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effective method of teaching science

New Effective Method of Teaching Science: Animated learning videos

Apr 26, 2018animation application, Blog, e-learning, educational animations0 comments

When you google “I hate science”, there are over 0.5 billion result. Many students don’t like it, it’s true. Our job, as a teacher and instructional designer is finding an effective method to teaching science, so that students can at least understand what they learn.

The impact of animated learning videos on online education is a controversial matter. Some say they work beautifully, others deny their effectiveness 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.

Short attention span make teaching science harder

So how exactly can animated learning videos fix that?

Simplify complicated concepts quickly and beautifully

Science usually contain complex terms like data and numbers, or inappreciable concept like how people get stroke. An effective method of teaching science should  make these content comprehensible and easy to digest. In the Journal of Research in Science Teaching No.32, animation was proved can help students learn in two ways. It facilitates the creation of mental representations of concepts, phenomenon, and processes and it also replaces difficult cognitive processes (ex: abstraction, imagination). Therefore, I think science educators need animated learning videos the most.

For better understanding, take a look at this comparison about earth science:

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.

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

When you need to explain a complicated process instead of a simple fact, this method can be really handy. Animations can show temporal change directly, rather than having to indicate it by arrows and motion lines. Using animated learning video can make visual aid not only simpler and less cluttered, but also more vivid, engaging and more intuitively comprehended. For example, can you guess how long does it take to explain briefly about the Big Bang Theory with conventional paper text and picture? For an engaging animation, it takes 6 minutes.

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 and improve engagement

Education is not only about teaching but also about inspiring people. Therefore, effective method of teaching science must hook students attention and keep it till the end of the course. Animations are engaging by sounds and visuals rather than texts and documents. Obviously, learning with animated videos is much less stressful than a whole page full of words. Fun fact, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text in the brain.

According to research from The University of Adelaide Australia published in April 2019, Adam et al. developed a series of 36 animated videos at the Stanford School of Medicine in collaboration with four other US medical schools. The videos present stories from fictitious patients to provide real-world application of the technical content taught in medical courses. Their evidence demonstrates that both engaging student interest and enhancing their understanding of the subject matter constitute important avenues for animated videos to improve students’ overall learning experience.

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. Although this type of video might not widely adopted, we can deny that animation is an effective method of teaching science, worth to try!

>> Pros and Cons of Animated Educational Videos in eLearning

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