Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Creating an online personality

So you want to teach online? How will your personality transcend cyberspace? How will you create the right avatar to represent you and create a professional yet inviting style? In a recent blog post, Catherine Blanchard offers some important tips on creating an online personality that bear repeating. Her steps include:

1. Creating a personality for the voice of the course at the beginning of the design process, rather than trying to ‘inject’ personality further down the line

At the Center for Academic Technology (CAT), we generally advise faculty to keep the structure and layout of the course template the same for the sake of consistency and clarity for our learners. But that does not mean that faculty cannot be creative in terms of how they organize and present their course content. A key suggestion here is to aim to create a believable personality for your course that is conveyed through its instructional design and use of graphics.

2. Set the right tone

The course speaks to your learner and aims to hold their attention, so the tone of voice needs to be just right. Too patronizing or disengaged and your learner will cringe away. Too stuffy and formal and your learner will feel like they’re reading from a textbook. Strive for warmth, professionalism and personality.

3. Go beyond writing in the first or second person – create a person

Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer (2003) state that personalization ‘induces learners to engage with the computer as a social conversational partner. Think about this, would you listen to someone who comes across as arrogant, dull and perhaps even a bit thick? Perhaps not! As such, you might consider creating a social conversational partner that will engage your learner – someone they wouldn’t mind sitting next to at a day-long symposium.

4. Agree upon your style guidelines

Turn your course’s personality traits into style rules. Imagine how your social conversational partner might speak, so instead of ‘Course objectives’ introductory screens could begin with ‘Next Steps’. Instructional and graphic design need to agree on these style points beforehand. The writing tone, images used and the overall design need to be consistent.

5. Check the details!

Always, always, always remember to check the details! Make sure your style is consistent at every level – don’t lose your learner by overlooking details such as the writing style, use of image captions and audio.

For more great tips, check out the Spicy Learning Blog at:

[1] Clark, Ruth. C., Mayer, Richard. E. (2003). E-Learning and the science of instruction: proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer Edition. P.180. ISBN: 0-7879-6051-0

(Source: Adapted from: Creating an online learning personality -

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