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Learning Enhancement and Development

Session 3J - Paper 2

Design for Flow : strategies for engaging students and integrating activities in Cass’s online Global Finance MSc

Mr Leonard Houx - Cass Business School, City, University of London

This workshop is about a design project for Cass’s online MSc, which has involved the development of online activities, multimedia and a new ‘look and feel’ (i.e. Moodle theme) for the VLE.

When online learning, how do you move from building a loose aggregation of one-off activities to a designing an interconnected sequence, a narrative? How do build a sense connection between online activities? We call this ‘designing for flow’.

This paper will discuss the design strategies we used for Cass Business School’s Online MSc in Global Finance. We were concerned to enhance engagement and felt that the best way to do this would be to create a greater sense of flow – focussed flow – in almost every sense: the interface, instructional design, messaging and navigation. To enhance engagement, through flow, have used methods from UX design, wayfinding, typography, online marketing and instructional design.

The results have been excellent. Our work was lauded by the Moodle News as ‘revolutionary’ and by the Moodle Community as a work of ‘vision’. Engagement has been high and students have reported being very happy with the course, especially the level of support and feedback they receive – although we have also learned some important lessons along the way.

Specifically, we will consider.

*Motivation: Which strategies work best for motivating students? What strategies don’t work? How do you explain the relevance of your content?
*Navigation: How should students move around their online course? And how can we shape that journey? What wayfinding information do students need to navigate the course, know where they are, and manage their own time?
*Sequencing: Which sequencing strategies work best for distance learning? What shape can/should a lesson take?
*Typography: What typographic details do you need to be careful about? How can you avoid them?
*Formatting: What HTML-based techniques can you use to make your course more professional and appealing?

In the discussion to follow, we will consider what our project can mean for the skills required in technology enhanced learning.


Black, P., Harrison, C. Lee, C., Marshall, B., & William D. (2003). Assessment for learning: Putting it into practice. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.

Iske, S. (2011) ’Navigational Paths and Didactical Patterns’ in Investigations of E-Learning Patterns: Context Factors, Problems and Solutions. Kohls, C. ed. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.

Nielsen, J. (2000) Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. San Francisco, CA: New Riders Press.

Ritchart, R. Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011) Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA, USA: Jossey Bass.

Willingham, D. (2010) Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. San Francisco, CA, USA: Jossey Bass.

Wrobelski, L. (2008) Web Form Design. Brooklyn, NY: Rosenfeld Media.