The Importance of Visuals in eLearning

Posted by Anna Taylor

The world is made up of many different learners. To reach and help as many of these learners succeed as possible you need to be able to mix teaching methods in a logical and dynamic way. Those who learn best by listening, reading, watching, or through visual cues need to be able to understand the knowledge you’re trying to impart. This is why utilizing visuals in elearning, when done well, can help ensure that what you’re trying to teach isn’t just heard or seen, its understood.

Graphs, charts, images, and video effectively capture attention and convey ideas where words run the risk of falling short. Long paragraphs can be bent, stretched, condensed, or shaped into simple images that teach a lesson and skip all the confusion. Visuals allow you to make the complex simple, thus easier to follow. There is something about enticing graphical treatments and aesthetically pleasing design that draw people in and make them want to learn more. And if they want to learn more, you know you’ve succeeded.

So how do you recognize or create a visually dynamic and appealing elearning course? There are two things to look for specifically, the big picture and the details. First, you want to recognize the elements that make up an overall great structure for the course; that is, the importance of color, consistency, and design. Secondly, you want to look at the visual elements of the course which make up the core of the learning content, such as graphics and video. All of these aspects will add up to make one great course when instated correctly.

Big Picture: Judge An eLearning Course By Its Cover

According to Tom Kuhlmann of Articulate, when asking people about the elearning courses they tend to take in their organizations, “one of the most common complaints is that courses look unprofessional and uninviting. And that equates to a course not worth taking. You’re asking the learners to give up precious time and invest it in your elearning course and before they even start, they feel like it’s a waste of time just because of the way it looks.” So when it comes to elearning courses, looks do matter! Kuhlmann has laid out a series of concepts to look at when designing or choosing a course.

1. Color. The last thing your viewer is going to want is to stare at electric yellow font on a neon aqua background while they view an hour long course. Color coordination and color theory is essential to success. If a course features too many, or clashing, colors it’ll be harder for viewers to watch and more difficult to absorb information. Courses that keep to a color theme are always the most successful.

2. Consistency. “One of the biggest issues with rapidly authored elearning courses is that they look like they were slapped together in PowerPoint. There are five different fonts used, the images don’t look like they belong together, and they are of varying quality. Some are nice and crisp and others are pixilated,” says Kuhlmann. Clipart should be used sparingly and logically. The same goes for graphics, such as shapes, arrows, buttons, etc. You want your viewer’s main focus to be on content, not distracting embellishments meant to jazz up the course. If you’re making an elearning course and want to improve your images try one of our many courses on Photoshop, such as the Photoshop CS6 (Beta) Intro Training course.

3. Design. If an elearning course looks like it was made on the first Macintosh in 1984 it’s guaranteed that the information is going to feel out of date. A fresher look that keeps things contemporary helps keep viewer engaged. Another aspect to think about is how course design matches the content. This doesn’t mean that course designs have to be boring, it just has to correlate with the material the course is covering. The relationship between design aesthetic and content should be appropriate. A smart place to start designing a new course is our Create Your Own eLearning Courses With Articulate 6 course.

The Devil’s in the Details: An eLearning Vision

Did you know that 75% of our learning is done through our eyes? Our vision is much stronger than we think when it comes to absorbing information. Knowing this, it is important to create elearning courses that use good visual variety in order to better provide excellent content. Karla Gutierrez of the SHIFT elearning blog has outlined some tips for creatively making your elearning courses much more visual.

1. Infographics. What can be said in words likely can be simplified through images, which is why inforgraphics are so powerful. Not only do they provide the viewer with great content, “they make data more meaningful and beautiful and, most importantly, they make learning more fun and less boring. With infographics, you can insert colorful bars, pies, charts and graphs to visually represent numbers and percentages. You can use it to group ideas together so that students are able to absorb information faster and retain them easier,” says Gutierrez. These infographics fall into all kinds of shapes and sizes. Infographics can be used for any amount of data in a course. Making infographics is easier than you think.

2. Videos. Whether videos are short and embedded or make up the entirety of a course, they’re an important and compelling learning tool for viewers. “Videos combine texts, images, and sounds in order to create an immersive learning environment, or one that hooks your students while helping them learn more effectively,” says Gutierrez. More than anything, videos need to look as professional as possible. Videos shot in an inappropriate setting lose a lot of validity and could get in the way of learning. Sharp language and a professional setting are key. “How-to” style videos are particularly effective because they’re easy to understand and follow.

There are infinite options for choosing and creating elearning courses. Using visuals in a logical and visually appealing way is often the key to a successful course. When choosing an elearning course remember to look at the big picture as well as the small details because the use of visual cues has a direct and powerful impact on learning.

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