Colors are part of our daily lives and we all know they play an important role in our perception. According to color psychology, they can even influence our moods and how we learn. In business, and more so in the online business world, colors, shades, tints and hues play an essential role in brand awareness.
Moreover, in e-learning, course designers can identify as professionals on the market simply through their choice of colors. Since visual processing is linked to the learning process, color is crucial when designing online courses. The right colors can enhance engagement, boost focus and increase attention, the key factors for course completion and high participation rates. Conversely, the wrong colors can divert attention and overwhelm learners with an opposite effect to the desired one.
That’s why we need to understand how colors are perceived and what emotions or concepts are associated with them from the get-go.
The impact of color in online course design
Colors can generate reactions and provoke emotions, which are required learning preconditions. We want our knowledge and content to trigger positive reactions and emotions that keep learners connected to our course way beyond its end.
We want to create a lasting impact and help learners retain information easier and for longer periods of time. Color is the tie that links content and emotions to benefit deep learning and retention.
Here are a few tips to consider when choosing the colors for your online course design:
- Colors are powerful psychological triggers that impact the learning curve;
- If you have an established brand, use the same colors to create consistency;
- The colors you choose become your signature as a course creator;
- Use only a three-color combination: a dark one for the text, a statement one as a contrast for the important parts of your course (subheadings, highlighted words, links, etc.) and a neutral one for the background;
- Avoid combinations of pure colors. It's more soothing to the eye to use shades, tints and hues;
- If you’re unsure what to do, try out your learning platform's default color schemes first or play with the color picker to try out different shades;
- Choose a color that's consistent with the topic of your course (green for lifestyle, for example);
- Keep it simple! Too many strong colors and too much variation may have the opposite effect.
Colors that have useful effects for online learning
To ensure learning and boost learner motivation, we need to consider the obstacles that stand in the way of focus and retention.
During a course, issues such as boredom, confusion, low engagement, and fatigue can occur. Color can diminish the consequences of these unwanted aspects and contribute to creating a better learning experience.
However, there’s one aspect to consider first: the interpretations are not universally valid. Colors have different meanings depending on variables like personal preferences, experiences, cultural and social background, but here are the most common interpretations that any course creator should know:
- Blue is a friendly color that supports your learners’ well-being. It’s also comforting and calming. In this context, learners can focus better and increase their productivity;
- Red is an active color that grabs attention. It is suitable for important information throughout the course, especially for keywords. It is also good for increasing energy and inspiring action;
- Yellow is the promoter of positive feelings. With a touch of yellow, your course can be seen as fun and engaging, which helps your learners pay attention;
- Green is a natural color that is useful for memory improvement and stress relief. It is also beneficial against lack of focus and fatigue, providing a safe learning environment;
- Orange is the color of confidence and energy. It comes in handy when you want learners to be excited about your course content and give a sense of urgency to some aspects;
- Violet is a calming color that fosters creativity and self-confidence. It is needed when you want your learners to step outside of the box and express their ideas in a secure place.
You can always count on the non-colors: black, grey and white, too. They are timeless and elegant. When used in contrast, they provide clarity and space.
All in all
Colors have always been used to convey meaning and support information. For course creators, picking the right color scheme should be a priority. Putting time and thought into this choice sends a positive message to your learners. It shows you care how they feel while learning and that their goals are yours as well.
Considering the effects of colors on learning will help you create a seamless experience for your learners to thrive and reach the desired outcomes.