Images and graphics have always been a part of learning and e-learning is also no exception. More than just providing relief from the tediousness of text, graphics can increase the effectiveness of learning as a whole. While ascertaining the instructional strategy utilized in an e-course, deciding upon correct graphics is important. Here are some points that should be kept in mind:
• Audience profile: Graphics do not follow the ‘one-size-fits-all’ criteria. There are various factors that affect learner sensibilities including age, education, job-role, cultural background and so on. Understanding the learner and learner needs is thus crucial to designing graphics for instruction. Not only does it help anticipate the learner appreciation, it also helps to steer clear what the learner might NOT like or understand.
• Learning platform: Kind of training – web based, mobile-enable or computer based, also influences the kind of graphics to be included in a training course. Graphics for web based trainings or mobile-enabled e-courses are often lighter, keeping in mind available internet bandwidth. Graphics used are often vector graphics, which can be adjusted as per screen size and are also lighter than bitmaps. To use the right kind of graphics as per the kind of platform available to the learner is again, imperative for the success of learning
• Limits and Constrains: While it is indeed necessary to unleash creativity, it is also important to keep practical constraints like budget, timelines or corporate standards in mind and work around them. Most graphics professionals agree that it is better to use simple but well-made graphics rather than shabby ones for the excuse of low budgets or time constraints. The world of graphics is huge and there’s a lot one can choose from. 2D or 3D, animated or still – the choice has to be made keeping all constraints in mind. And working around them is possible. Treatment of graphics can be creative and an image does not have to literally ‘talk’ to be able to get its message across.
And while keeping the above points in mind, here are some ways that graphics can be utilized to increase the effectiveness of an e-learning course:
• Creating scenarios: Graphics can be utilized to create a scenario that can create the necessary connection with the learners. For instance, to make sure that the learner is hooked to the content from the very start, we created a scenario in an e-learning course. The chosen scenario was that of a Fitness Centre – a very familiar setting for the learners. The scenario was an informal one, which put the learners at ease and did not bring in the usual ‘tense’ atmosphere that is associated with Learning in the Workplace. The Fitness centre also is a setting that is high on energy and a sense of healthy competition. This setting was fit for all learners – who were often working closely and in a similar competitive atmosphere.
• Animated characters: In addition to stationary graphics, animated characters can also be created to generate energy and spark the interest of the learners. Animated characters can be introduced, representing members from the learner group of other people that they closely interact with including clients or managers. The characters can interact with each other within the course in an informal manner that mimics actual life – the tone can be friendly and infused with humour or even the occasional banter.
• Graphical representations within other medium: Graphics can be introduced with other mediums like audio or videos in e-learning courses. The graphical representations can be made part of the existing learning medium – instead of adding them separately as a learning resource. For instance, in a popular e-learning course, when explaining how the sales team works through a video, we included the image of projector. As the video proceeds, the screen zooms on the content but as it nears the end the focus is back on the other characters within the course.
• Animated graphics: Simple interactions can give a special twist to graphics. With transition effects like fade-away, click to reveal and roll-overs, the graphical content can be made fluid. Various interactivities make the course interesting and simpler to understand. For instance, when explaining the sales model within an e-course, we created a large funnel and filled it with the contributions of different groups. The audio explains the workings and the learner can point to relevant groups and see their contributions pop out.
• Graphical backgrounds: Graphics can also be inserted to create a suitable visual background for the characters. For instance, in an e-course for the customer-representatives of a company, we created graphics to represent various qualities that employees should aspire to adopt. For quick response time and timely action of an employee, the image of the rising sun was shown. This depicted that he does not waste time and is at his work right on time.
The world of creativity and unfathomable possibilities is the world of graphics. In e-learning, it lends its relevance best when creativity is meshed with understanding client needs, learning objectives and the learner.