6 reasons why course visuals are a must for today’s college students

How to use visual communication, especially in online and blended learning, to set a good student learning foundation.

The higher education landscape is shifting and institutions are facing a decline in overall enrollment. Rather than opting for a traditional classroom experience, students today have come to expect greater flexibility in deciding when, where and how to learn. In fact, it is predicted that by 2019 at least 50 percent of all classes will be delivered online and that percentage will only continue to increase. To adjust to student expectations and keep enrollment up, higher education institutions must offer online courses or blended classrooms to compete with other colleges that already have those options.

Using technology in the classroom is beneficial as it can serve as a solution for meeting students’ expectations while also keeping enrollment up. For example, instructors can use technology to engage with students through visual communications and learning. Visual communication can broadly be defined as the use of images, photos, videos, animation, text, voice narration, and music to clearly convey a message, story or information.

In education, visual communication is especially important, as 90 percent of all information transmitted to the brain is visual. Using technology to create visual educational content can set a solid foundation for students to succeed. Here are six reasons why course visuals are an important part of learning today:

1. Create visuals so that student confusion can be prevented. Instructors that teach the same course year after year can easily identify when the content becomes especially challenging for students. Prepare an infographic or FAQ video ahead of time to share with students when it comes time to teach those difficult concepts. Demos and annotated screenshots are also effective approaches for walking students through examples or specific assignments. Visuals can even guide students who many not even know where to begin or what initial questions to ask.

2. Create visual to reduce repetitive questions. Instructors are likely to receive similar questions from multiple students. Rather than pushing out the same explanation repeatedly, a better solution is to respond with a visual. Create a short infographic or voice narration to avoid recreating the same textual response.

3. Create visuals to reduce the amount of questions. Visual communication can also eliminate the total amount of questions, responses or clarifications between students and instructors. When presenting information or offering an explanation, visuals allow instructors to be more concise. Ideally, a student’s question can be answered on the first try when a textual explanation is paired with an image or completely replaced with a short video.

In fact, visuals can increase retention by 50 percent. With video, students have the ability to review and revisit the information from the instructor as often as needed.

(Next page: 3 more ways visual communication can aid student learning)

4. Create visuals to engage those online. In the absence of a physical classroom, instructors must rely on visuals to engage and communicate with their students. One consequence of this shift to online learning is that it becomes increasingly difficult for students and instructors to have interaction, especially when they may not ever meet in-person. However, using visuals like video enable instructors to connect with students on a more personal level.

5. Create visuals to spur interaction. When creating visuals, instructors can incorporate interactive features like discussion boards or quizzing. This way, students can post questions or comments and begin conversations with the instructor and other classmates. Visuals make it easier for students to collaborate and bounce new ideas and opinions off each other. Interactivity is necessary to keep students’ attention and remain engaged with the content they are being taught.

6. Create visuals to add a humanizing element to the online experience. By creating a short introduction video, students will feel like they are having a one-on-one interaction with the instructor right next to them.  Students get to see their instructor, hear their voice, and even read tone and body language. Videos like this do not have to be perfect. In fact, informal videos can humanize the instructor and help his or her personality come through. Students want to hear from their instructors, so it is best to just be their natural self. Personalized videos allow students and instructors to still interact and build that important connection for learning, despite the physical limitations.

Beyond technology enabling students to have more flexibility in how they choose to learn, it allows instructors to have better visual communication in the classroom. Although one tradeoff of having online-only classes is a lack of in-person contact with the instructor, visual communication can still allow for those relationships to develop. With visuals, instructors and students are able to clearly communicate, remain engaged and get set on a path for success.

eSchool Media Contributors