Behind animation-based learning: What, why, and how

May 26, 2020Blog, educational animations, innovative teaching methods, instructional design tips0 comments

When people talk about education, they often stress the formal side of learning like delivering knowledge, getting high scores in exams, etc. But animation based education is here to level up the game: you can get the fun, practical and informative learning at the same time!



What is educational animation? What is its origin? What fields is it applied to? And what is the possible future of animation based education? The answers lie below!


Animation is defined as a simulated motion picture to create illustration of movement of hand-drawn or simulated objects on screen. There are three main elements contribute to this definition:

  1. Picture: animation as one kind of pictorial representation
  2. Motion: movement of objects is visible
  3. Simulation: objects in animated materials are created artificially by hand drawing or other simulation channels like computer software, etc.

Therefore, animation-based learning is developed as a method of teaching with the support of animated resources such as videos, GIFs, infographics, etc. Instructional designers can make their decision according to one of the theories below to produce educational animation:

  • Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning: is among the most comprehensive theory that focuses on multimedia teaching methods in general and animated education in particular. From cognitive studies, three assumptions were suggested:
  1. Dual-channel: we as humans have two separate channels to process knowledge: visual/pictorial information and auditory/verbal information.
  2. Limited capacity: only a limited piece of information is processed at any one time in a single channel.
  3. Active processing: meaningful learning is activated only when the student is engaged in the substantial cognitive processes including paying attention to the knowledge given, selecting relevant materials, organizing it into a coherent structure, and integrating it into the existing knowledge. 
  • Information Delivery Theory of Multimedia Learning: straightforwardly stated that the process of studying involves the act of adding knowledge into the learner’s memory. In multimedia-based education, if the image attached similar to the written information, there would be no better learning outcome. However, for some students prefer visuals learning over verbal one, the multimedia presentation works perfectly effective to both kind of learners as they could choose their own ways of learning.


Educational animation originates from the advancement of technology in recent years which resulted in authoring computer-based instruction. This opened up new possibilities for designers to develop instructional courses. Multimedia, one potential field for educators, was upgraded with various diverse and elaborative features. One of those features, animation, was increasingly encouraged thanks to the easy-to-generate inventive software. 


Since then, instructional animation has been widely recognized and applied in numerous fields. Science, medical, and engineering are in need of high accuracy in the presentation of complicated information, and animation can surely guarantee that. 


Learn more about them here:

Science animation: How to make scientific subjects fun?

The Application of Animation in Medical Education

Animations for Engineering Courses


Animation also does a great job in simulating practical activities for the purpose of training or experiencing real-life situations. Corporate training, healthcare practices, etc. are the ones to focus on.


Take a closer look at:

The application of animation in corporate training

7+ key factors in medical animation services that advance your business


There have been various breakthroughs in trends of instructional animation lately. One highlight is the integration of 2D and 3D graphics. While 3D animation is capable of presenting the focused, detailed areas, 2D is used for the background and other extra objects. Grain texture, morphing, or restricted color palette are also very popular for animation designers.


The world has seen a great shift in education resulted from the global pandemic of COVID-19 in 2020. Online learning is more than ever be used this widely and the market of e-learning courses is increasingly competitive. In the future, animation based education is predicted to develop rapidly. Animation can be used as a special unique selling point to attract learners. Even so, animated materials are not some magical panacea that can easily improve the learning outcome. Fancy and dazzling animated videos themselves can’t be the only investment in your course. Knowledge, the foundation of education, is very essential. It’s fair for learners to ask whether or not animation is just a beautiful-looking accessory when the foundation is overlooked. 


Why choose animation based education but not other choices? What makes animation outstanding from the rest? Let’s take a deeper look into animation now!


Affordable price

Animation fits for many types of institutions, even for those with tight budgets. From $30 to $3000 per minute, the price ranges depended on the animation service you choose. Hiring a freelancer is the cheapest option, however, the outcome could be unsatisfied. Using small studio services would cost the medium price. Their works are authentic and customized for your needs and they also offer end-to-end service. The third option, and also the most expensive one, is professional studios. 


We have an article for educational animation pricing!

How much does an educational animation cost per minute: $30, $150 or $3,000?


However, animation price is often way lower than video production. Additionally, you will also have to consider other costs when filming videos such as hiring actors (especially famous talents), equipment renting, travel expenses, and post-production (like editing and grading). 


Provide clear explanation on vague concepts

When it comes to delivering an abstract idea, animation plays an important role to illustrate and promote deeper understanding. Take a look at our video on spiritual relationships:

In Vietnam, the reason for you being unlucky in your love life could be your attachment to some “unseen” lovers. This topic is quite familiar to many Vietnamese but foreigners may find it hard to understand, sometimes unreasonable. That’s why we decided to bring life into this story by producing an animated video. Traditional culture is enhanced in this video through the drawing style of characters, background and supportive elements. Color palette from the famous Dong Ho paintings is applied throughout this video, creating deeply Vietnamese themes.

Social science, psychology and philosophy, for example, are usually perceived as vague subjects because they can’t be seen, heard or smelled. These phenomena exist in some distinctive states such as mental health, culture movement, etc. Therefore, students need more than just written words or verbal communication to gain a full understanding. Pictorial presentation is a great help here, especially animation as it can visualize invisible concepts. 

We all agree here that social science subjects could be delivered successfully via a live-action video. Take Netflix popular series Explained for instance. With numerous topics ranging from politics to the racial wealth gap, and even to weed, they provide insightful information selectively and provide insiders’ opinion by inviting guest speakers from each profession. Yet, Netflix producers still have to use animation in some scenes for the interpretation. But still, not everyone works for Netflix. We don’t have that huge support in money, human resources, equipment, skills and so on. Meanwhile, a single animated video could solve the problem with unlimited potentials for your creative urge. The depth and emotional sides of animation could also be enhanced if you invest enough time and mindfulness into it. 


Visualize special scenarios

Outcome-based education (OBE) is an educational theory that revolves around students’ goals (outcome) and every part of this system is carefully designed to achieve this. In traditional classrooms, students are often passive because of many factors, such as the lack of interactivity, poor lecturers or they find the course boring, … In recent decades, many research in the culture of learning showed that students learn through experience. As a result, OBE was born as an effective approach to equip students with knowledge, competencies and quality to succeed after they graduate.

There is no fixed teaching style or assessment in OBE but every piece of education provided for students contributes to their achievement of the learning objectives. When designing curriculum and outcomes, instructional designers focus on the 5 main skills:

  • Life skills;
  • Basic skills;
  • Professional and vocational skills;
  • Intellectual skills;
  • Interpersonal and personal skills.

In order to attain the mentioned skills, teachers need help in developing curricula with special features: real-life situations. But the problem is: not every life circumstance can be easily imitated. For instance, a simulated fire to build the skill of escaping emergencies takes a great deal of space, human resources, etc. though the safety is not guaranteed. In these hard cases, animation is a life-saver. Via imagination and the power of visualization, any kind of rare scenes is conveniently demonstrated without costing a huge amount of money. Here’s a little video about nurse training to show you how it’s done!


A friendly appearance

For some professional institutes, they often face the problem of being seen as rigid. Many people perceive their online courses to be inflexible and only for experts even though it’s not true. And once again, animation is a savior thanks to the friendly display, appealing character. Watch the trailer for a free course at unitar – United Nations for Training and Research.

In Integrated planning for climate change and biodiversity, animation is used to illustrate imaginary themes of a hopeful future where humans and nature live in coordination. This online course contains interactive lessons and multimedia contents, promising to offer a dynamic learning approach. Other materials for this course are also animated, including the syllabus.




Let’s take a closer look at the production of animation based resources!

First, how about watching a viral animated video to examine what’s behind its success?

Dumb ways to die is surely one of the most effective PR campaigns but its educational purpose is what makes it deeply meaningful. Started out as a simple, light-hearted song to raise awareness for public train safety, the video earned enormous attention and media mention. With funny cartoon characters and bright, colorful animations, the music video is both entertaining and engaging to watch. 

With the content model, people behind Dumb ways to die invested in making their idea original and effective. The clear key message, defined goal and consistent concept really worked out! That’s why 8 years after its launch, people still remember and even get addicted to it!

dumb ways to die 2020

What can we learn from this? Trends can last, but worthwhile initiatives are memorable. Not only should you focus on the animation to make it more attractive, but the information is also the key factor to gain long-term relationships with the learners. One more note here is that being practical plays an important role in outcome-based learning. Life skills, basic skills, … happen in real life, so be specific!


And now is the action part! There are many ways to create animation depending on your convenience. Template generator, animation software would be enough for generating basic animated materials while animation studios are for higher options. Here are general pre-production points to consider when making animated educational videos for online courses:

  • Learning objectives: define what learners will be able to accomplish after a certain period of time. 
  • Script: express the ideas to your team and follow strictly your learning objectives.
  • Style:
  • Voice-over: is a great tool to make students feel the presence of the lecturer. Hiring voice-actors is also recommended.
  • Storyboard: the visualized version of your script that includes everything the learners are going to see on screen with extra information for your team members to work it.


Check out more articles from us on animation production:

What is a good animation budget for educational courses?

5+ easy steps to turn your slide lessons into animation (to aid remote learning)

Best Educational Animation Software for Beginners [Update 2019]

Ultimate beginner’s guide to making animated educational videos for free


And this is the end of your journey to discover the secrets behind animation based education! Educational animation takes a lot of effort but the result is very fruitful. 



Gero, A., Zoabi, W. and Sabag, N., 2014. Animation Based Learning Of Electronic Devices.. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 May 2020].

Kaliannan, M. and Chandran, S., 2012. Empowering Students through Outcome-Based Education (OBE). Research in Education, 87(1), pp.50-63.

Mayer, R. and Moreno, R., 2002. Animation As An Aid To Multimedia Learning.

Premalatha, K., 2019. Course and Program Outcomes Assessment Methods in Outcome-Based Education: A Review. Journal of Education, 199(3), pp.111-127.

Rieber, L., 1991. Animation, incidental learning, and continuing motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(3), pp.318-328.


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