We’ve all hit the wall of zero ideas. Staring at an empty Moodle course thinking … Oy. Where to START…

I’m a bit artsy, I realize, but I can share this with you … I never build a course by simply dumping all the content in. That’s step three or four for me. I start by getting an image in my head of how the course will look for the student.

I start reading the curriculum … getting the big themes … imagining the fun, creative ways of expressing these ideas visually … then I start collecting images. Like a magpie. I hunt all over for them, getting excited by how my Moodle course is going to look.

Then, I actually start building it.

Though it sounds easy to just dream up how something will look, it’s surprisingly difficult. It takes a lot of ideas and inspiration.

This article is all about finding terrific ideas for your online course and getting your design mojo back.

We start with a story.

Lesson One: I’m Working. Really.

A visiting prince came into Michelangelo’s studio and found the master staring at a single 18 foot block of marble. Then he knew that the rumors were true — that Michelangelo had come in everyday for the last four months, stared at the marble, and gone home for his supper.

So the prince asked the obvious — what are you doing? And Michelangelo turned around and looked at him, and whispered, “sto lavorando,” (I’m working).

Three years later that block of marble was the statue of David.

(Taken from The Artist as a Medium)

We may not all have four months to contemplate our ‘blocks of marble’, but the truth remains …  there is more to course design than simply clicking the buttons. In my experience, MOST course design happens when you aren’t clicking any buttons at all.

Sometimes working looks a lot like staring silently at a computer screen.

Despite the nerdy, academic side of online course creation, design is also very creative process. This is especially the case, if you are creating engaging, fun and high performing Moodle courses.

So what was Michelangelo doing for those four months while staring at that marble?

Imagining the possibilities.

Designing with the end in mind BEFORE you begin is crucial.


Lesson Two: Ideas Can Come from Anywhere

(Pinned by Marilyn Beavers)

If you’ve ever read anything like The Artist’s Way, you understand that inspiration can come from the places you least expect; a song, a stained glass window, a photograph.

One thing that keeps my creative juices flowing is to surround myself with design ideas. I have a Pinterest board with everything from cherry blossom tattoos, to mosaic tiles … and even a Norwegian door lock!

Many of these ideas have made their way into my Moodle courses (scroll below):

Follow Neela Bell’s board Interesting Design on Pinterest.

Why do I keep a collection of these crazy (gorgeous) images? Simply, this:

Creativity comes from being surrounded by inspiration.

In our brains is a wonderful patchwork quilt of ideas … things we’ve seen, heard, watched and learned. The more diverse and interesting ideas you can surround yourself with, the better

Where to start?

  • Create your own Pinterest board for design ideas. Pin everything that inspires you; artwork, photos, fabric, quotes, people, layouts, etc. Don’t filter anything.
  • Listen to music. Soundcloud has millions of songs, podcasts and other recordings. You can create playlists and “like” songs all in the cloud.
  • Learn what’s hip and fun at Canva Design School. Get “daily design articles, interactive tutorials and awesome tips”.

And finally …


Lesson Three: Think like a kid.

I think one barrier to creativity is censoring yourself because you believe your idea isn’t professional or “serious” enough to put online.


If I’ve learned one thing from all the gamification I’ve done with students, it’s that the OPPOSITE is actually true.

All humans, especially younger ones, like to have fun.



They like graffiti art. Graphic novels. Bright colours. Less blah blah blah.



Mashups. Current events.

New, unexpected assignments.


I promise you, no matter what creative idea you come up with to make your Moodle course look fun, engaging and spark their curiosity … it will be a thousand times more effective than sounding like that teacher in the Ferris Bueller video.



The Takeaway

Do you have things that inspire your creativity? Leave a comment below. I’d love to share them back to our community.

If you’re feeling like playing a bit, I wrote another article you might like called 10 Tricks for Stunning Photos in Your Online Course.

Stay creative and I’ll talk to you soon!