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Effective Visual Analogies That Promote Learning

Visual analogies have long been used in advertising, particularly to communicate social messages or health messages. By using visual analogies a message can be communicated in such a way that it is effectively retained in the minds of the audience. These visual analogies can be effective learning tools in eLearning courses as well.

I came across a very powerful visual that author, health educator and blogger Christy Jo has designed. Christy abhors the way advertisers tend to mislead people about formula milk. Her aim is to educate people about the benefits of breast milk and the need to reduce needless dependency on formula milk. See below the poster that she created. Don’t you think it conveys a powerful message?

Visual analogies or Visual metaphors

Here is what visual analogies or visual metaphors can do in a course.

Visual analogies or metaphors are tools that enable understanding of abstract and complex ideas easily

They enable learners to use their existing knowledge or schema to understand what is new without having to read a large amount of text. In the analogy mentioned earlier, without getting into complex details about what constitutes formula milk and how breast milk is superior to formula milk, the visual conveys the message in simple terms. Formula milk is like a toy car, while breast milk is like the real car.

Visual analogies provide relief from complex data, charts and tables

In eLearning courses, we might have to deal with information that is presented in the form of charts, tables or figures. We know the left brain and right brain respond to different stimuli in different ways. In order to have maximum impact it is best to have a balance of reason and emotion in the course. Visual analogies will help in this process. The poster mentioned above, instead of providing complex data and information about the chemical composition of formula and breast milk, appeals to the emotions of individuals by asking them to choose the real thing.

Visual analogies make a lasting impact in retaining essential information

You might have heard the story about a nearly frozen bird that got buried in cow dung. Though it was in deep shit, the dung enabled the bird to defreeze and keep itself warm. It can be powerful analogy to motivate employees that even though they think they are in difficult circumstances, it could benefit them in the long run. Visual analogies can be more powerful and effective than words.

Here is a visual analogy of what we do with an eLearning course. We take unstructured, fragmented pieces of information; we sort and sequence the inputs into a coherent structure. Finally, we present it in a manner that best fulfills the course objectives and the needs of the learners.

Visual analogy in eLearning courses

Visuals form a very important part of an eLearning course. In the absence of a physical instructor, it is these visuals that guide learners by powerfully communicating the intended message. As a result, knowledge sharing happens in a manner that would create a lasting impact.

Instructional Design Strategies to Design Engaging eLearning Courses