model we’ve all been working under is not working for the intended audience. They aren’t buying what we’re selling – or if they are, they are doing so because they feel they have no other choice. With more choice introduced to the educational model, for-profit education that guarantees jobs, does it at an accelerated pace, and provides external accreditation with industry standards (such as many for-profit College’s computer programming programs in Ontario).  We can’t wait for change to effect us, we need to flip the model and effect change.

Subpar and mediocre learning spaces need to be dealt with. Even if you have no technical skills, you should be able to style a page by choosing fonts, colors and sizes from a menu. All LMS’s have HTML editors built-in. Use them at a minimum.

If you have no “eye” for design, start to develop one. Pay attention to sites that appeal to you – and start thinking about them critically. Find out what works for you and repeat it in your own work. We ask students to do this – why not apply these rules to yourself as well?

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