SHIFT's eLearning Blog

Our blog provides the best practices, tips, and inspiration for corporate training, instructional design, eLearning and mLearning.

To visit the Spanish blog, click here
All Posts

Being Pretty Isn’t Enough: Using the 5 Cs for eLearning Visuals

Although infographics, charts, illustrations, and other visuals for eLearning will never replace quality content, they can often do a better job at explaining content easily. However, in order to become effective teaching tools, visuals must reflect the user’s cognitive architecture and add something meaningful to the learning experience.

It is important that eLearning professionals decide, during the planning stage, whether an image should be supplementary or act as a substitution for content. This enables developers to design and use visuals in a way that will help students select, organize, and integrate relevant information while avoiding cognitive overload.

This post looks at a simple approach to creating effective visuals for eLearning by considering the 5 Cs. The approach is designed to help developers decide when they really need to include images and to avoid adding images just for the sake of it.

Using the 5 Cs for eLearning Visuals 01 ok resized 600

1. Clear — Will a visual help make a point clearer?

Once the eLearning developer has decided on what content to include in a module, it is time to plan how to convey this information. As people remember visuals better than words, it can be useful to consider presenting certain points with graphs, illustrations, and photographs. Many times, this will make content easier to scan and understand and ensures learners stay interested. Visuals also make information more manageable, reveal underlying patterns, and emphasize key points. 

They help express complex or abstract ideas that would be difficult to explain through verbal or textual information. In fact, the more complicated the content is, the more useful visuals are in your eLearning course — visuals can make the abstract more concrete, the invisible, visible. Therefore, they eliminate the need for extensive explanations.

Anything that requires users to remember information, or make a decision may be better expressed by visuals. Every mental task the eLearning professional can eliminate for learner’s leaves more mental resources for essential decision making. So, designers should review and analyze their content first, and decide if there are better ways to express complex material in the form of visual content.

Example:  Instead  of using plain tables or screens full of boring numbers, turning data into a graphic makes it clearer and memorable. 

visuals eLearning

                                        Image Source: BoostBlogTraffic 

2. Concise — Will a visual summarize a point better than text?

For content that requires extensive description or explanation, it may be better to express details visually. Not only does this reduce the amount of content on-screen, it also helps the brain function with its limited information-processing resources.

Visuals enable eLearning developers to present all the information necessary for a topic in one single place. This helps the working memory to create hierarchies of information to reduce the number of details the mind needs to store. By storing a single visual representation in the working memory instead of all the individual elements, the learner can access the smaller aspects just when needed.

If developers can equally express a point through text and graphics, visuals are usually best because people prefer images and because vision dominates over other senses for acquiring perceptual information. Learners also have a larger capacity to remember images than text or audial information, increasing recall.

Example: This image summarizes the most important points in one single place. 

eLearning visuals

                                             Image Source: Knowledgeable Ideas Blog 

3. Connected — Will a visual help learners make connections?

Visuals for eLearning help users see logical connections, including similarity, difference, correlation, and cause and effect, that would otherwise require explanation. Constructed graphics organize complex materials to highlight key features and show spatial relations between important aspects that learners are unlikely to deduce on their own.

The above is especially true when images are combined with visual language to depict meaning. Course designers should consider layout and placement of pieces of information as this is central to guiding learners through the story.

Visuals can involve lines, boxes, arrows, space, color, typefaces, and relative distance between elements to communicate the relationship between the different aspects. An eLearning developer would find it challenging to express this information through words alone. Therefore, whenever it is important for learners to understand that there is a connection between concepts, the developer should consider using a chart, diagram, mind map or other type of illustration.

visuals eLearning                                      Image Source: Hampshire County Council 

4. Compelling — Will visuals make content more attractive?

Today’s society is a highly visual world. eLearning developers need to think carefully every time they consider using a visual for eLearning to decide if it will really make the message more persuasive, interesting, and likely to be read. This not only means never adding visuals for purely decorative purposes but also being creative when choosing images.

Every picture must add something to the learning experience. Developers should choose interesting ideas that tell a story in a less obvious way in order to keep the audience engaged, reinforce professionalism, and make a lasting impression. Remember, graphics do not always need to be realistic; sometimes abstract ideas better illustrate an idea as a photorealistic image could distract learners with its irrelevant elements.

Example: You can use this type of images to represent a concept. Use images analogies to make your screens more visual.  

eLearning visuals

                                     Image Source: Eyes Wide Open 

5. Complete — Will a visual help complete an idea?

Certain types of visuals for eLearning, such as tables, serve to complete the central idea by helping to narrow down material. In addition, they allow course designers to exclude details, by summarizing, concluding, or recommending, while staying out of the way of the main message.

Studies have shown that adding such graphical representations to a course can lead to better learning than text alone. However, these studies do emphasize that text descriptions should appear near visuals if they are to enhance learning.

Example: Take a look at how you can turn boring data table into a visually attractive screen. 

eLearning  visuals                                                 Image Source: 24Point

Free eBook: A Quick Survival Guide for Modern elearning Designers

  Suscribe to powerful eLearning content
Karla Gutierrez
Karla Gutierrez
Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT. ES:Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

Related Posts

10 Types of Visual Content Proven to Boost Learner Engagement

Humans love visuals. In fact, we are wired to respond more to visuals than to words. That is why we are so hooked on Pinterest and Instagram. This is also the reason why Facebook posts and tweets with images get liked and are retweeted the most. But as an Instructional Designer, what should interest you more is the fact that the human brain can process visuals faster than text. So if you care about creating more engaging eLearning, you MUST include powerful and engaging visuals in your courses. Visuals take away from the burden of reading through tomes of text, navigating language ambiguities, and making sense of jargon and complex sentence structures. Learn the ten most useful tools that you can incorporate into your eLearning courses to get your content to stick and resonate with your audience: 

  • 17 min read
  • Thu, Nov 25, 2021 @ 04:44 PM

Strategies for eLearning Professionals to Maximize Employee Learning Time

In an age where continuous learning is widely becoming a mutual goal for both employers and employees, it is vital for a company to supply learners with a structured eLearning environment. Part of what conveys a stable structure of the learning environment is the ability to optimize the learning time and efficiency. Workers, in general, work hard and are consistently busy people leading busy lives. Taking time to learn something new, either concerning their work or for self-improvement, may also be consuming time where the worker could be actively accomplishing a key task.

  • 14 min read
  • Fri, Nov 19, 2021 @ 11:11 AM

Why and how to measure engagement in your eLearning programs

In the boom of online learning, one of the top priorities for HR and L&D leaders is driving learner engagement. But, what exactly is engagement? And how can you measure it? In this blog post, we'd like to shed some light on these questions. In addition, we will provide you with a list of metrics to consider in terms of student engagement beyond the typical ones (aka course completion rates). Sound interesting? Continue reading.

  • 13 min read
  • Tue, Nov 16, 2021 @ 09:33 AM