Designing eLearning Online – Visual Hierarchy

eLearning online, just like any educational experience, depends on instructional design because it requires excellently designed courses that feature a complete set of essential elements to ensure learning. This will guarantee that the vital information is communicated well to learners. A proper instructional design process ensures the quality of an online course by identifying skills, knowledge, information, and attitude gaps. These gaps are then closed with the creation of learning experiences that are based on best practices in eLearning.

A very important part of eLearning online is how well courses are perceived by the target audience because perception determines how well they will understand the content. In order to perceive, people need sensory stimulation. In this type of learning, visual stimulation is critically important. Online learning is heavily dependent on visual elements such as text, graphics, pictures, videos and so on.

However, people seldom explain that the visual channel of such courses can transmit secondary messages through visual hierarchy which communicates the relative importance of the visual elements in a course. As denoted by the term itself, visual hierarchy guides learners to progressively pay attention to the visual element of highest rank down to those of lesser rank. Standard hierarchy has three levels of importance which are equivalent, primary and secondary. This however can still vary.

Having elements in pecking order can reduce a lot of stress related to a cluttered screen. A learner would not know what to focus on first if graphics and the like are scattered everywhere, thereby causing confusion and inhibiting learning. Information is delivered to an audience with hierarchy because it helps emphasize the main ideas and concepts. In other words, a screen that has no visual hierarchy has little if no emphasis at all. In education, emphasis is an important way to really reinforce the absorption of information.

There are different ways to implement this in instructional design for an eLearning online course. Usually, designers opt to combine different kinds of approaches for maximum impact. Here are some different ways a person can establish visual hierarchy:

(1) Imagery. People tend to focus on the images and graphics that appear on the screen first, and then they move on to other elements such as the text. However, a certain level of control can be gained over this tendency for it depends on the design and treatment of a page or the whole course itself.

(2) Position. This is one of the most common ways to represent the progression. A good example of this would be the standard newspaper positioning wherein the hottest stories are located at the top of the paper because this position attracts more attention than those at the bottom.

(3) Color. In design, bright colors used with contrast attract more attention, while darker ones don’t. To establish hierarchy, it is important to make high ranking elements more vivid and less ranking ones darker.

(4) Size. Size is probably the most compelling way to depict hierarchy on a screen. There are different ways by which you can utilize this effectively. For example, making the title of a page larger, or making a relevant video encompass most of the screen.

You can research on the other ways of establishing visual hierarchy on the internet. It can really help people design higher quality courses.a

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