Designing a course is not only about creating realistic course goals and matching learning activities to those. A major part is to attract and maintain the students’ interest. There has to be something thrilling that awakens their curiosity, a bit like the Angler-fish who lurks with his light in the great depths of sea. 

Excitement and curiosity are emotions that push us forward, make us explore uncharted waters, and the consideration of emotions could be useful in course designing. Research has shown that emotions affect learning through mediation of memory, attention, decision-making, motivation, self-regulation, social interaction, higher-order thinking and creativity (Park & Lim, 2019). It seems that if we could promote certain emotions, we could facilitate student engagement and learning. Özhan and Kocadere (2020) describe that positive emotions such as excitement, happiness or joy in students indicate that they are more engaged and social interactive, which in turn decreases the risk of them dropping out of the course. It is further emphasized by Özhan and Kocadere (2020) that the learning environment and setting must be entertaining and valuable for the students, to capture their attention. Despite of this, the knowledge of how we best could integrate emotions into the design of our learning environments is sparse (Park & Lim, 2019).

In the video-lectures by Marti Cleveland-Innes, where she talks about Community of Inquiery (CoI) three important aspects build up the frame work, teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence. Flowing through all three aspects are emotions. In teaching presence engagement and feelings of safety (e.g. belonging to a community or dare to explore new things) are put forth, social presence is partly about getting to know each other (familiarization) and to feel safe and comfortable in the environment. The cognitive presence is about evoking curiosity and to create challenges. The video recordings of Cleveland-Innes was also discussed during the webinar, and in the breakout group we explored emotions in learning even more, starting to discuss the impact of colours.

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Can the design of multimedia learning materials affect the students into a positive emotional state and will that facilitate learning? A group of German researchers investigated how colours and shapes used in multimedia impact learning. One of their hypothesis were that impact on the learners’ emotions throughout learning activities would provide better sustainability of those emotions, than to just do something cheerful or nice before engaging. This would also be perfect for the technical learning environment were videos, pictures or music could be used throughout the course in all activities (Plass et al., 2014). The study showed that emotional design (shapes and colour) induced emotions that impact learning. Turned out that both shape (rounded shapes) and colour (various) result in enhanced comprehension. Further research into the role of specific positive emotions in complex learning processes, showing that mood induction through a cartoon induces different emotions than emotional design.

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 So, for the introduction of a course you might want to show your students something nice, welcoming, warm and familiar – like a Swedish fika 😋😋😋, or a sunrise as beginning of something new and exciting.  Please, do also reflect on the colours; the one on your left showing a cup of warm coffee but has neutral colour. The sunrise on the other hand is coloured in yellow and orange – colours often associated with happiness and joy.

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By the end of course,   you might want to have something   surprising or challenging!  

Using darker, blue or green colours could  intrigue curiosity, hint something  mysterious or hidden…What awaits you  down the dark road? Do you dare to go  further and enter the woods?

Please, look at the pictures and reflect on how they make you feel. And please, write your reflections in the comments!!

Park, T. & Lim, C. (2019). Design principles for improving emotional affordances in an online learning environment. Asia Pacific Education Review, 20:53–67.
Plass, J. L., Heidig, S., Hayward, E. O. Homer, B.D. & Um, E. (2014). Emotional design in multimedia learning: Effects of shape and color on affect and learning. Learning and Instruction, 29:128-140.
Özhan, S. C. & Kocadere, S. A. (2020). The effects of flow, emotional engagement, and motivation on success in a gamified online learning environment. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 57(8):2006–2031.

Designing for learning