From eLearning Brothers by Brother Sean
As a child, I treasured the public library with all my heart. Something about having all that information in one place was just exhilarating to me. What a nerd, right?
There was one book in particular that I checked out so often I might as well have bought the thing. It was Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Cross-Sections. As a boy I had many varied interests. How did planes and rocket ships work? What was it like in a medieval castle? How did my eyeballs do what they do? This book answered all those questions with a smorgasbord of information and beautiful illustrations of each mysterious item, exploded to reveal its inner-workings.
In huge part, I credit Stephen Biesty for my inquisitive nature. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that Biesty did an excellent job of utilizing the Multimedia Principle. He understood that people have an easier time learning from a mix of text and illustration than from just text or an image alone.
When it comes to eLearning, there’s a lot to be said about the proper use of eLearning graphics.
Now, I don’t always put graphics in my eLearning, but when I do…
- It’s relevant. If you’re going to plonk down an image just because it looks pretty, you’re missing the point. If it doesn’t improve the overall course, do without.
- It explains something from the course. “Hey, remember that country I was just talking about? Well here’s a map with the pertinent locations marked.”
- I make use of charts and graphs. Charts and graphs are the ultimate example of a picture saying a thousand words. They can condense pages and pages of raw data into an easily readable, but info-dense space, saving time and energy for both you and the learner.
- It mingles with the text and does something that neither could do on their own. Biesty’s illustrations worked seamlessly with the text and captions, explaining complex machinery at a level that school-age children could comprehend. Can you imagine someone trying to describe, in detail, the functions of a rocket ship with nothing but text to a learner who had no prior experience on the subject? It couldn’t be done! Neither could you show the same person a detailed drawing of the machinery involved and just hope that they understand what each piece does. Put the two together and you get something really special.
- They aid the organization of the course. Even the most helpful graphic can become a hindrance if it disrupts the flow of the course. If a transition is too jarring, it can undermine whatever message you’re trying to get across.