Colour is important in e-learning for a number of reasons. It is crucial for branding, for example, and it contributes to the professional appearance of your e-learning courses. Importantly, colour also plays a role in how people learn. This brings us to the field of colour psychology.
Colour psychology is an area of study that looks at how colours affect behaviour, emotions, and reactions. This is why colour is so important in marketing, where brands invest in choosing the right colours to use in their marketing campaigns. The aim is to trigger a response and influence the buying decisions of their customers.
A similar approach also helps when creating new e-learning courses, as understanding the way different colours influence learners helps to create courses that are more effective.
Before looking into the specific psychological impacts that various colours can have in e-learning design, it is important to highlight that colour psychology is a generalisation. Therefore, on an individual level, the ways colours are perceived can deviate from generalised colour psychology, as personal preferences and experiences impact how we all perceive different colours.
The context of the situation is also important when deciding on the best colours to use. In e-learning, this can mean the topic of the e-learning course, i.e., the same colour could be viewed differently by learners depending on the topics being covered.
There are also cultural differences to consider. For example, red is a colour used to signify danger in many countries in the Middle East as well as in Western countries. In China, however, red signifies luck and happiness. Therefore, it is important to take into account cultural considerations if you have learners in different parts of the world.
Colour Psychology in E-Learning
Blue is a colour that inspires trust and loyalty. It also represents peace and order, as well as being associated with productivity and mental stimulation.
As a result, blue can work well in e-learning courses, but it can come across as unfriendly and cold when used too much. Blue works best when balanced with other colours.
One of the most obvious associations with the colour green is with nature and the environment. In terms of an e-learning course, green also represents peace and creativity. It signifies getting things done and it is good for concentration.
Green is also associated with calmness as it’s a relaxing colour that is easy on the eye.
Red is a dominant colour that signifies danger in many contexts. This has its place in e-learning, but red can also be used to inspire other emotions and responses in learners. Red can also symbolise passion, for example, and it is a colour that is associated with excitement and energy.
The colour red can create a sense of urgency, too, and it gets attention, both of which can be useful in e-learning.
A word of caution, though, as red can come across as being aggressive or demanding. Therefore, care should be taken when using red to ensure you get the benefits without any negative impacts.
Yellow is a bright and light colour that is most often associated with happiness and fun. This can be used in e-learning to help increase engagement.
Yellow is also a colour that gets attention, so it is often used in CTA buttons or other areas of an e-learning course where you want to attract the attention of learners.
Orange can be used in e-learning to create a sense of urgency, but it is also an inviting and uplifting colour. It is an energetic colour, too, that is often associated with optimism. This makes it useful in a range of e-learning contexts, including bringing attention to certain areas of content, navigational elements, or bits of information.
However, it’s important to remember that orange can be overwhelming when used too much. Therefore, it should be included strategically rather than being a dominating colour in your e-learning courses.
Purple is not as commonly used as many of the other colours on this list, but it can be useful in some e-learning contexts. Specifically, it is a sophisticated colour that can bring a certain level of elegance to e-learning design.
Purple is also a fun, imaginative, and upbeat colour, so it can be used to enhance engagement and spark creativity.
Black is a colour that represents sophistication and elegance, luxury and high value. It has a classic feel to it too.
Black is also a good contrasting colour, so it can be used to highlight and enhance the impact of other colours in your e-learning course.
White is a relatively neutral colour, but it does invoke a sense of spaciousness and creates a clutter-free environment. This can be useful in all types of e-learning course, but it is especially beneficial for courses that will be completed on smaller screens.
Like black, white can also be used effectively as a contrasting colour.
Connecting Emotionally with Learners Through Colour
The colours used in your e-learning courses are one part of the overall impact. It is also important to point out that colour psychology is only one of the factors that should be considered when selecting colours for an e-learning course. Getting the colour palette right, for example, is just as important.
That said, colour psychology and its impact on the way people learn are an important part of instructional design.