Why Visuals Make Learning Engaging, Not Boring

When you think of e-learning, you can’t help but spend time developing great visuals.

But like other aspects of e-learning, the visuals need to be incorporated within a course at the right times to be effective and keep learners interested.

Here are some quick tips to help ensure that your e-learning efforts are grounded from a visual perspective.

1. How well does the image or photo represent or reinforce your other content?

It’s easier for people to process images that are familiar to them (rather than strange or unusual ones).

Connie Malamed, an eLearning, information and visual designer, provides great insights on the topic in her post, “How Visual Clarity Affects Learning.”

Here is a summary:

“Research shows that the ease with which information is internally processed affects a person’s judgment and decision making—whether it’s a screen design, a magazine article or a page in a textbook. In other words, people have positive feelings about visuals and verbiage when they are easy to perceive and process.”

Charles Burnette, a design educator, emphasizes “design thinking.” He says it’s a “process of creative and critical thinking that allows information and ideas to be organized, decisions to be made, situations to be improved and knowledge to be gained.”

2. Use short video clips to break up other content delivery options.

3. You can’t go wrong with well-designed charts, graphs and diagrams that can quickly spark interest in the lesson.

Don’t settle for graphics that are blurry or pixelated. You may be better off not using a graphic if learners ignore it.

But you need to avoid overkill. As valuable as graphics are for e-learning, excess can get in the way as well. Use specific images only when you’re confident that they will support learning.

4. Use brief animations to underscore a message or illustrate point.

Make practical use of everything from avatars to various simulations that support your material.

5. Adhere to design standards for e-learning courses.

Paper Leaf Design created “Principles of Design Quick Reference Poster,” a simple downloadable resource that clearly conveys design basics.

6. Variety is the key.

Give the learner’s brain an opportunity to process information in different ways ranging from a chart to bullet points within the text.

7. Make a point to use images and text at the same time.

Students can grasp your message when you pair images with text. Sometimes you can accomplish this with an infographic.

8. Consistency is a must for outstanding graphic design.

Students need to know what to expect. If design elements are constantly changing, the learning process can be disrupted. You can achieve that with the overall course design as well as specific opportunities, such as a graphic that points learners to the next quiz.

You can emphasize consistency by creating a visual style guide that should be used on a regular basis by different people at your company, school or organization. Among other areas, it should cover:

  • color palette
  • colors of hyperlinks
  • font choices and formatting
  • image sizes
  • image effects
  • layout considerations

9. Consider using visual menus (and not just text).

Visual menus can to enhance the learner’s ability to work his or her way through the course and your narrative. They are an effective way to help identify categories or timelines.

10. Always strike the right balance.

You don’t want to overwhelm a learner with a ton of text. Break it up with a relevant image that will connect with the student. Boldface subheads, add a quote from an expert and summarize information with bullet points.

All of these and other visual e-learning best practices can help you achieve your course objectives and give a learner the best opportunity to succeed.