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This research aims to understand the role of aesthetics in the production of electronic newsletters. In this study, AUN’s weekly newsletter (AUNthisWEEK) was put under the microscope in an attempt to examine the effect some of its design features have on readers. Users are known to patronize that which the find appealing to any of their senses.
The persistent use of familiar design features is likely to bore readers and gradually diminish their numbers. To prevent this, multimedia designers must constantly work to improve the functionality and aesthetics of electronic content. The standard of design in modern electronic platforms is continuously improving. Because there is competition in the market, these platforms have no choice but to out-design their competitors. However, AUNthisWEEK lacks that competition but still seems to satisfy its readers.
This study intends to use Abraham Maslow’s self-actualization theory as a framework to help explain some of the research questions. A survey will be used to gather data that will be analyzed by simple percentages.
At the end of this study, the aim of answering the research questions will have been met fully. This study hopes to reveal any blind spots that might be present in how the newsletter uses aesthetics. It will also recommend ways to improve any irregularities that may arise from this study.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.1 Background of the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Purpose of the Study
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Significance of the Study
1.6 Scope of the Study
1.7 Limitations of the Study
1.8 Definition of Terms
2.2 The Evolution of Electronic Publishing
2.3 Common Formats in Electronic Publishing
2.4 Aesthetics and Information Technology
2.5 User Perception of Visual Appeal
2.6 Aesthetics: Implication for Newsletters
2.7 Theoretical Framework
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3.2 Research Design
3.3 Population of the Study
3.4 Sample Size and Procedure
3.5 Description of Data Gathering Instrument
3.6 Method of Data Analysis
4.2 Data Presentation and Analysis
4.3 Discussion of Findings
1.1 Background of the Problem
In 2003, the former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar established the American University of Nigeria (AUN) with the help of renowned Nigerians and academics from Nigeria and abroad. Located at the Northeastern state of Adamawa, AUN is rated among the best educational institutions in the country according to the National Universities Commission ranking (2018). The university prides itself as being Africa’s first Development University with the aim of “pioneering service learning that will produce leaders who will be equipped with the knowledge to resolve societal concerns”.
Because of questions raised around the quality of education in Nigeria and Africa (UNESCO, 1995), AUN has taken it upon itself to provide the high-grade education that is in low supply. The university has a clear objective to “prepare the leaders of tomorrow for the challenges on ground and those that are lie ahead in the journey to achieve true excellence”. Achieving excellence is top priority for AUN. This means that it must strive to always be a step ahead of others in the education sector. The university values elegance and all things concerning them must carry a seal of uniqueness with it. This elegance greatly affects the multimedia channels the university uses to relay vital information, (AUN Website, 2018).
The university has striven to fulfill its promise of unlocking the true potential among members of its community. For this reason, AUN provides high quality internet connection that will greatly ease the process of accessing information. AUN boast of being a wireless university that places a lot of emphasis on Information Technology. Computers, internet connectivity, and
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other significant IT facilities are very effective tools for teaching. AUN recognizes this hence, these tools are readily available. Another important goal of the university is to graduate individuals that are well-educated and learned in both general knowledge and a specialized discipline of choice. The university thrives in diversity. It is home to people from different backgrounds and ethnicity that function seamlessly.
The university focuses on training future leaders of Africa that may serve as true agents of growth and development. This is the major motivation behind the idea of providing a broad-spectrum type education where individuals are equipped with the best tools to manage challenges. The excellence that AUN showcase to African and the world has attracted students from different parts of the world. International organizations also took notice of the Good work being done by AUN and rewarded them with awards. Some of those awards for excellence include the Harry Wofford Global Citizenship that was conferred on the Founder by the America Peace Corps. Also in 2011, former AUN President, Dr. Margee Ensign was awarded the African Leadership Award in Education Excellence. Another notable award AUN received in Atlanta was that of African Leading University in 2012.
Some of the goals AUN consider top priority include:
Becoming Africa’s first Development University.
Building an institution where faculty comprises of highly educated individuals who possess outstanding skills in aspects of teaching, research, and shaping critical thinkers.
Creating a community that guides students into becoming problem solvers.
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Encouraging members of its community to adopt the use of technology as a vital tool of education.
Establishing a community that will ensure the realization of the University’s objectives (AUN, 2014).
1.2 About AUNthisWEEK
For an institution that values transparency and togetherness, it is important that members of the AUN community receive frequent updates as to the progress the university is making. The global trend for organizations is to have a department that works for the sole purpose of communicating the affairs of the organization within and outside the organization. Owing to the advancement of technology, there are several means of communicating with the stakeholders of an institution like AUN. Custom made newsletters and electronic bulletins are effective ways of keeping stakeholders up to date. In AUN’s case, AUNthisWEEK is the preferred means of communicating the affairs of the university. AUNthisWEEK is an electronic newsletter published weekly. Originally referred to as News to You; AUNthisWEEK started off as a hard copy publication in 2005. The central motive behind this publication was to keep stakeholders informed about the activities of the university. The world has evolved to no longer need to pass information across through hard copies instead, these e-newsletters are communicated in the form of multimedia (a blend of text, audio and video).
According to Webster (2018), a newsletter is a written report that is issued periodically, typically by a business, organization, or institution that present information and news to people with a specific interest in the organization or subject. People usually value productions that are
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pleasing to the eye’ and are more inclined to continue patronizing that product as far as it satisfies their aesthetic needs. This case applies to the production of newsletters where a lot of work has to go into making aesthetic choices that will keep the readership satisfied and wanting more. Aesthetics in a newsletter can be presented in the way the background is set up, the colors, audio quality, image quality, and video quality. Nobody will want to continue patronizing a newsletter that contains blurry images or low quality videos or even an audio recording that can be barely heard. The readership can easily get bored if nothing in the newsletter appeals to their sense of elegance and beauty. Therefore, it is necessary to keep the readers satisfied by constantly coming up with innovative ways to improve the aesthetics of the newsletters. Aesthetic quality improvement can be seen in how social networks and other online platforms regularly roll-out updates for their user interface. These updates usually come about as a result of user feedback. When users become increasingly dissatisfied with the aesthetic choices of the platform they utilize and may demand for changes if the producers want to continue having the support of the users. It goes without saying that aesthetics in any production play a vital role in keeping the users satisfied as well as attracting more users. The better the quality of the aesthetic appeal used, the more likely it is that the product will be recommended to others. Since the major aim of a newsletter like AUNthisWEEK is to provide contents to as many members of the community as possible, it is important to look at the underlying effects aesthetics have to the readership.
Norman (2004) is of the claim that aesthetic design plays an influential role in affecting user preferences. His claim is supported by well-established knowledge in the field of marketing, product design, as well as social psychology. He continued by adding that, the aesthetic quality
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of a product influences the attitude of consumers. (Karen Dion, 1972) reported that, not only is beauty an key quality of a product but its effect seems to transcend the object and influence other judgments, in what is known as the halo effect.
1.3 Statement of the problem
AUN is an organization that values elegance and beauty therefore, in aspects of newsletter publication, there has to be some form of distinctiveness about how the newsletter feeds the eyes of the readers. Every publication is done with the intention of reaching as much people as possible but will only live up to that expectation if it possesses a strong appeal factor. Newsletters today can undergo various aesthetic tweaks to make them look appealing to the readership. Also, people have become increasingly exposed to different types of electronic newsletters and magazines to be able to pick favorites based on their aesthetic qualities. It is therefore important to evaluate how effective the aesthetics used in AUNthisWEEK has helped the newsletter in terms of; gaining acceptance among AUN community members, meeting the objectives of the university, and playing a significant role on the readers. This research looks to see if there are areas of aesthetics that can be improved in the production of AUNthisWEEK.
1.4 Research Objective
The objectives of this research are as follows:
a. To find out if the use of aesthetics in AUNthisWEEK agrees with the University’s goals and objectives.
b. To identify what aesthetic elements used in AUNthisWEEK appeal most to readers.
c. To evaluate the effects of the use of aesthetics in AUNthisWEEK on readers.
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1.5 Research Questions The research questions that motivated this study are
a. Does the use of aesthetic appeal in AUNthisWEEK meet the goals and objectives of AUN?
b. Are there specific features of AUNthisWEEK that readers find aesthetically attractive?
c. What role does aesthetics play on the readers of AUNthisWEEK?
1.6 Significance of Study
This research is essential in order to ascertain the current status of AUN’s newsletter when it comes to keeping up with recent best practices of newsletter production. These best practices include the use of new methods and tools to polish the newsletter so it becomes very pleasing to the readers. Readers are unlikely to continue subscribing to e-newsletters if they are very drab and boring. To avoid this, it is vital to look into the current tools of aesthetics that are being used by AUNthisWEEK to see if there will be need for improvements to keep up with modern standards. Newman, (2014) was of the view that newsletters are important in transmitting vital information to members of an organisation but there has to be a certain element that makes it appealing to readers and leaves them asking for more. Furthermore, Anthony, James and Janet (2013) emphasized on the need to keep evolving along with technology as new and improved tools are now available. They further stated that lagging behind will inevitably cause readers to quickly lose interest in the newsletter production. This continues to prove that if modern tools of improving aesthetics are not used, newsletters will not be patronized to the point
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where they will fulfill their job of informing stakeholders about the happenings of the organisation.
Mawson, ( 2011) argues her point on how the human mind instantly connects to all that glitters. According to Mawson, the more colorful and elegant something is the more it will attract attention from onlookers. In a situation like that of e-newsletters, it is therefor important that they be produced with some sort of aesthetic distinctiveness that will make readers glued to their screens just to enjoy the contents of the newsletter.
For the above reasons , AUNthisWEEK deserves to be looked at with regards to how it is keeping up with modern tools of improving its aesthetic quality. Does it meet up with recent best practices when it comes to e-newsletter production? Are there elements that readers will appreciate more that what their currently getting? Does AUN’s standard of excellence reflect on the weekly production of this newsletter? If not then what can be done to see that it stands out and represents the elegance that AUN strives for? Seeking the answers to these questions makes this research all the more important. Documented evidence exist of a study that is similar to this one however, that research was related to the readership and effectiveness of AUNthisWEEK while this focuses on the aesthetic quality of the newsletter and how helps in spiking the interest of readers. This research will also help provide some insight to other researchers who will venture along these line of thought.
1.7 Scope and of the study
This study is limited to the following areas:
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a. To the case study which is: AUNthisWEEK which was selected because most of the population in the study have come across the said newsletter that will serve as a yardstick to compare other newsletter.
b. To the use of questionnaire as well as interviews to ascertain how users perceive the aesthetic quality of AUNthisWEEK
c. To a particular time frame, in this case, most copies of AUNthisWEEK from its inception to date.
1.8 Limitations of the Study
– Access to information about the total population of members of the AUN community that will enable the decision as to what percentage of the population is ideal for an effective result of the study.
– unavailability of recent literatures that are related to the study
– The time frame did not allow contact will the ideal population that will ensure an effective result.
1.9 Definition of Terms
1.7.1 – Aesthetic: Having a sense of beauty, concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty. Its use in this paper is to show how elegant AUNthisWEEK is based on how images, sound, and videos are used in the e-newsletter.
1.7.2 – E-Newsletter: this is a bulletin that is distributed electronically on a periodic basis to members of a society or organization.
1.7.3 – Best Practices: these practices can be regarded as the preferred or considered standard within an organization, business, or industry.
1.7.4 – Evaluation: to judge or calculate the quality, importance, amount, or value of something.
1.7.5 – Effects: a change which is as a result or consequence of an action or other cause.
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1.7.6 – Organizational standard: these are the values that are predominant and widely-acceptable. These values are regarded as the best in the field.
1.7.7 Publications: the act of making information or stories available to readers in a printed or electronic form.