Aesthetics and Self Defined Identity

I wonder if there’s a benefit to allowing the end user, the learner  in educators cases, control of how online spaces function and look. How we design places, how we as educators/teachers/instructors design places is a egotistical idea, imposing a will of how things will be viewed and the order of viewing, that’s unlike anywhere else on the web. I can choose to go to Google in the middle of writing this article, no one says I have to finish writing this blog post before I can move on to looking at LOLcats. In the same sense why are we ordering students to complete tasks in an order that may not work for them? Maybe someone wants to engage in discussion before attempting the readings…

Similarly, who’s to say that my idea of what pleasant aesthetics are? Certainly they might appeal to a European or North American aesthetic set, but maybe my use of white, black and greys are not appealing to an African or Asian aesthetic? Wouldn’t it be nice to have educators select a default stylesheet, for those students who don’t have a preference, and allow the end user to choose how their localized content looks. I mean that was the hope with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and XML, where CSS would describe to the browser how it would look and XML would describe the data being transmitted. Instead of creating courses with content, generate a mass of XML that would be styled by the learner. Then you of course avoid all those nasty problems with mobile platforms, e-readers, etc.

Learner. A word that exemplifies the role, but seems so clumsy… I’ll have to look for a better one – don’t know if one exists though. Neither here nor there…

In this situation where the end user/learner styles the content, what happens to the identity of the instructor? Part of the deal with aesthetic judgments one makes about e-learning spaces is that it informs the student about the instructor. What happens to this implicit “understanding” (or misunderstanding)? The way we organize a page informs the reader of the page about the designer. Traditionalist? Times New Roman font, twelve point, one inch margins… Amateur? Comic Sans, larger, clip art that isn’t really relevant… Modern? Helvetica, ten point, maybe two columns, with images? Is it important to have this information as a learner at a distance? Is anyone thinking about this stuff?

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