Visually presenting concepts in online courses
It is not uncommon to receive a PowerPoint file that has a bunch of slides with nothing more than a bunch of bullet points. There are no speaker notes and the instructional designer not only has to build a coherent story out of these bullet points, but also has to figure out a way to breathe some life into the screen. But how do we do it in a meaningful way?
We’ve all seen courses with stock photographs that are seemingly related to the content but are of zero instructional value. For example, you might have a course on manufacturing that is filled with images of factories, workforce wearing hard hats and overalls, and machines. Do these decorative images help learners build mental models? After all, this is the purpose of instructional visuals.
At CommLab, we recently worked on a multi-module program on a simulation application used in manufacturing. The source content was mostly bullet points with a few screenshots thrown in. The goal of the training program was to provide foundational knowledge on the software rather than teach procedures.
As we went through the content, we found that there were several fundamental concepts used across the 9 modules. We wanted to do two things:
- Give learners a way to identify and remember these concepts (build mental models)
- Ensure that the program had a unique visual style: No photographs. Just simple line icons representing the concepts.
Some examples of icons we used to represent concepts:
How we used these icons