Good Instructional Design

When U.S. Supreme court Justice Potter Stewart was in his office contemplating his decision on an infamous pornography case in 1964, his clerk advised Stewart that he would know it [hard-core pornography] when he sees it. His opinion on whether a motion picture was pornographic was summed up in his famous quote:  “I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

Jump to 2018, when we are bombarded by an obscene number of websites that quite frankly are poorly designed and executed. To paraphrase Justice Stewart, we know the difference between a very good website and a very poor one even though we may not be experts in design.  The same holds true for e-learning that works and doesn’t.

What exactly are the elements of good instructional design? An instructional designer based in L.A. named Johnny Hamilton came up with a list of basic ingredients of turning what amounts to a mishmash of design elements into a solid platform for online learning.

Hamilton designs courses for a very large health company so his opinions carry weight.

Here are his nicely packaged recommendations:

  • Display less than 120 words at once—a crowded page invites learners to get lost
  • Chunk the content –use visual cues such as bullet points to highlight ideas
  • Size fonts for readability and never use more than two fonts—multiple font sizes and types can confuse and muddle
  • Incorporate white space—use it liberally
  • Utilize guides and grids—help your learners find their way around
  • Design from the top left to the bottom right– that means left aligned for paragraphs with text . This assumes your course is in English where we read in starting from top left
  • Limit the colour palette with the consistent use of colours—a rainbow of colours may dazzle…and confuse
  • Indicate meanings for colour—for example, navigation directions should all be given the same colour and indicate where you are and what you need to do

Be consistent with design elements and you will have a greater chance of engaging your learner.

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