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Digital education

Power of three and planning online content

22 July 2014

by Catherine Emmett

It’s long been considered that there are many interesting things that come in threes. Throughout history, in just about every area of life, people have shared knowledge about the power of three. Here’s a few examples.

  • English Literature: the ‘rule of three’ is used to make a powerful impact in writing; it’s been said to have been used in novels, films, even political rhetoric (Westing, 2012).
  • Maths: the number three itself is the only integer which is both equal to the sum of the previous two integers, i.e. 1+2=3, and also whose sum equals the product, i.e. 1+2+3=6 and 1x2x3=6. (Thanks to pal @MrSimonWood, former Maths teacher, for checking up on this!)
  • Anatomy: patterns of three exist in the human body; we have three phalanges (bones) in each finger (University of Kansas Medical Centre, 1997), three primary layers of skin to protect us, the epidermis, dermis and subcutis (, 2011), and our DNA nucleotides are made up of three components, a phosphate molecule, sugar molecule and nitrogenous base (University of Leicester, 2014).

And that’s not to mention, the many classic groupings of three in entertainment like the “Three Tenors” (Pavarotti, Carreras, Domingo), “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (Eastwood, Van Cleef, Wallach), and the most famous Marx Brothers (Groucho, Harpo, Chico). My favourite line* of the latter, by the way is this.

“One morning, I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got in my pyjamas I don’t know.” (Groucho, Animal Crackers, 1930).

But what’s all this got to do with online content? Well, it so happens there are also three important foundational factors when planning the use of online multimedia learning content.

triangle representing the three foundational factors of planning online learning, accessibility, copyright and delivery.

We’ve covered the first two factors somewhat before on the ELTT blog, namely copyright and (mobile) delivery. But, we haven’t yet covered the third, which is accessibility.

Finding out about accessibility

Accessibility is important because we need to be inclusive of all our students and in fact UK legislation requires it. What that means when delivering online learning content is making sure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for students with a disability. (To help with this somewhat, there are now in fact new laws in relation to disabled learners and the use of copyright materials.)

To find out about how to deal the basics of accessibility, and some tips on ‘reasonable adjustments’ and what to think about for planning online learning, I’ve created a short interactive presentation. Look, learn and feel free to share!

You can find this presentation on the basics of accessibility here (HTML).

* What’s your favourite Marx Brothers quote? Comments below if you feel like it!


  1. Simon Wood

    Heh heh, that’s the three most famous Marx Brothers that there are three of? (See also: how many of the three Beatles-who-were-with-the-band-for-the-longest are there…?)

    Really excellent interactive presentation on accessibility, I like it a lot. (Is the tip on page 9 of the flash version supposed to be that small?)

    My favourite Groucho quote, since you ask, is:

    Now there’s a man with an open mind — you can feel the breeze from here!

    Incidentally, 3! is the mathematical expression for 3x2x1.

    By the way, you missed out Charlie’s Angels

    • Catherine Emmett

      I know, call it artistic license! But the three of them really were the core of the comedy act. Zeppo wasn’t in that many films, and even when he was, often a straight man I think.

      Page 9 – no it’s not, I had trouble with the Flash version. Couple of things I had to try and fix, not all of it worked. I should probably ditch the flash version whilst I figure it out.

      Charlie’s Angels may have been deliberately missed out 😀

  2. Simon Wood

    Timing! @qikipedia just posted a good one…

    I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go into the library and read a good book.


  3. Dewi Parry

    Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others!!

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