Leveraging Animated Video for E-Learning

Claude Harrington 02.25.2016

Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to remember the information from your middle school classes, yet it’s so much easier to recall the information (and sometimes even the dialogue) from your favorite childhood cartoons? Or why we seem to ignore the written notices in public places like the movie theater, but yet we pay complete attention whenever that popcorn starts dancing on screen? It’s because animation is a highly effective way to engage audiences and relay information!

Anecdotal evidence, like the examples above, is easy to collect. But it’s the psychological and pedagogical evidence that’s really compelling. The scientific research, case studies and white papers that really help explain animated video can be such an effective teaching tool and, in this digital age, is such a perfect fit for the E-Learning landscape.

As a result, today’s piece will discuss some of the many ways that animated video can be leveraged for E-Learning.

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When we talk about animation being a useful educational tool, most of us think first about its ability to engage and hold our interest. That is indeed a big piece of the puzzle, but another interesting and important component is animation’s ability to inspire motivation.

In 1991, an education professor named Lloyd P. Rieber published a piece in the Journal of Educational Psychology entitled Animation, Incidental Learning, and Continuing Motivation. In this paper, Rieber touches on two different types of motivation; the motivation to learn and remain stimulated as well as the motivation to return to this type of learning. Although Rieber acknowledges that more research is needed, he finds an “intrinsically motivating appeal” to animated content and also describes how “animation additionally brings the attributes of motion and trajectory to a given learning situation.”

Not only is animation an effective way to generate motivation, but it can also be an incredibly effective tool to present added information. Take, for example, a 2002 study called conducted by Barbara Tversky and Julie Bauer Morrisony. In their paper, Animation: Can It Facilitate, Tversky and Morrisony argue that animated graphics include additional information and the ability to convey more comprehensive content that static graphics alone. The paper is very interesting and makes a strong case for animation, but perhaps the most interesting detail of all are a few prescient comment towards the end of their text.

Looking forward they suggest that “interactivity may be the key” and suggest that “If learners are in control of the speed of animation and can view and review, stop and start, zoom in and out, and change orientation of parts and wholes of the animation at will” then this pairing of education and animation might be able to achieve a whole different level of effectiveness.

Which, in a way, is exactly what E-Learning is all about.

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Knowing what we now know, it’s easy to understand why animated videos are a natural fit for the E-Learning format. So whether you’re a business that’s looking to offer E-Learning solutions to employees, or an educational facility looking to offer online courses, there can be immense value in utilizing animated videos. Below are a few of the primary benefits:

Dynamic: As with many facets of education, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Above, we touched on some of the pedagogical advantages, but we must not forget about the sheer aesthetic benefit. Animation stands out. Animation brings characters and ideas to life. And animation is also an exceptional way to…

Demonstrate Abstract Ideas: This is particularly helpful in the corporate setting, where the information is only as valuable as its context. Because animation is such a versatile medium, it can easily leverage metaphor and on-screen text to reach viewers in a more intuitive and memorable way.

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Repeatability: In addition to being memorable, animated video lessons are also wonderfully repeatable. Not only for the viewers (who can just click PLAY to watch the video again), but it’s also repeatable for future students and employees. And unlike live-action video, animation is…

Evergreen: Nothing distracts viewers from the message more than feeling like the messenger is out of place. Which presents a real problem for live-action videos, which must deal with budgetary restrictions and changing trends. Animation, however, doesn’t suffer from this problem. It’s more timeless, which results in a more effective (and enduring) message.

Ability to Revise/Update: For E-Learning modules, live action videos are nearly impossible to revise. Unless you can recreate the circumstances of the entire video, you’re kind of stuck with whatever you’ve got. This, of course, is not true of animation, where clips can be revised and updated to include new information.

Cost-Savings: Although creating an animated video will require a fixed upfront cost, it will likely save time and money in the long-run. Because of all the aspects above, teachers/instructors will not need to be in multiple places at multiple times. All it takes is one, fully edited and perfected video of the lesson. And not only will this last you for years, but it’ll also ensure that every student/employee/viewer receives exactly the same information in exactly the same way.

So if efficiency is high on your priority list, an animated video might be exactly what you need.

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