According to Psychology Today, our brains are wired to out-process visual data and video-based information, as opposed to text, by a factor of 60,000 to 1. The reason why visual content is so effectively processed has to do with the cognitive function of the brain.When we read something (text-based), the brain is also actively trying to create mental structures to help us understand what we read. Looking at graphical content however, is much more passive, thereby enabling the brain to focus more on grasping and understanding what we see.
This fundamental architectural difference, on how the brain reacts to different types of content, is one of the main reasons why instructional designers should incorporate more visual content into eLearning.
Here are 6 best practices on how you can enhance visual content in your courses:
- Shorten the use of text: Where possible, limit lengthy written narratives. Instead, substitute words for graphical equivalents by using icons, emoticons or popular symbols
- Paint a picture: When you have complex concepts to convey, it’s best if you illustrate them with diagrams and charts. The use of infographics is a great way to produce visual content. There are many free online infographics tools available to help you get started
- Create visual identity: Since our brains understand visual content more readily, why not make it easier (and simpler) for it to do so. By creating a visual identity system for your courses – uniform themes, standardized text and layouts, uniquely recognizable visual cues – you’ll make it possible for learners to better identify with the content they are about to consume
- Go for standardization: While visual aids are a great way to accelerate understanding and retention of course content; excessive non-standardized visuals tend to add to the confusion. For instance, instead of having three different visual cues (icons) to indicate “Review chapter highlights” – standardize on one. Similarly, by using standardized fonts, colors and text-pitch throughout the course, the brain is more readily able to focus on substance as opposed to deciphering what multiple colors and textual elements mean
- Embrace formatting: Visually-heavy courses are definitely a treat to the eyes – and the brains; but if the visuals aren’t well structured or properly formatted, then all your efforts will have been in vain. A course where charts and graphics always appear on the left of the screen, make it predictable for the learner to anticipate where to look for the visuals. Now think how learners will react if your graphics and visual cues are intermingled with various other components – sometimes appearing in the center, and others embedded at the top. Well-formatted visual content will produce better learning outcomes!
- Shorten the length of visuals: While videos and infographics are exceptional visual aids to facilitate learning, you must learn to curtail their length. Videos that last longer than 10 minutes, or infographics that scroll on, and on, and on…endlessly, will have a deleterious effect on the learner’s ability to comprehend the content you are teaching.
The bottom line is that, by increasing the amount of visual content, you’ll not only make the courses more appealing to look at; but the content will also become easier for the learner’s brain to remember and retain. After all – isn’t it what learning is all about – ensuring an effective transfer of knowledge from the medium (charts, pictures, videos, infographics) to the target audience?