There are many reasons why animation is great for elearning. We’re taking a look into how we learn and the benefits of animation for learning.
Whether you’re developing a training course or teaching material for the classroom, animation should be considered an invaluable tool to aid learning. Animated graphics, great characters and well-told stories can all have a positive impact on your learners’ ability to retain and recall information.
But why is animation such an effective learning tool? To answer this, we need to understand a bit about how the brain works and how we learn new skills.
How do we learn?
When we receive new information, we first process it in our ‘working’ memory. Our brains opt to either discard this new information or store it in ‘long-term’ memory. In doing this, we form connections between different neurons in our brains. It is these connections that enable us to store and recall that information at a later date.
However, working memory has a limited capacity and duration, so we can only process a small amount of new information at any one time. For most people, between 5 and 9 pieces of novel information is the maximum. If we don’t transfer it to long-term memory quickly enough, the data is lost!
What’s more, the transfer of information isn’t always perfect. Therefore we learn best when we break down information into manageable chunks and rehearse it.
Our older readers will remember memorising phone numbers. More often than not, our brains would break down each number into parts – making it easier to learn and recall.
How animation helps us learn
So, now we understand a little bit more about how the brain works – what does this have to do with animation for e learning?
A well-designed e learning animation allows for the simplification of information points for learners. It’s very good at making abstract or complicated ideas easier to understand. Designers can streamline the information transfer process in the brain. Subsequently, this helps learners retain only the most essential information, and more of it at a time.
As we can see from the example above, animation allows learning designers to break information down into chunks. This avoids the overloading of learners’ working memories before the transfer to long term memory. In many circumstances, the student will also have control over playback. In other words, they can go back and ‘rehearse’ the learning point over and over again to strengthen the memory.
We learn with our emotions
When we experience an emotional reaction to something, our brain associates the memory with the emotional response. For instance, joy, fear, anticipation or surprise. This strengthens the connections between neurons in the brain.
Animation in elearning is an ideal way to create an emotional connection with your learners. Through humour, storytelling and relatable characters, animation has the potential to create powerful and lasting memories. It aids your learners’ recall and retention of information.
We learn with all of our senses
Research also shows that we retain visual information more effectively than written words, by as much as a 2-to-1 ratio! Animation is a highly visual medium. Therefore, when done right, it can effectively double your learners’ ability to retain new information.
By engaging both visual and auditory senses, studies have shown that learning can be even more efficient. The cognitive theory of ‘dual-coding’ shows us how the linking of information between senses creates stronger and longer-lasting connections in the brain. In other words, if people both see and hear new knowledge, they form associations in the brain that make the information easier to recall.
We can’t see everything
Animation allows us to visualise things that can’t be seen with the naked eye, or that can’t be captured with filming.
You can delve into a complex idea without placing the responsibility on the learner’s imagination. For instance, illustrate a complex machine process, visualise someone’s thoughts and emotions, or fly a rocket to the moon.
We love motion
Our brains are programmed to pay special attention to any experience that is novel or unusual. This includes motion and movement. Bringing life to static graphics or written text means animation in e learning is far better at creating lasting connections in the brain.
eLearning animation allows you to depict changes over time. Unlike static graphics, it doesn’t have to rely on direction lines or arrows to guide the viewer’s attention. This makes it ideally suited to teaching complex processes or ideas because it allows the learner to see a ‘living’ demonstration, rather than having to imagine it.
We like to see ourselves
It’s now more important than ever that the content we create is inclusive. We must ensure it represents a wide range of ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, ages and lifestyles to engage as broad an audience as possible.
Being fully inclusive in live-action video has traditionally been very difficult, but it is much easier to achieve with animation. You have full control over characters and environments, which in turn allows for higher levels of learner engagement.
If your target audiences vary, customisation enables you to produce variants very efficiently too.
So, animation can be a powerful learning tool! But…
…it has to be done well. Studies have actually had mixed results when comparing the effectiveness of animation to static graphics in education. The findings suggest that the discrepancy may be explained by poor animation design that doesn’t consider the cognitive function of learners.
So, there you have it — reasons why animation is excellent for elearning.