Do Visuals Make a Difference?

In training, it is customary to use words—either in printed or spoken form—as the main vehicle for conveying information. Words are quick and inexpensive to produce. The question is whether there is any return on investment for supplementing words with pictures—either static graphics such as drawings or photos, or dynamic graphics such as animation or video. In particular, do people learn more deeply from words and graphics than from words alone? This is the issue I want to explore with you.

Multimedia Principle 

Include Both Words and Graphics

Based on cognitive theory and research evidence, I recommend that e-learning courses include words and graphics, rather than words alone. By words, we mean printed text (that is, words printed on the screen that people read) or spoken text (that is, words presented as speech that people listen to through earphones or speakers). By graphics, I mean static illustrations such as drawings, charts, graphs, maps, or photos, and dynamic graphics such as animation or video. I use the term “multimedia presentation” to refer to any presentation that contains both words and graphics. For example, if you are given an instructional message that is presented in words alone, I recommend you convert it into a multimedia presentation consisting of words and pictures. As you complete the job and content analysis, you should visualize how the instructional message can be communicated using both words and relevant pictures.

The rationale for my recommendation is that people are more likely to understand material when they can engage in active learning—that is, when they engage in relevant cognitive processing such as attending to the relevant material in the lesson, mentally organizing the material into a coherent cognitive representation, and mentally integrating the material with their existing knowledge. Multimedia presentations can encourage learners to engage in active learning by mentally representing the material in words and in pictures and by mentally making connections between the pictorial and verbal representations. In contrast, presenting words alone may encourage learners— especially those with less experience or expertise—to engage in shallow learning, such as not connecting the words with other knowledge.

Select Graphics That Support Learning

Instead of presenting words alone, we recommend presenting words and graphics. However, not all kinds of graphics are equally helpful. For example, let’s consider several possible functions of graphics:

1. Decorative graphics serve to decorate the page without enhancing the message of the lesson, such as a photo or a video of a person riding a bicycle in a lesson on how bicycle tire pumps work;

2. Representational graphics portray a single element, such as a photo of the bicycle tire pump along with a caption, “bicycle tire pump”;
3. Relational graphics portray a quantitative relation among two or more variables, such as a line graph showing the relation between years of age on the x-axis and probability of being in a bicycle accident on the y-axis;

4. Organizational graphics depict the relations among elements, such as a diagram of a bicycle tire pump with each part labeled or a matrix giving a definition and example of each of three different kinds of pumps;

5. Transformational graphics depict changes in an object over time, such as a video showing how to fix a flat tire, or a series of annotated frames showing steps in how a bicycle tire pump works; and 

6. Interpretive graphics illustrate invisible relationships such as an animation of the bicycle pump that includes small dots to show the flow of air into and out of the pump. 

Based on this analysis, I recommend that you minimize graphics that decorate the page (called decorative graphics) or simply represent a single object (called representational graphics), and that you incorporate graphics that help the learner understand the material (called transformational and interpretive graphics) or organize the material (called organizational graphics). For example, Table 3.1 is an organizational graphic that gives the name, definition, and example of six functions of graphics in the form of a matrix. When the text describes a quantitative relationship, then a relational graphic is warranted; and when the text describes changes over time, then a transformational graphic is warranted. 




Ramya Kumari said...

got to know that visuals play a very important role in have even more clear by giving examples.

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