An enormous amount of our brain is devoted to visual processing — up to 60% by some estimates. Leveraging visual thinking processes to improve learning simply makes sense. Key images provide overarching cognitive organizers, and work well as visual mnemonics. Repetition of the image can help learners orient themselves within the lesson and information. Even our language reflects our visual preoccupation: Let’s see how key images aid learners by looking at a few simple examples.
Timeline Arrow — ACA training, TXHHSC
January 1, 2014 marked the implementation of many aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Nearly all the changes targeted that specific date, with multiple programs changing, requiring new forms and changes in established processes. With such a simple central concept, a two-part timeline arrow worked as a key image the learner could quickly spot and recognize. This image repeatedly re-emphasized the date in an easily adapted image: the two parts of the arrow could be labeled with old and new program titles; the center oval could rotate to highlight an explanation of a specific program or rule, and it created two on-screen columns to contrast old and new aspects of the various programs.
Color Coding — Dell Code of Conduct
To put the Dell employee handbook online — verbatim, as contractually required — we wanted a non-verbal way to help learners navigate the numerous written policies. Covering a wide range of behaviors in dense legalese, guidelines for each section broke into: actions strictly forbidden (e.g., theft), actions requiring manager approval or review (e.g., soliciting charity funds at work) and perfectly acceptable actions (e.g., appropriate use of sick leave). We realized a traffic signal described these perfectly: red for stop, yellow for caution and green for go. Each page of content divided policies into color-coded boxes for quick reading. This visual schema helped provide a quick “at-a-glance” organizing structure for the lengthy and complex content.
Venn diagram — Early Learning Scale
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) developed a research-backed observational approach to monitor, document and assess individual children’s developmental progress. The ELS (Early Learning Scale) provides parents and educators the means to measure a child’s progress in three developmental domains. A simple venn diagram shows how the 3 (areas) overlap to complete the whole. Again, we used color coding carried throughout the entire learning experience, with each section and page using the color designation for the domain to provide quick visual reference for the learners.
As an instructional designer, I am always searching for ways to help people learn and understand what they need to know. Using key images, such as those shown in these examples, has proven to be a highly effective method for presenting information in a way the learner can quickly understand it.
See what I mean?