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How to create beautiful online courses: colors

Have you ever bought something not because you really needed it, nor because it offered much value to you, but simply because it had a nice packaging? Don't be ashamed if you did; you're not the only one. It's not your fault. It's your brain's. We simply have this weakness for beauty.

Everyone that ever bought a MAST chocolate bar fell into this trap. The company allegedly melted other commercial chocolate, while claiming they were making bean-to-bar chocolate. But their wrappers were eyegasmic. This is a classic example of packaging that's better than the product itself. I invite you to read this Quartz article and be amazed by the power of visuals in a business and marketing strategy.

Your business as a teacher is to create the best possible courses for your students. It's like, you're a chocolate maker. And you want your students to devour it. But even though you know how to make the finest chocolate, kids will always have a weakness for the one in the most beautiful packaging. Too many teachers focus on the educational part of their courses — making the chocolate — and simply forget about, or even ignore the visual part — adding a nice packaging to it.

Wrapping your course materials in a nice visual way is not that hard, and shouldn't take much time. Keep in mind these design principles when creating your courses, and check out the next tips on colors, fonts, and layout.

This post is the first in a three-series, and it’s all about how to chose and pair colors to make your courses beautiful. The next post will address fonts, while the last in this series will present some tips on layout.

Creating beautiful online courses with colors

The color theme is important, as it offers the most visual cues to your students. A neutral color for most text helps them read the instructions and educational content fluently, and focus on the message. A statement color will emphasize the most important aspects of your course. The background color must blend in seamlessly.

How to choose a great color theme

a) Use a default one. Whether you're using PowerPoint, or the school LMS, you certainly have some default choices. The good part of this method is that, no matter what you choose, the colors will play nicely with each other. But at the same time, you send the message that you're lazy and don't care about personalized instruction.

b) Play with a color wheel. Here's one. And here's another one. You just have to insert the color code and the wheel will pick the other colors for you. As a general rule of thumb, stick to two colors, or maybe three.

Now, the hard part of this method is to insert the right color code in the first place.

How to get the right color code

A color code is what HTML needs in order to render any color on screen. The most popular are Hex codes, where black is #000000, and RGB codes, where black is rgb(0, 0, 0). Both these color codes offer insights on the intensity of red, green, and blue in the color respectively.

Maybe it could be a good idea to use the colors of your school logo. Maybe your course is about geography and you have some nice mountain pictures you want to use in the course. You could ask someone in charge of creating any marketing materials for your school about the colors in the logo, but this will take some time to find out. And who could you possibly ask about the color codes in any random online picture?

Well, all you have to do is add a color picker extension to your browser. I'm personally a fan of ColorZilla, but you could pick any, as they all do the same thing: grab the code of any color you find online. Activate it, hover your mouse over anywhere on your screen, and then copy and paste the code into the color wheel. Easy peasy.

And if you still enjoy playing with colors after all of the above, check out this Canva resource as well. Their Design Wiki on Colors teaches you a lot more about colors and their meanings, and it may be a great way to find your next color combinations!

In the end

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and that you’ll find it useful when creating your next beautiful course. After you’re done, reward yourself with some delicious chocolate. You deserve it.

And don’t forget to check out the other tips on fonts and layout!