I attended the iNACOL online learning conference a few months ago, and I heard a lot of discussion about good digital course design. And I know there are lots of people out there who are making good content. But for every good digital course or unit I see, I see so many MORE classes that have the design aesthetics of the Mother Alien from Alien II and the functionality of a the toiletpaper on the head invention. So it’s clear that there are many more people out there making really bad online classes. I know this for a fact, because I too was one of these people.
After thinking about this for a bit, I figured it’s time someone wrote an article to help them excel in their work. After all, while most digital content is uninspiring, they all seem to accidentally get a few things right. Things could be so much worse with just a little more attention to detail!
So here we go! For all of you out there trying to excel as Awful Digital Course Designers, I give you: Tips for Building Awful Digital Content! I’ll keep adding to this series as things go on, but for now, let’s get started with Tip #1!
Tip #1: Use PDFs! Lots of them!
I can’t stress how important PDFs can be to bad online design. PDFs do so many things at once to make your class a steaming pile of dog poo. First off, they are usually bloody ugly. Second, they often result in another program launching on the user’s computer, which is always a good idea when you want to create problems with technology and confusion with course navigation. Also, they are designed for paper, which means that online scrolling and readability are clunky at best. It’s a win-win in so many ways!
Lastly, top web designers say that one of the best uses of PDFs is in situations when you don’t want anyone to read what you put up on the Internet. So when you use a PDF in course design, you dramatically increase the likelihood that students will completely ignore your content! This is totally awesome, as it leads directly to high indifference, always a top priority in cruddy digital design.
Want real-world evidence? Here’s a link to an MIT course that puts all the lecture notes and slides up in, you guessed it, PDF format: MIT Example. Notice how engaging this content is. Yawn! Can you feel the rush of inertia pushing you away from this page, pushing you to anything, anything at all, with a touch of life? No wonder Candy Crush is so popular. This is a stellar example. Be sure to emulate the best.
And remember, whatever you do, don’t consider transforming that PDF content into a web page that could fit into the course seamlessly. No no no! If you do that, students may actually read it and learn something, and we don’t want that!