1. Create an inviting course look and feel
A high quality course look and feel:
- Uses images throughout that are relevant and engaging
- Utilises page designs that are visually appealing and logically sequenced
- Utilises the tone, instructions and explanations throughout the course in ways that are friendly, clear and build rapport with learners
- Is free from grammar/spelling errors
- OpenLearning Course Quality Criteria
How your course looks and feels for learners goes a long way in creating a vibrant (or empty) community. Learners typically feel more comfortable, valued and encouraged to contribute within courses that feel warm and inviting.
You can create a warm, inviting and appealing course look and feel, through the images that you use, the way you design and sequence course pages, and especially in the way you write instructions and explanations throughout. It's important to note, just because you're designing an online course, it doesn't mean you have to adopt a serious and heavy tone!
A warm, friendly and conversational tone is usually best:
Making sure your writing is free from grammatical or spelling errors is important in conveying quality and integrity. We recommend using Grammarly as a browser extension.
Using images to enhance the learner experience
Using relevant and engaging images (including animated GIFs) to communicate visually with learners is a powerful tool to make them feel welcome and also engage them with the course content.
Images can be used:
- to demonstrate or support the concept you are trying to explain
- as useful analogies e.g. an alternative way of communicating ideas
- to convey emotion in order to connect with learners
- to offer humour (we’re big fans of this!)
They can even be used as parts of activities!
To demonstrate how you could use images on a page to enhance the learner experience and feeling within a course, let’s imagine you're teaching about how historically, it was thought that The Earth was flat.
Along with your written info, videos, articles, and other resources, image options on your page to create a positive learner experience could be:
Image option 1: The flat Earth
Demonstrates or supports the concept
Image option 2: The Earth is flat like this table
Offers an analogy of the concept
Image option 3: "Wait, it's not round?"
Conveys emotion to connect with learners
Image option 4: "Are we sure?"
Image permissions and licensing
In most education contexts, images are freely used as long as there is no commercial element. That is, you aren't charging for the course. If you are planning to charge, we recommend sourcing images that are free to use under Creative Commons (CC). These are free to use as long as you credit the photo/image owner.
Some great free image sites we use are:
If you have a budget, you can purchase stock photos from sites such as:
As always, it's a good idea to credit your images. We like using a simple 'Image Source' with a hyperlink to the image.