3 visual problems that educators should avoid in eLearning

Dec 1, 2018Blog, e-learning, instructional design tips, visual design

You caught up the trend of visualization in designing online courses. You followed the innovation of eLearning to make your course communicate to the learners in a more attractive, vivid and effective way.

But what is happening…? Your course doesn’t look better. Or even worse, it seems to be nicer, but the visual communication isn’t working. But what can you do? How could an educator be an effective graphic designer? Here are 3 main visual problems that educators should avoid to improve the visual design of an online course.


Why it’s hard for educators to deal with visual problems? 


Don’t know how to translate written content into visual one?

In visualizing content, the structure is an essential part. It drives the flow of information as well as guides learners in grasping new knowledge. However, how we follow visual content is actually quite different from how we read. For example, when we read, we usually follow the headline and read from the top to the bottom. On the other hand, with watching, our eyes tend to watch which is bigger or have an attractive color first. Regardless of the location of the position of the object in the given space.

The difference requires educators to truly understand the nature and mechanism of people’s visual habits. Unfortunately, there is the truth that most instructional designers lack while being trained in any visual design class. When turning a course from a full-of-text screen to a visual-based screen, most educators are affected by structuring layout as if it was a word document. It is the prevalent habit and the behavior that usually guides teachers’ ways of thinking

The visual hierarchy is a must-to-understand thing if educators want to have a great visual structure layout (Source: Designmantic)

Lack of knowledge in graphic design

Visual design is not only satisfying the audience’s eyes. The mission also is to create focal points to navigate learners (font styles, colors, adding images, videos, data visualization).

It is common that educators don’t have graphic designers’ sense and experience. This because everyone usually is the expert in his field. As an eLearning developer, lecturer only is a masters in creating courses’ content that is instructionally effective. However, educators don’t know how to appeal the learners’ senses through visuals. They are confused with how to arrange with the colors, how to choose the eye-catching and professional font style. For educators, the combination of flat images, hand-drawn images, and real photo could be great to make a lively visualization. In a nutshell, don’t deeply understand the purpose of visual design and lack of skills can lead educators to face several serious visual problems. The consequence is that your course isn’t nicer or learners are distracted from the lessons.

In order to create a beautiful visual design for your eLearning courses, first and foremost, you should know which type of visual problems that educators would avoid.

Read more: » 5 tips for instructional graphic design: Make your course beautiful


3 main visual problems that educators should avoid 


About colors

Color theory is about choosing colors for a design or putting together the perfect outfit. Many educators find it difficult to understand the theory of color and how to apply it. Want to know whether or not you are violating the color theory, check it out!

Use too basic color

It is true that “less is more”, but in some cases, too simple can be problematic. How can an online course become beautiful with only two colors black and white? How can you describe the change in the development process of a tomato if you use only green color for all?

Color is a tool to set the mood for a course. Color has various shades that you can freely pick for your course. So if you don’t want to drive your learners away or bore them to sleep, use colors that evoke their emotions.

Mixing too many colors at once

It is not too rare to see educators use color as many as they can in one design. Maybe they think that the more colors a course have, the more bright, vivid and attractive it could be.

However, too many colors can lead to the distraction and inconsistency in a course. For example, if a slide has more than 2 main colors, students couldn’t differentiate what is the main and subparts. In an educational animation scene, the abuse of colors would make the viewers confuse between the background and the main character.

There is no limit to how many colors you can have, but the more maybe isn’t the merrier when it comes to color. Thus, pay attention to the amount of each color you use.

Use the wrong colors

The color is the tone-setter for your course. In a variety of colors, each color has its own meaning. Wrong colors as we mentioned here maybe don’t follow the branding guideline or they aren’t suitable for the content.

It is inappropriate if you let a man wear pink or red-colored suits to in a corporate training course. Don’t choose green as a primary color when your branding color is orange.

In training courses, illustrators usually choose blue (not pink) as the primary color. Blue is represented for loyalty, trust, security, and intelligence. The light purple color added supports raise the ambition, spirituality to encourage learners.  

Catching learners’ attention and then keeping them hooked to your course requires you to appear with the right colors and set the right mood. Mix and match different colors to create more expressive designs.


About texts


Adding too much text or no text

Text in visualization has a role in marking the key-point of the content, to help capture learners’ attention when following a variety of information. Adding text to highlight the main points is good, but adding too much could bring the sense of a written document. Educator usually feels that every word is important and can’t decide which words could be reduced so they add most of text into visuals.  

No text also is a problem. Some educators remove all of text because they worry that students will feel bored when reading them. Without text, however, a presentation or an animated video can be difficult to understand. Add some text could increase trust and reliability of an online course.

As you can see from this example, the text helps explain various processes that occur in the formation of metamorphic rock.

Not suitable font style

Choosing the right font may positively impact your course design. However, a fancy font doesn’t mean that it is effective in your work. Having too many types of font which are beautiful, eye-catching is a common mistake of non-designers at the first attempt to design. Throwing all of clean fonts like Serif, Helvetica, Roboto because they are too simple is also a fault that many people did. Unluckily, just few people realize clean fonts help a course better readability on screen.

Lack of hierarchy

Too focused on browsing fancy fonts, attractive colors, educators might forget the hierarchy. The typical evidence is the lack of hierarchy heading. This part relates to the step of structuring the course. Some people indicate the importance of the information by changing the size of the fonts, but sometimes, it doesn’t work because they look too similar.

Change font style, Bold words would enhance students’ readability of students as they make a great contrast.


About visual aids (images, graphs, charts, and illustrations)


Use too much type of visual aids

It is common thinking that the diversity of visual aids is good for a design. Therefore, educators like to mix all of the flat images, hand-drawn images, and real photo to make a lively visualization.

An asymmetrical design which focuses too much on visual aids will have a negative effect and may distract learners’ attention to important elements on the page.

Read more: »  Visual aids for learning: Why they matter

Not relevant to the content

The power of images, illustrations, gif, etc sometimes makes educator forget the relationship of them with the content. “Just because it’s so beautiful, it should be add in my course”, that’s what usually pops up in educators’ mind. For eLearning, each image must tell a message, not just something to illustrate a random sentence.


Selecting images from the wrong sources is also a big problem of educators. Just “Google” what they are seeking for, and then educators select randomly without evaluating the qualities of the picture. In fact, there is a lot of high-quality stock photography, stock illustration sites, and stock video and animation sources for educators. The matter is they need to spend their time to find the highest-quality visuals that are good enough for their course.

Maybe you are interested in: » Best stock photography for eLearning developers 2018



The great sense of visual art is inherent, but believe us, an educator could certainly learn the art of visual communication through practicing. A big improvement in artistic skills is the result of a little bit of practice day by day. However, to have effective practice sessions, remember: everything of your course must have a purpose. Graphic design is for visual communication, that supports information’s transmission and ideas using symbols and imagery, not for decoration. So try your best, and don’t forget to get as highest quality visual communication as possible.

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