2021 Higher Ed Design Trends: How To Put These 7 Strategies Into Practice?

2021 Higher Ed Design Trends How To Put These 7 Strategies Into Practice

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This year’s generation entering college are considered the technologically skilled “Digital Natives“. These Natives are the first generation with virtually no memory of life without the Internet.

Now the aspirations and tastes of young people are stricter. It is not enough to have a list of activities to do on a simple web page because young learners will aspire to a page with smart tools, eye-catching graphic resources and that is easy to use. What natives are looking for is key information in the instruction of what they have to do, with the objective of optimizing time. Are they looking for “clickbait”? Perhaps, but more accurately, no. They are as curious as any other human mind, but they appreciate some effort taken into the packaging: Sleek design, appealing graphics, enticing titles. But perhaps most importantly, that the content is actually good, valuable, interesting. A good term to set this apart from what we’ve come to associate with clickbait would be “Legitbait.”

Our friend Ian Evenstar from Unincorporated made a comprehensive survey on 2021’s Design Trends in Higher Ed. (PS. Don’t miss Ian’s talk, UnFuck Your Course” at the Elearning Success Summit 2021.) Based on his 7 key trends, here are our tips and tricks to apply these trends on your online or hybrid courses.

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№1. Navigation Design: Anticipate your students’ destinations (or die trying)

Organizing and selecting the information that goes into your course in a way that makes sense is the unsung hero of online learning. If it works, and your learner wastes no time getting where they’re supposed to, they might not realize there’s anybody to thank. But that’s no reason not to do it. How to go about it? A good heuristic is going “deceptively minimalistic.” Think thoroughly about all the possible destinations, but then focus on a clean interface that’s still functional. The trick is to find sensible paths across menus and navigation cues. Search autocomplete predictions are always a welcome delight.

Deakin University managed to do it. Its homepage is a subtle but masterful lesson in organization and content planning. Loyola University Maryland too has tools that allow the student or visitor to click through handily. TYhe navigation is hidden and easily retrieved by repeating the click action.

№2. Unique Narrative Storytelling: Show a story

The amount of information that can be found online is too much, and for young people this may be overwhelming, as there are different options of information available to choose from and some may not work for what the young person is looking for.

The John Hopkins University uses slogans or words that may be catchy for website visitors, and also uses eye-catching graphic support with accurate and required information for the student. In addition, these supports encourage sustainability and diversity.

But if you want to go further, you can visit The LSU College of Art + Design homepage. This page is interactive and invites students to explore the site through a timeline. If you have potential students who are attracted and inspired by design you can share this website with them, as there they could visualize themselves in the future through the high resolution timeline images.

Something that is key to reach a young audience, is to capture the attention of users or surfers. And that is what The University of Florida does, there is fun and inspiration among the community, through short messages.

№ 3. School Sub-Brands: Embrace a million niches

The diverse amount of programs and educational tools that large universities have, can become an obstacle when trying to store these programs in one place. For this reason many institutions choose to separate these tools or programs to facilitate visits and proper use of the platform.

The Stanford D. School is the design arm of Stanford University. Its home page features an eye-catching animation of threads that interact with your mouse clicks or movements.

In contrast, the minimalist design of UCLA’s School of Architecture and Urban Design sub-brand may not be appealing to some. But as a recommendation you can use this page as an example to show it to your potential students who are attracted to architecture or people who want to be aware of scientific studies or research.

№4. Student Stories Front and Center: Let them create, give the wheel away

Do you have strategies to help your students think ahead in their professional lives? It might work to implement storytelling focused on your students so that they feel confident to make decisions and be responsible. Since this initiative or strategy inspires them to dream and also helps you as a teacher for the creation and redesign of your website.

For example, John Hopkins University’s home page offers relevant information to its staff, alumni and active student navigators that may be of interest to your students who want to get into this university. You can invite your students to project themselves in the university they want to attend to motivate and empower them.

North Carolina State University’s Student Learning Village, moreover encourages communities to shape and create diverse and engaging student engagement.

№5. Interactive Elements for Tours & Questions: Nudge them back in with gentle violence

Possibly because of the pandemic many universities had difficulty recruiting students. But with good organization and the graphical and interactive supports that can go on the websites of the institutions, interactive digital tools like chatbots. They have allowed the education industry not to lose its level of importance, as universities using this type of support were possibly able to connect with their future students.

One of the most recurring questions of students is to know where they are going to study (the physical locations and what the college has) and what better than being able to take a virtual tour of the campus of one of the possible colleges that some of your students could go to. For example, at Dickinson College there are virtual tours made by students.

With Chapman University, your students can solve all the questions they have. Through 1-on-1 interaction, your students can feel confident in the resolution and answers to their questions.

№6. Vertical Video and Social Media Interaction: No, we don’t mean TikTok dances… unless?

The ideal way to keep the attention of digital natives is to mix their common tastes with topics related to education, and in this case the format of vertical videos and the use of applications such as Tik Tok and Instagram could be used.

For example, Brown University publishes short videos in this format at the top of its website, giving key information about the programs that the university has and answering the question of why your student should study there.

What you must take into account is the design you are going to do with your videos or your idea, as this will allow easy navigation on mobile devices.

№7. Course Design: Back to the digital drawing board

It is really important to know how to create scenarios in which Digital Natives can explore, how with less complications and more clarity, with many fun and interactive experiences that make the student feel motivated to continue studying and learning.

For this trend it is important to take into account the term LSM in order to start creating and designing your website. It is important because it involves the student in a world where the student must make decisions and be selective with the subjects to learn.

TO SUM UP: How can I apply modern design trends?

Clearly you have heard of Moodle and the infinite tools it has for the creation of websites in educational contexts. Well, in this opportunity Moodle can be your best ally when creating striking, simple, direct and complete content for digital surfers. It is also free!

If you are not, make sure your LMS provider can facilitate some of these modern design features. Tools that let you customize without breaking patterns, ways to learn and understand your students, and being able to always up the ante with interactivity, among many other tools.

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