There is the fact that most instructional designers have not been trained in visual design. However, we need it in various eLearning materials like presentation slides, web portals or videos. Yes, we cannot deny the importance of the content. However, we could achieve amazing results unexpectedly with visual aids for learning.
The benefits of visuals in eLearning
We all know that should never provide a full-of-text screen to students. Well, that is too plain and boring compared to how much effort you put into the instructional content. Then we need something that appeals to students and supports them throughout the learning process. That is exactly the capability of visual design. It makes the course more enjoyable with graphics. However, it is not all about look. Visual aids for learning could make such great difference in the outcomes. They help learners understand the complicated ideas and recall the information much better.
Then there are 2 sub-concepts in visual design: graphic design and visual communications. Graphic design is how you utilize different layouts, fonts, color and images to make your learning program more inviting. Visual communications, on the other hand, is how you choose materials like images or videos to communicate ideas. They are both essential for eLearning developers. If we can combine and balance them well, we could create more effective and beautiful courses.
Graphic design for beautiful learning experiences
Graphic design affects how students perceive the content. Good design should guide students to the most important parts of the online program. For example, a small change to the words in color, size or style would help learners identify the highlighted ideas of the lesson. By this way, they would remember the key concepts better.
Furthermore, a well-designed course could inspire students the love of learning. Why? When you take extra effort in polishing the presentation with good choices of layouts, images, fonts, color, and the combination of all above elements, students would have much more enjoyable visual experiences. So the problem is not just visual, it is how to create beautiful visual. According to a University of Saskatchewan study, participants who viewed a visually embellished chart found it more attractive and more memorable than a plain chart. Besides, a beautiful design would make the eLearning site look much more professional. A sense of professionalism would make students feel more invested in your course.
Visual communications for better learning outcomes
Our brain loves visuals. It is not just because they are beautiful. The brain absorbs and synthesizes visual information much faster than any other materials. That is why we need to utilize visual aids for better learning outcomes.
Simplify complex concepts
The best feature of visual aids for learning is that they can simplify a complex concept. For example, you teach a drone training course. Then one topic you always have to cover is: how does it fly? Now, imagine how much time it takes to explain such a complicated mechanism, and how much effort students spend in understanding it. However, if we support students by giving detailed images or videos, it would become much easier to understand.
This article of National Geographic on how tornadoes form is another good example. If you read the article alone without looking at the infographic, how well do you understand the content?
With complicated concepts like science, an animated video is even better in explaining the ideas. The infographic only illustrates the 4 steps of the tornado formation while the animations show students the whole process.
Speed up learning
Do you know that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual? And visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than words. And If we teach with texts only, students would have to imagine the visualized version in the brain themselves. However, when that information is given right away, learners would digest the ideas much better.
Take a look at this simple example:
Image source: Uberflip Blog
One picture is worth a thousand words.
But sure you can understand the graphic description much faster than the textual one.
Improve the retention rate
Research has found that visual information improves one’s ability to remember concepts and details better than information in the audio or textual form. The results could become more impressive when we aid visuals with audio content. Viewers can retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading. A research on the effect of animations on medical education also suggests that animations with audio narration are the best way of communication for the audience of different health literacy.
Visuals could help you fight the boredom of online education. Visual aids for learning could encourage students to study with interest. When students find the learning materials more inviting, they are likely to be more motivated and engaged in the course.
Moreover, visuals could also set the tone of the course, making it less tedious and serious. What would you think if we include friendly animations in a healthcare training course like this? This way we could deliver the same information as in the textual materials in a more engaging way.
Types of visual aids for learning
There are various ways you could apply the visual aids in online learning. Visuals lie in how you make the materials look great, and how you optimize them for best learning experiences. Visual content is not limited to images and videos only. Below are 6 of the most common visual aids:
- Images: You can find images everywhere in a course. It could either visualize some information or enhance the learning experiences with beautiful graphics.
- Charts and graphs: The quickest way to present the patterns of the information. They give students an overview of the trend as well as the relationships between complicated figures. Then charts and graphs are crucial in subjects dealing with lots of data.
- Infographics: Infographics have all the features of 2 above materials. They are the combination of several charts, diagram, and text explanation. People use infographics to summarizing data in a beautiful and engaging way.
- Live-action videos: The most common type of live actions in eLearning are self-recorded videos. Those videos show the footage of a lecturer giving a class, just like in any other traditional classrooms. Besides, we can use interviews, documental videos and case studies to give students real-life examples.
- Animations: Animations are best at visualizing abstract concepts or ideas that cannot be seen by naked eyes. Animated videos help learners throughout the learning process with engagement and comprehension.
- GIFs: GIFs are another type of animations in a much shorter form. GIFs could perform their visual power as well as other materials. You can even add meme GIFs in your course to grab the audience’s attention and make it less serious.
Don’t go overboard on visual materials
Visuals are great as long as you know how to use it properly. Everything in the course must have a purpose, even the slightest details in the slide presentation. Each time you decide to add visual content to your course, ask yourself:
- Would it ensure that the learning objectives are achieved?
- Would it help the learners understand this topic better?
- Are there any alternatives to make the course better?
Make sure that the materials are being there for a reason. Also, try to get as highest quality as possible. You don’t want all your effort is judged by images or videos in low resolution.
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