The introduction of e-learning tools in Higher Education Institutions is often complex and learners do not always use them as expected. Moreover, the initial reluctance to adopt web-based educational tools implies that research it is needed to understand more comprehensively how learners can be engendered in them, raising questions about the principal drivers behind acceptance and learning performance.

The theoretical basis for this study stems from the research by Davis (1989): Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). However, original TAM antecedents, that is, Usefulness and Ease-of-Use cannot fully reflect motives. In this regard, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research proposes the need for incorporating intrinsic human factors (e.g. visual aesthetics) in a specific study to improve its particular and explanatory TAM value. Although there is a strong tradition of research into the instrumental values of user experience, results suggest that more experiential or hedonic environments are equally important in building technology acceptance. That is to say, our proposal moves away from e-learning tools functionality and utility alone towards the learners’ visual experiences.

This study is, therefore, designed to investigate how original TAM-antecedents and expressive aesthetics of a web-based educational tool may be associated with acceptance by learners -which will result in improving their own learning and productivity.

The analysed tool is a web-based educational environment that has been applied as a teaching methodology in an undergraduate course involved with social communication.

The testing of the hypotheses was conducted using Partial Least Squares (PLS). Likewise, taking into account that some hypotheses are based on interaction effects, one well-known technique has had to be applied to test these moderated relationships: product-indicator approach.

The data are collected from a sample of questionnaires voluntarily filled out by undergraduate students. In particular, one hundred and twenty undergraduate students from two social communication classes at a public university in a metropolitan area participated in this study for extra credit. The exclusion of invalid questionnaires due to duplicate submissions or extensive empty data fields resulted in a final sample of 105 users. 74% were female respondents. The average age was 23.200 (SD: 2.730).

This research reaches two main conclusions. Firstly, that expressive aesthetics, ease-of-use and usefulness have a significant effect on the learner’s perception of the extent to which (a) needs, goals and desires have been fully met, and by extension (b) learning performance. Secondly, that aesthetics becomes a significant quasimoderator; that is, it stressed the influence of ease-of-use and usefulness on acceptance while using the analysed web-based educational. Likewise, ease-of-use stressed the influence of usefulness on acceptance.

Research limitations/implications.
The model does not include all the relevant variables. Additional studies are required to validate these results.

Practical implications.
This study serves to enhance the design-acceptance-learning performance framework to assess the long-term viability of e-learning tools, and to appraise their validity via utilitarian and hedonic cues.