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How to Use Visuals for Effective E-Learning

In general, training materials contain loads of text that are presented using bulleted points. Not only are bulleted lists boring, they do very little to help learners remember information. As Instructional Designers (IDs), our job is to make learning easy and effective.

Multimedia Principle states that people learn more deeply from words and pictures than from words alone.

Visuals help you make learners learn faster and better. Visuals support psychological learning process. Visuals are the iconic mental representations of what is being perceived. They often combine text, illustrations, and colors. Visuals are extremely effective in helping learners retain information and apply it on their jobs. Ruth Calvin Clark and Chopeta Lyons, in their book ‘Graphics for Learning’, explain the various types of graphics and how to use them for effective learning.

In this blog, I’m going to share my experience of using different types of visuals based on the learning content.

Types of visuals and their functions

1. Organizational visuals

These visuals show the qualitative relationship between different elements. They can be used to explain a hierarchy of elements and how each one is related to the other.

E.g. Hierarchy in an organization

Organizational visuals

2. Mnemonic visuals

These visuals work as memory-aids and help the learner recall the information easily. They help him recall the factual information in the absence of a job-aid.

E.g. Goal setting (SMART goals)

Mnemonic visuals

3. Relational visuals

These visuals communicate the quantitative relationship between elements. They help the learners get the complete picture at a glance.

E.g. Population and their age groups

Relational visuals

4. Transformational visuals

These visuals communicate changes in time or space. They depict the evolution of an object, how it was and how it has changed during the time.

E.g. Steps of safe lifting

Transformational visuals

5. Interpretive visuals

These visuals communicate abstract cause-and-effect relationships between elements. These can be in the form of animations which show elements gradually changing to depict the effect.

E.g. Drink-driving leads to death

Interpretive visuals

6. Static line drawings

These visuals illustrate how things look or how they work. There can be a series of static line diagrams to depict a complete concept.

E.g. How cloud computing works

Static line drawings

Visuals are very powerful. Appropriate visuals teach and facilitate effective recall. Decorative or inappropriate visuals don’t teach and sometimes even depress the learner. As IDs, we always need to add an appropriate image in every screen of the eLearning course and also avoid inappropriate images that hinder learning.

The State of Learning: 2023 and Beyond