Visual Learning Elements and How to Use Them

Good digital learning materials and activities should be engaging and interesting. While situations and purposes vary, visuals tend to play a key role regardless of the situation. On one hand, they can illustrate in a way that words cannot. On the other hand, you can use them to pace the material and progression of activities. Whereas 10 years ago we were still mostly thinking of pictures, we nowadays have a whole plethora of visual tools to choose from. Therefore, we’ll take a look at some of the different visual learning elements and how to use them well.

1. Images and Pictures – often undervalued

Nowadays, pictures seem like too static objects, and thus get overlooked quite often. However, they still have their uses. First, you can use pictures to make online learning materials more visually pleasing. Secondly, you can use them like publishers do – to break and pace texts and give a visual connection to key information.

When using pictures, you should never align them left with text. Unique pictures tend to do better than stock photos. Also, pay attention to file sizes – too many big images may kill your loading times!

2. Infographics are a good way to showcase data

Infographics, charts and similar elements tend to be a good way to showcase data and relationships between things. While these have to be custom made for purpose, the workload is not too extensive which makes the costs bearable. However, there are a few things to note from a user experience point-of-view.

First, you need to be careful with text in your infographics. They’ll naturally contain some, but you don’t want to be writing essays in pictures. Second, you should maintain readability across all devices and platforms. When an infographic is displayed as an image file, it should be readable without clicking and zooming even on a mobile device. Too much of pinching and zooming again kills the user experience.

3. Videos are the most prevalent of visual learning elements

It’s quite clear that videos have become the go-to medium for digital learning. However, you shouldn’t overuse them either but rather always consider what format might provide the most value-add. Videos come in many forms and types. Traditional training videos often incorporate talking leadership figures and a bit of marketing flair to them. Animations, on the other hand, can be good, cheap alternatives. Character animations provide a good way of communicating messages. When dealing with complex issues or displays of data, you might consider explainer animations.

As videos come in many shapes and sized, it’s slightly more difficult to give general advise. However, a few rules of thumb tend to provide useful in most circumstances. First, keep your videos concise. If the content is great, length is less of an issue. But often you’re better of trying to deploy short microlearning videos instead of full-length corporate documentaries. Again, pay attention to file sizes and formats. You want the videos to play on all devices and platforms. And if your users are engaging in mobile learning, huge file sizes can easily obliterate their monthly data caps.

4. VR will have a big impact on visual learning

If you’ve been awake for the past couple of years, you cannot have missed the talk about virtual reality (VR) and its learning applications. While VR technology does provide unparalleled experiences when it comes to visual engagement, it still remains a niche tool. At it’s current stage, it’s not scalable or cost efficient to deploy on a larger scale. However, some organisations use it for high-value or high-risk training needs (and some have naturally bought into it because of the gimmick factor).

However, there’s an increasing number of VR tools getting to the market and we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to developing VR content. Expect the scalability to increase very rapidly after we get rid of game engines and the current level of programming required in VR content production.

5. AR will have an even bigger impact than VR

While VR seems to be all the rage in the L&D community, it’s actually augmented reality (AR) currently flying under the radar that will likely end up having the bigger impact when it comes to visual learning elements. Whereas VR perhaps enables us to engage visually in an unfamiliar environment, AR lets us bring objects into our own. Not being restrained by hardware requirements (you don’t necessarily need a headset!), AR’s scalability is a lot higher. Furthermore, at its current stage, content production is a fair bit cheaper. Whereas VR models reality, augmented reality is just another layer of it on top of one’s own. In terms of engagement, AR thus likely goes higher, as association with real things is probably higher than with modelings or representations of those real things.

Organisations are currently using AR for several needs, technical training perhaps representing the biggest opportunity as of current. Once the technology becomes more commoditised, we are likely to see a lot more AR supporting learning in the workflow.

Are you hoping to be able to design more engaging learning experiences through the use of visual learning elements? We can help you succeed, just drop us a note detailing your problem.

More Learning Ideas