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Mastering Visual Representation of Ideas in eLearning Courses

5 minutes

eLearning courses serve a powerful purpose in the business world: bringing information to learners in out-of-classroom environments. This type of corporate learning saves on the costs associated with traditional learning, allows employees to go at their own pace and enables companies to tailor content to each person so that it meets their individual needs and learning styles more completely.

Visual Representation in e-Learning

With PowerPoint converter technology, like iSpring’s, organizations can transform traditionally classroom-based lectures into e

Learning courses with little trouble, making them accessible to all members of your team on an as-needed basis. It even makes mobile learning a possibility, enabling employees to make use of long commutes or downtime in the field.

So what’s the downside? you’re thinking. Is there one? Well, yes and no. On one hand, this heretofore unheard of wealth of information democratizes learning and powerfully increases each organization’s ability to train and enrich its employees in meaningful ways. On the other hand, eLearning is still in many cases stuck in past, text-based world. While elementary teachers long ago figure out their students needed many ways to learn – verbal, visual, hands-on – adult learning is not always so progressive.

So, if you want to bring your eLearning courses into the modern era, you need to offer learners what they’re looking for: a wide variety of learning styles. Among the most potent of these is visual learning, and since it reaches a wide variety of learners, it is an excellent place to start.

The Visual Versus the Literary or Verbal Mind

Before you can effectively integrate visual components into your eLearning courses, you must first understand the difference between the verbal and the visual mind. One way of thinking mimics the way we talk, using a logical flow from A to B to C. When explaining complex concepts like how to depreciate a piece of business equipment, this logical flow is very important because one step follows the last.

However, the mind has another way of thinking, which is visual. Think of how you process memory, seeing many images and feeling many feelings at once. There is no A to B to C when thinking about less systematized and more scattered ideas in this visual fashion, but that does not make them less valuable. Dan Roam demonstrates this difference very well in his  fox versus hummingbird drawings.

The Importance of Visual Information

Visual information, though it is often dismissed as simply an addendum to the text-based learning which takes the driver’s seat, can often convey important ideas much more effectively than words. Think about charts and graphs, which are able to draw a stark contrast between dry statistics. Think about images, which convey depths of emotion and lend humanity to otherwise impersonal ideas. Although words can have that “gut-punch” effect,” images do it much more effectively.

More about graphics and design in presentations →

As explained by the eLearning Coach, enabling learners to process quickly also improves their understanding of and confidence in the material. In fact, when subjects read a simple set of instructions in clear typeface, they were confident they could carry them out quickly. When they read the same set of directions in a harder-to-read font, they estimated the instructions would take twice as long and be much more difficult. The takeaway? Conveying information more quickly can have measurable results beyond simply making the course go faster. It can up the capability of your employees, no mean feat.

How to Present Information Visually

Your goal with incorporating visual information into your courses is to allow visual representations to take over some of the burdens of learning from text. Unlike textbooks, which stick small images in corners and generally rely on words, you want your course to be full of visual references to which learners can refer. Text, which we turn to naturally, can wrap around visual components, adding a necessary explanation of difficult concepts. Here are a few ideas for working visual information in:

  • Charts and Graphs: These display statistics and complex numbers well, and make a bigger impact than text.
  • Flowcharts: When dealing with a complex set of steps that vary depending on circumstances, flowcharts are your go-to.
  • Cartoons: Telling a story or making a student laugh is an effective way to teach difficult concepts.
  • Drawings and Photos: Whether created or captured, images can add weight to any idea.

Easy Ways to Incorporate Visual Information Into Your Next Course

If your eLearning courses thus far have been primarily text-based, don’t panic! There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Likely you don’t even need to do that much rewriting in order to improve your presentations. Instead, add in helpful, contextualized images that reinforce the content you’ve already included. In all likelihood most of your learners will appreciate a meld of visual and verbal teaching, supplementing their understanding of the text with reference to the images.

Start small, either creating images yourself or hiring someone to create visual input for one of the eLearning courses you use frequently, ideally one from which you can measure the results. This will enable you to see if students do better with the material once visual ideas have been added. Of course, you can also use this approach for traditional classroom learning as well. Everyone appreciates a picture, a cartoon, a graph, a flowchart. Most of all, have fun. Do that, and your workers will too.

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