Is Your Course on Fleek or Nah?


The semester started with such promise as hundreds of freshmen arrived on campus. The buzz of their chatter filled the air with a familiar hum–a welcome noise from the summer quietness. That sound was life happening around us. There was talk abeye mascara fleek word cloud brow out what teachers they were taking, where to meet for lunch, getting WiFi for their MACs, and an abundant admiration of eyebrows on fleek!

I first heard the phrase “on fleek” last year. Being the conservative that I am, I said that’s a cray-cray word and went on about my day! Nonetheless, social media has contributed to the phrase’s popularity and it simply hasn’t died down. I learned from social media that “on fleek” is when something or someone is “on point or very good.” The word gained popularity when a young woman used the word to describe her eyebrows. I contend that she likely exaggerated the word “flick” to describe her eyebrows to sound like the word fleek which is not new–it’s been around since the 1800s.

Throughout the academic year I had several faculty comment on the phrase and inquire as to what it means. I was happy to clue them in. This got me thinking. What if students were referring to their online courses as on fleek? If we could create that excitement and ignite their desire to participate in class—that would be well, magical. And just what would it take for these courses to be on fleek? It is certainly plausible to transfer this idea of being “well-groomed” and “filled in” to an online course.

There are three ways to make sure your online course is on fleek in spring:

1. Course Appearance. Is the course aesthetically appealing? Never open an online course with a blank home page. It’s not enough to simply have a sidebar course navigation menu. Utilize home pages to place things like an instructor profile photo, welcome video, and basic course info. Since it’s the first thing they see, use best practices in mobile friendly icons and graphics on the home page to draw learners in. Scatter meaningful images throughout the course to continually engage learners. A body of research supports that using graphics and words support positive learning outcomes more than using words alone.

2. Checked Content. Can students access content? Check content to determine if it is visually and technically accessible to students. The concept of being “filled in” requires that behind every visible button there is content. It sounds simple enough, but if there’s no content behind a course button because it won’t be used, hide that button from students. A second check is determine if links are still active if linking to external sources and sites. I’ve found that every semester some site or video I used in the past has moved or shut down so the link no longer works. So either I’ve had to replace the link or remove it. Finally, in addition to ADA requirements, promote access for diverse learners by applying universal design principles to content. For example, if offering a class lecture in a visual format such as a PowerPoint, then also offer it in an auditory form as a podcast.

3. Polished Product. Is the course easy to navigate? Put yourself in the seat of the student and really take a look from his/her perspective. Is there so much information on the home page that the course feels cluttered and poorly designed before even starting? This is the equivalent of having on too much eye shadow–it detracts from the “brow.” Sometimes less is more so don’t hesitate to remove and rearrange items. For example, rather than having textbook information on the front page-place a button there labelled “books” and link that button to a page with that information. How easy is it to find how and where to start? If necessary, add a “start” button. When accessing course materials, are items arranged in modules that clearly distinguish content? Apply consistent indentations and levels to modules in a way that gives the course structure like in this worksheet from University of Pittsburgh College of General Studies. It is, after all, the sleek, polished shape of the brow that keeps attention.

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