How to Use Graphics in Microlearning to Enhance Learning

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Using graphics is tempting as well as confusing. We often wonder how to make graphics work in a microlearning scenario!

So, how do we get our graphics right?

Read on…

Why Graphics in Microlearning?

Graphics include all the visual elements or imagery used in eLearning or microlearning.

In general, training materials contain a lot of text that is difficult to remember. Visuals or graphics are the iconic mental representations of what is being perceived. They help reduce cognitive load on the learner’s brain. Studies show that people remember only 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, but 80% of what they see.

Because one picture speaks louder than a thousand words, graphics are very effective to help learners retain the information and apply it on their jobs. They also help grab the learner’s attention.

That’s why we need to use them in microlearning!

But it’s important to create the perfect balance of text, pictures (graphics) in your microlearning lesson for maximum impact.

So, how do we make that happen?

Here are a few tips…

Use Graphics that Serve a Purpose.

Graphics in microlearning such as infographics, job aids etc., need to serve a purpose. While adding an image, a video, or an animation to the content, we need to ask ourselves if that is actually helping the learner understand and remember better. Is it helping the learner achieve the learning objective of the microlearning lesson?

If there’s a lot of textual content in the lesson, we might be tempted to add pictures that might not help learning, but might help break the monotony. Why shouldn’t we do that? Because graphics that are not relevant to the content end up distracting your learner!

You need to watch out for and avoid using pictures, icons, animations, videos, etc., that only beautify your slide and make a glamorous statement.

Avoid Too Many and Too Few Visuals.

Keep-It-Short-Simple works with graphics too. The right message must be delivered clearly and simply. Graphics that fail to clarify the message are a waste of time and effort even if they look beautiful.

Let’s take the example of fire-safety training. A relevant image about the PASS technique to use the fire extinguisher helps the learner remember and recall. It also helps minimize the learner’s reaction time when faced with a real-life fire-safety situation at work.

Using relevant icons and short action statements works best to facilitate learning in such scenarios. One needs to come straight to the point, without wasting time.

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Use Graphics to Simplify Complex Content

The best way to decide where to use graphics effectively is to identify complex, confusing, and difficult content. A short explanation with the help of graphics helps facilitate learning.

While designing a microlearning lesson, ask yourself: Which concept is hard to grasp? Can I use graphics to make that clearer and easier-to-understand?

Identify areas with a lot of text that leaves it open to a learner’s interpretation. Assess if that a risk. Wherever your learner has to read too many words, there’s a chance for  misinterpretation!

That’s where graphics can simplify the content and make learning fun!

Use Graphics According to Function.

The functionality of graphics is also important for learning. Based on their function, graphics can be divided into 6 types:

Representational visuals are the most common visuals used in training modules. They are used to illustrate what’s on the screen, to depict the actual content. They can be real photographs of any concept or screen shots of a software being taught.

Mnemonic visuals are used to help learners recall factual information. They are a proven memory device much loved by learners. Examples include patterns of images, acronyms, rhymes, etc.

Organizational Visuals provide an overview of something. Examples include showing the lesson structure and sequence of topics, organizational charts, concept maps, etc.

Relational Visuals are used to communicate quantitative relationships in the content. Common examples include bar graphs and pie charts.

Transformational Visuals are used to depict movements or changes over time. They are often used with representational visuals to show procedures and processes. They include videos, animations with moving images and pictures. A good example is a visual of a caterpillar transforming to a butterfly.

Interpretive visuals are used to explain abstract and intangible concepts or principles. Examples include line drawings and vector drawings.

We must deploy graphics based on what works where.

For instance, an interpretive drawing may be better if you need to explain the working of an electric car battery (lithium ion).

In the same way, a transformational animation or an actual video works better in a training on its manufacturing process.

Ensure Graphics are Aligned with Learning Objectives.

Keep the learning objective in mind while selecting the graphics.

Too much of detail should be avoided. For example, let’s say you need to explain the working of a technical part of an aircraft to your aircraft maintenance engineers. Here, showing realistic hi-definition pictures which are too detailed may not serve the purpose. Rather, a simple animation drawing might work better than a real photograph.

Let’s take another example. For training your finance managers, the use of charts or graphs to display content works better. They will be able to grasp it easily and quickly with a glance. So, trying to oversimplify the content might be a waste.

Provide a Clear Title to the Graphic.

While using a graphic, remember to provide a clear, descriptive title to make the learner aware of what’s being shown and what to look for in the graphic – be it a chart, an animation, a video, or an infographic.

Always use a key or legend that tells the learner what your images, shades, or colors stand for. Similarly, for graphic elements with too many symbols, make sure to explain what they stand for.

To conclude, pictures generally convey an idea better than words. That’s how graphics help deliver difficult concepts and ideas more effectively. So, use them well to help your learner’s learning and recall!

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