It’s now 2011 and every eLearning designer knows that creating a page full of text is not effective design. So, as we try to create more engaging and creative courses we are using more images, animations, and audio. What does “science and psychology” say about how these impact learning? Here are some thoughts that I had while reading Ruth Clark’s article in Learning Solutions Magazine. (Six Principles of Effective e-Learning: What Works and Why) Her research is from Richard Mayer.

Of course…we need them but do they really add to learning and if so, how should they be used?

Ruth’s article sites research that shows an increase in learning of almost 89% in courses with images. “Therefore we have empirical support that should discourage the use of screens and screens of text as an effective learning environment.” Ok, so we know that pictures help learning. However not all pictures are equally effective.

Tips to image efficiency:

  • Irrelevant or gratuitous images actually depress learning
  • Images and related text should be placed close to each other on the screen
  • In addition to the bullet above, ensure the learner can see the image and its related text at the same time. Scroll bars can be dangerous

“If words and the visuals they describe are separate from each other, the learner needs to expend extra cognitive resources to integrate them. In contrast, in materials in which the words and graphics are placed contiguously, the integration is done for the learner. Therefore the learner is free to spend those scarce cognitive resources on learning.”

If a learner becomes overloaded while trying to learn then they won’t learn anything. Audio should be used in those situations.

Here’s a good example of when audio would be appropriate: “You are watching an animated demonstration of maybe five or six steps to use a software application, you need to focus your visual resources on the animation. If you have to read text and at the same time watch the animation, overload is more likely than when you can hear the animation being narrated.”

Tips to audio efficiency:

  • Use when a learner needs to focus on a visual instead of reading text
  • Use in situations when a learner needs to review something over and over
  • When audio is used provide a replay button
  • Reference and instructions should be presented as text
  • Audio should not be an exact match of text on the screen. This overloads the learner

Hope these quick tips help with your next course.

Add eLearning games and Interactions to your next course!


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