Graphics in eLearning

Researchers have time and again been involved in studies that identify patterns on learning in various groups of people. Whether it’s a group of children or adult learners, one explanation holds true for all. It has been observed that learners understand better when instruction is presented in the form of text and images compared to text alone.  An even better concoction is less text accompanied with elaborate narration and graphics. Let’s take a look at the diagram below:

Hydrologic Cycle

Hydrologic Cycle

 

This graphical representation alone will be easier for students to understand how precipitation takes place and will be retained for a longer duration than a two-page write-up on the hydrologic cycle which will most probably be forgotten the very next day.

The main principle of conveying a concept, principle or procedure through visual representation is that the learner may not experience cognitive load which may defeat the goal of instruction altogether. Use of graphics is not enough; a visual representation should be effective and fulfill the objectives by being logically and aesthetically sound for any e-learning course content. Astonishingly, many instructional designers falter in this area. The choice of multimedia will largely depend on the learner group characteristics, the complexity of content, and the goal of instruction.

Here is a list of simple points that instructional designers should keep in mind while working with graphic developers.

1. Choosing an image or graphical representation also depends on the role or function the graphic is going to play in a course and the level of importance that graphic play in aiding text to enhance retention. For example, an image may just be used for aesthetic purpose only and may not contribute much to the content. Other functions of graphics may be as follows:

  • Depiction of something, illustration of how an object might look in real life
  • Show relationship between two objects or show workflows; e.g., flowcharts
  • Showing change in an object, structure or person over time.
  • Illustrate a cause and effect relation; i.e. depiction of a principle like demand and supply

2. Learner’s characteristics and age group is a major factor of consideration while choosing/creating appropriate graphics.  For e.g., a course for 20-25 yrs sales reps in the automobile sector can use a lot of bright colors and trendier design than that produced for a more mature audience.

3. Type of content is yet another importance deciding factor. Graphics are mainly used to communicate something to the learner. If a graphic representation does not complement the text with it, it may be futile to use it in the first place. For e.g., entirely different sets of graphics will be used to teach processes (flowcharts/workflows) and causal relationship (graphs).

4. While communicating complex learning objects, the simplicity of graphics should also be kept in mind. For example, a difficult and lengthy procedure can be shown with the help of numbered image for each step which will help the learner to understand them in sequence and also what needs to be done at each step.

There are many more technical aspects to creation and application of graphics when considered from a developer’s point of view. We hope to cover those in another article. The mentioned points should be used as checkboxes to see whether each of these areas have been given enough though before involving resources and getting into production.

 

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