Avoid The Flashy When Developing an Online Course


If you have (or are considering putting together) an online course, it can be tempting to go overboard with content or flashy elements. However, that may not be in either your, or your student’s, best interests. Here are a few things to consider.

Flashy is defined as ostentatiously attractive or impressive (Lexico, 2020). In other words, a pretentious or showy way of doing something that is meant to impress. Sure, it is nice to show off our tech skills occasionally, but do we need flashy content in our courses? Does it help us at all?

There are several things we need to consider. However, as we do, we must consider everything through the eyes and minds of the learner. For starters, we must understand that learning is already a difficult task, and anything that impedes that process will be more of an annoyance than anything else. Therefore, understand that any distractions are going to be a problem as well. Furthermore, the perception of value would also likely be an essential factor for consideration. After all, a learner wants to know that they are listening to a pro or expert.

Let us start by asking ourselves a few questions regarding our content. Do you have too much content? Does the content look like a clip-art collage? Does the content require a bunch of plug-ins or extra software that the user may not already have? Are there pop-ups or unrelated suggestions that pull the user’s attention away from what you are trying to teach? If so, then your attempts to be flashy may be hindering your efforts.  

Conversely, is the content laid out in a way that is easy to navigate? Does the content look like it is being delivered from someone who knows what they are doing and worthy of being listened to? Is the content simple, easy to follow, and without elements that distract from the message? If so, you might have yourself a solid foundation to teach from and you will likely notice that it is not too flashy (if at all).

Ultimately, the perception of value is vital. In that, uniformity and branding may be more important than looking like you know how to use the latest and greatest software or plug-in. Keeping it simple is usually better than attempting to impress. Flashy does not help, and the pros agree. Quality content, intuitive navigation, and reliable technology are foundational (Loveless, 2020). For that matter, more content does not necessarily mean a better experience (Monahan, 2019). Finally, you do not need a flashy presentation to grab a learner’s attention (BeaconLive, 2019).

If you want to put together a solid online learning experience, learn and know the Coherence Principle. The Coherence Principle, developed by renowned educational psychologist Dr. Richard E. Mayer, states that people learn better when unnecessary material is excluded from the course and when unnecessary pictures, words, symbols, sounds, and music are excluded from your presentations (Mayer, 2009). Keep it simple. Brand your course, make it uniform, make it easy to navigate, and focus more on the content. That is the winning recipe.

NOTE: This is not a blanket statement and it meant to be more general in nature. It is understood that flashy might have a place in certain areas of education. Such situations could be with students with certain mental challenges or even very young children. Furthermore, it is important not to confuse the words flashy with dressy. Dressy is fine and is often expected in a professional presentation.

Did you enjoy this article? You might also like my article titled, “The Internet and Distance Education.


BeaconLive, M. (2019). Building a Better eLearning Course: 10 Tips for Success. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://www.beaconlive.com/blog/elearning-course-success-tips

Flashy. (2020). Lexico.com. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/flashy

Loveless, B. (2020). Distance Learning: The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://www.educationcorner.com/distance-learning/distance-online-learning-guide.html

Mayer, R. (2009). Coherence Principle. In Multimedia Learning (pp. 89-107). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511811678.007 Monahan, N. (2019, November 25). More Content Doesn’t Equal More Learning. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/more-content-doesnt-equal-more-learning/