Stayin’ Alive

This post is in response to the “Consider This” activity found in the Curator module of Ontario Extend. 


I’ve always tried to find interesting, thematically connected images to anchor my online course design to. For example, the top bit of my College Communications course looks like:


Here’s a Basic Math course I designed for our Academic Upgrading program, which includes both a landing image and tile images to complement each topic:


Needless to say, I see value in incorporating images into course design. It makes the UX feel modern, and adds a bit of whimsy. I’ll often start my course design by finding one anchoring image, pulling key colours out of that image, and using that colour schema throughout the entire course.

This semester, I took things a step further by replacing the course landing image each time I opened up a new topic. In this particular online course, topics run for two to three weeks. I think it helps keep the course feel alive and the topics feeling fresh if students open up the shell to discover a brand new image. While I love Unsplash – it’s become my first stop in the search for high quality, CC images, I deviated from this particular strategy for this course.

I wanted to provide some local context, add a bit of edginess, and celebrate the excellent mural work that’s been supported by a local festival, Up Here, for the past few years. So, I wrote and requested permission to utilize photos from their website, which feature local murals from around Sudbury, in my course design. Some of the muralists are even Cambrian grads! I love taking the opportunity to showcase our talented alumni through my instructional design choices.

Here’s a few examples:

Photo Credit: “You Are Beautiful” by Matthew Hoffman (August, 2013)
Photo credit: “VOUS ÊTES ICI” by Cambrian Grad Alexandra Berens-Firth (August, 2015)
Photo credit: “HELMUT OU UNE CHANSON DOUCE” by Ella and Pitre (August, 2016)

Each image loosely connects to the topic at hand, but I don’t really speak to the connection or make much out of the changing landing images to be honest. My hope is that students will wander around Sudbury, bump into one of these murals, and think “Oh! I saw that in my online course. That’s kinda cool”.

I guess my goal is to anchor my online course aesthetic to something real, something local, something that students can walk up to and touch. To marry the digital and the analogue in an intentional, yet subtle way. Best case scenario: students think about my aesthetic choices and imagine some interesting connections. At the very least, I hope the strategy adds some visual interest and life to the asynchronous online learning experience.

If you’re interested in learning more about these amazing murals and about the Up Here festival, check out their webpage!


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