In the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s “Blackboard Customers Consider Alternatives,” the main focus is on the academic community’s disfavor with Blackboard‘s behavior, comparing it to Microsoft in the giant-monopoly-doesn’t-play-nice-with-others sense. Yada, yada, yada….should we switch to Moodle….yada, yada, yada.
What caught my eye, was a throwaway comment from an IT professional about faculty complaints that Moodle was not as slick or attractive as the commercial Blackboard: “I’m like, ‘Seriously, that’s your complaint? It doesn’t look as slick?’ Apparently that’s a huge deal for people.”
Well, yes, aesthetics, particularly in this century’s visual world, are a big deal. Aesthetics can play a role in a student’s immersion in subject matter; aesthetics can play a role in understanding course organization. Aesthetics attract or repel or cue indifference. The comment above illustrates the oft-cited split between academics and IT professionals, whether it shows itself in language or a sense of aesthetics. That’s, I think, where instructional technology can step in as a liason between the two. It doesn’t matter so much whether instructional technology is housed in IT or in the academic side of the institution; what matters is having someone who can translate bewteen the two and help to introduce the goals and desires of each to each.
Read about aesthetics here, especially the section on Aesthetics and Information.