The color green.
A rainbow that leads to a pot of gold.
For most of us, these symbols bring one thing to mind: St. Patrick’s Day. If we were playing a game of Pictionary and I drew a shamrock or a pot of gold, I imagine you’d be able to make an educated guess about the word I was trying to illustrate.
It’s the same with eLearning – effective use of symbols in your courses can make it very easy for your learners to:
Interact with a course.
Use a forward arrow symbol instead of the word “forward” and the learner quickly understands what action is required in order to move to the next screen. The same goes for back, pause, and exit. If you struggle with using consistent symbols, consider using eLearning templates. They make it easy to incorporate symbols that consistently convey course functionality (forward, back, stop, exit, etc.) from the first screen to the last.
Understand subliminal context.
Learners are looking for any clues that make it easy to understand the concepts and content that your course covers. When you incorporate industry-relevant symbols, such cut out people who are wearing hard hats, aprons, or medical scrubs, those images serve as symbols that help learners make connections with subliminal context. An added bonus: there’s less for you to explain or spell out when you rely on a symbol to provide the context.
Recall what they’ve learned.
A picture is worth a thousand words. (As a writer, it kills me to type that…but it’s true.) If you provide a meaningful symbol for your learners, it’s much more likely that they’ll be able to recall that information the next day, or the next month, or even years later.
Finally, a word of caution: make sure your symbols speak to others, and not just you. Although symbols can do wonders to explain something, they can also make for a lot of confusion when they’re misunderstood. To use the Pictionary example above, some people may see a large pot and assume it’s a witch’s cauldron. For others, a rainbow might represent a rainy day.
When you’re looking for ways to incorporate symbols, test your assumptions and be sure to confirm they resonate and are understood by as many people as possible. When you use symbols well, your learners will feel like they’ve found the other side of that rainbow.
And while we’re on the topic of rainbows, pots of gold, and leprechauns…the team at eLearning Brothers joins me in wishing you a fun, pinch-free, and symbol-filled St. Patrick’s Day!
Liz Sheffield is a freelance writer with a background in training and development. She specializes in writing about everything related to the human side of business. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.