The impact of animated learning videos on online education is a controversial matter. Some say they work beautifully, others deny their effectiveness on eLearning in comparison with other types of video materials. Personally, I think an animation is a great tool for a better visual experience. It helps explain complicated concepts in a highly visual way, which is important in difficult subjects in science.

 

What is animated learning video?

Animated learning videos are short cartoons or motion graphics that play as visual supporting tools for educators. They are different from special effects in slide presentations like flying bullets or jumping titles. Animations make online learning and teaching much easier by visualizing documents and static graphics into video materials. With audio narration, animated learning videos are proved as a strong method of teaching science subjects like medication.

How educational animations become an effective method of teaching science?

 

We could follow our traditional teaching methods by providing learners textual materials with visual aids from static charts and graphics. Students would have to read the documents, then merge the word information with the supporting illustrations to fully understand the idea. It takes time but it could work. However, not everyone could read with full concentration for straight 45 minutes without the support of lecturers and peers. Have I mentioned the Internet distraction and the short attention span of millennials? No? Then a research of Microsoft shows that average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.25 seconds in 2015. Surprisingly, we are worse than an ill-focused goldfish.

 

Simplify complicated concepts quickly and beautifully

 

I think science educators need animated learning videos the most. The common problem of science courses is that they need to deliver difficult information quickly and briefly while keeping the students’ interest throughout the learning process. These courses often contain complicated data like facts, charts, and numbers, which needs absolute concentration to fully consume for many learners. The isolation and distraction of the online learning system make the problem worse. When people have full control of their learning pace, they need more motivation and inspiration to avoid random distraction from the Internet.

 

Then we have animated learning videos. Their best feature is that animations could easily simplify complicated idea or process in a quick and beautiful way. For example, just compare this

 

The Earth is made up of four distinct layers:

  • The inner core is in the center.
  • The outer core is the layer surrounding the inner core.
  • The mantle is the widest section of the Earth.
  • The crust is the outer layer of the earth. It is a thin layer on which we live.

and this

 

 

 

 

Quick GIF illustrating the layers of the Earth
Source: Ficazo.com

You could say that we don’t need animations and static illustrations could perform the same function. We don’t necessarily need to add movements to different layers of the Earth. However, what if we need to explain a complicated process instead of a simple fact? Naming the 4 layers of the Earth is easy but the Big Bang theory – the beginning of everything is not as a simple task. How many textual explanation and illustration aid do you think we need to fully convey the theory? Then why don’t we turn texts into audio, and transform static figures into movements?

 

Take a look at this 6-minute engaging animation:

 

 

Lots of instructional designers concentrate on the “instructional” side and neglect the “design” aspect. Nice scientific graphics are not always available from the World Wide Web. With specialized subjects in the science area, you need customized visual aids to convey our ideas. You either scan graphics from books or draw the figures yourself. Without a set of graphic design skill, are you confident in giving learners visually beautiful experience?

 

Motivation booster

 

Animations are engaging with sounds and visuals. They bring online learners new learning experiences other than boring texts and documents. Especially in such difficult subjects as science, students would have tedious time learning complicated data and theory. Animations would give them an educational break. Obviously, learning with animated videos is much less stressful than a whole page full of words. Our brains adore graphics anyway. The power of visual makes it more enjoyable to learn from images than words. Furthermore, we could naturally set the tone of the videos from tediously scientific to humorously informative, just like this:

 

 

Easy application of animated learning videos in science education

 

Have you ever watched any animations on Ted-ed? What makes Ted-ed standout is not only the beautiful graphic design but also the storytelling. They know how to make the content relatable, memorable and absolutely entertaining. In fact, to produce such high quality, we need to a well-written script and a detailed storyboard.

 

However, sometimes we do not that much work to make effective animations. You do not need to change everything into animations. Short animations just to explain some complicated concepts are much affordable than a 7-hour animated movie.

 

If your course is in MOOC style with talking head videos, then that would be easy. Remember what I said above? Turn texts into audio and graphics into movements. You already have the audio. What left is to visualize your words and animate your graphics into engaging videos. The same goes for the slide presentation. You have to add images as visual aids to your eLearning content, right? Now, we find a better alternative to those illustrations.

 

Now you know where to add your educational animations in the course. However, which types of animations would work best for scientific subjects? My suggestion is 3D animations, 2D motion graphics, and whiteboard animations.

 

  • 3D animations: 3D animations work best in delivering topics that require high accuracy like medication training. They could stimulate reality and explain details that cannot be seen by naked eyes smoothly. However, 3D videos are expensive. They could cost thousands of dollars for just one minute.
  • 2D motion graphics: 2D motion graphics are almost like those series on Cartoon Network. However, “Cartoon Network quality” is complicated and costly. Motion graphics are simpler in movements, but they could visualize anything of the eLearning content.
  • Whiteboard animations: affordable animations with white background and simple illustrations. They are also easy. Have you watched the video from ASAP Science I attached above? They actually draw the images themselves and record the whole process. If you have a proper camera, good drawing skill and a creative mind in storytelling, then it would work. If you want to add animated movements, like some running objects, you need professional software like Adobe After Effects.

Conclusion

 

The idea of using animated learning videos in teaching science is not new. Just access YouTube and welcome yourself with various educational animations conveying many topics. This type of video in eLearning is indeed not widely adopted. This fact may be due to the misconception that producing animations is either expensive or hard, and the negligence of instructional designers in visual design. What do you think? Would you use animations? I’d love to hear your thought.

Read Further:

 

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