Animation in E-learning or How to Add Some Pepper to Your Online Course

13 Minutes time to read

Even though e-learning still seems to be more of innovation rather than a necessity, its positions in the last few years have been incredibly solidified. Usage of electronic devices and instruments has pushed the efficiency of the educational process to the next level, doing it through the application of new media, information outlets, and modern technologies. One of the most prominent and popular ones among them is e-learning animation.

What is an educational animation?

The term “educational animation” refers to any animated image that is generated to improve the educational process, making it more interactive and engaging. Anything from animated learning videos to animation lectures enhances the e-learning experience by facilitating the transmission of information.

The demand for animation-based learning has increased since the significant rise in powerful information technology tools that allow you to create complex graphics and animations easily and swiftly. Earlier, such advancement wouldn’t have been possible due to the time- and resource-consuming techniques and practices that were neither available nor easy to master. Teachers and lecturers can create their animations without relying on third parties such as designers or programmers who can distort their original idea.

As animations can show a dynamic change in a certain object or item, they can serve as a valuable asset in any teaching process. Unlike static illustrations, animations can display an alteration or modification that needs to be shown in practically any topic within most studies.

Animation in e-learning can vary from very simple such as creating a simple diagram in PowerPoint to making your own complex animated films dedicated to a given theme. Animations are not pin-holed only to illustrations: they can include various videos, GIFs, recordings, audio, and motion-graphic files.

The main benefit of the animations, which we will discuss in detail a bit later, is that they can help to draw attention to a certain aspect of the teaching process or a subject under study. However, if the speed with which the information contained in them does not coincide with the speed with which learners are able to comprehend it, it can impede the educational process, so obtaining good old balance is a key.

The process of creating animation for e-learning will include several steps:

Step #1 Background meeting
If you choose to engage a third party to do the animation for you (for example, your humble servant) during such a briefing you and your potential partner in animation crime will discuss the main terms of your collaboration: your goal, target audience, what kind of animation you would like to include. If you are doing it yourself, then this step will entail researching your audience and potential options for reaching the objectives you set out for yourself.

Step #2 Creating a script
Once you establish your audience and the main goal of your message, then you can work on implementing it into reality. The text of your animation (if it has any) depends on the type of content you’re planning to spread. It can be very descriptive if it involves a theme that tends to be very informative, or it can contain mainly visual elements without relying too much on the narrative.

Step #3 Storyboarding
When the script is over, it’s time to conceptualize it. Storyboarding is essentially a link between the final result and your objective. It’s an instrument that will help you to bring the actual animation as close to the original idea as possible. You can sketch out a simple storyboarding set, or do it as thoroughly as possible, especially if your animation is going to be long or complex.

Step #4 Developing animations
The gist of the whole process starts when you finally get to use your imagination and implement your storyboards into life. Now you can finally make static illustrations and then add a dynamic dimension afterwards with a vector graphics tool of your choice.

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Benefits of using animation in education

Many teachers avoid animations as they think it contradicts the strictly professional and austere nature of studying. E-learning is a different beast – its essence is usually not that formal and academic but more flexible, which allows for easy implementation of some of the new and less tried teaching techniques, one of them being animations.

Now, as you know what an animation is, you may ask yourself: why should I bother to use it? What are the advantages of using it in e-learning? Why is animation important in education?

  • The most obvious and important reason why animations can be a powerful tool in e-learning is that information presented in a visual form “stocks up” in the long-term memory better than with other media, and learners find it easier to recall after some time. Isn’t it the whole idea behind any educational process – to help people learn stuff and remember it?

    Static images or text can provide more information at once, unlike animations, but it’s not always feasible. It is much less time- and resource-consuming to show the outline of a concept and then delve deeper into the topic with text, once the learners grasp the foundation of what’s being presented to them. It also concerns subjects and spheres where it is of utmost importance to show dynamics and movement.

  • Another crucial benefit of using educational animations is their ability to show abstract or hypothetical concepts. Trying to imagine how an engine works is easier when you see it happening rather than reading a text description of it, no matter how detailed it is. As many people tend to be experiential learners, the animation is as close to the actual experience of using a tool or seeing the mechanics of any action as it can be.

    Animations can be especially useful for people who study in the spheres where being quick to act is a must: doctors, firefighters, police officers, – as it can show them all the possible scenarios of what they might face and take the pressure off them when they deal with it in real life.
  • Animations are more captivating and interest-evoking than the majority of other forms of teaching. Most people associate studying with something excruciatingly boring and overwhelmingly dull, but it doesn’t have to be that way. After all, we’re all big kids, and seeing a colorful picture instead of a plain black and white text is always more appealing and fitting for our attention span. It can also provoke learners to research the topic even further themselves.
  • Another important reason is that animation in e-learning is quite affordable and accessible. Most animations don’t have complicated formats and are usually made to be responsive so that users can watch it on any operating systems and platforms. Creating animations may not be as expensive as you think – simple 2D animation doesn’t require a team of designers. And if you’d like to have cool and modern animated 3D computer graphics – look no further and check out our glorious JS examples.
  • Animations are much more concentrated with information, making it easier for educators to fully pack online courses with the most essential data without relying on text-heavy passages and monotonous descriptions. Also, it’s a lovely and modern way to teach, which might be significant for the younger learners who would not like to get involved in the teaching process that’s too conventional or bleak.

When to use animation

As we established earlier, animation can be used in a variety of teaching settings: school lessons, corporate or orientation training, university workshops, e-learning courses, and many more. They help to keep learners engaged and fragment information in a way that will ensure full absorption.

However, sometimes it’s hard to know when exactly to use animation. Is it okay to push it into every piece of your presentation? Is one more than enough? Are there any rules or quotas to using animations at all, especially in such a new and volatile sphere as e-learning?

There are certain situations where animations won’t hurt or would be a nice touch to the overall concept, but some situations strongly require them because otherwise the objective of the study won’t be reached.

Primarily, the animation is a great tool from a storytelling perspective. It can enhance your lesson or presentation by adding a narrative structure to it and making it continuously captivating. Animations can help to sew together pieces that may not be connecting seamlessly in a natural way, which is especially useful for online education where information may get lost due to possible technical issues.

Another case when animations can greatly improve the learning experience is in situations when information needs to be simplified and broken down into digestible pieces. For example, heavyweight topics such as oil refinery techniques or any technological complexities can confuse when dealt with in a text form. However, if you add a simple animated image or feature, it can help learners to get through it smoothly and swiftly.

Animations can be used to grab learners’ attention and encourage more interactive student-teacher communication. It boosts people’s imagination and makes them curious to delve into the topic more deeply. Also, it’s easier to discuss something that has been presented in a visual form than text, or highlight certain aspects of the given topic if necessary.

Last but not least, using animations is entertaining and fun both for learners and teachers! Who said that studying shouldn’t be enjoyable (except that one teacher in your primary school who claimed that school is not a place for having a good time because learning has to be painful). As our attention span gets shorter and shorter with each day of technological advancement, it’s easier for us to lose focus and get distracted. Animations keep us engaged and captivated while making the students feel relaxed, thus creating a more positive learning environment.

Since you already know why animations are terrific and when it is more than necessary to use them, let’s see the hidden pitfalls of actually creating them and intertwining them into your work.

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Tips to follow to create animation

We’ve mentioned earlier that animations are not hard to make – it’s still true, but if you follow these tips, we guarantee your animated learning method will bring only positive results.

  • Concentrating on one theme and keeping the balance.
    We know that feeling – you start something new and can’t stop putting it everywhere you can and can’t. Believe it or not, but being balanced and uncluttered is much more crucial. It’s better to add one animation that fits the topic like a glove and adds the right amount of new information rather than shoving everything you know into a 3-minute long animated cartoon. Try not to include insights that might be redundant or overwhelming to get through and do your best to remain consistent.
  • Make your animations as interactive as possible.
    The thing about animations is that they can spark one’s imagination and provoke a discussion. You’ll find it incredibly easy to ask follow-up questions to the topic with animations within its course or ask students to comment on what they saw. However, they can seem a bit passive because what learners mainly do in such cases is just watching a mini-film that doesn’t require much from them. While it’s still better for them than to simply read text or listen to audio materials without any visualization, try to add something a little bit more engaging. Think of some clickable elements, user-controllable animated images, a creative rating system that can stimulate students to push themselves further.
  • Play with different media.
    This tip coincides with the previous point about the power of interactivity. As effective as visuals are, it’s better to pair them with audio and video materials to provide a more wholesome learning experience. Skillful narration can help online users to get through confusing parts of the course without having to ask for assistance. Also, animation has much more chances to be inclusive: subtitles will facilitate the studying process for the people with hearing loss or for those who don’t speak the language of instruction very well.
  • Stick to the same register.
    Breaking down the information and keeping it consistently interesting is not enough – you have to select a certain pattern of speech, your own visual style, your educational “brand voice” and continue using it all the time. Thus your online students will get used to your way of presenting the content, and it will be easier for them to digest it and remember it more efficiently. Also, try to avoid specialized language and complex terminology – if the learners see that they can’t comprehend your animation, they won’t bother to go for the whole course.
  • Provide an opportunity to pause.
    Even if your animation is not very long or complex, it is advisable to let your users pause whenever they can. The nature of online education is that learners are not sitting in the class where they can ask questions immediately or talk to their classmates, some of them are going through the educational process while also having a job or other responsibilities. The ability to go back to the materials is crucial. Sometimes they need time to process things that are being shown and note something down or watch it again. Don’t forget to provide clear instructions on how to work with the animation or a video prior to the course.
  • Create an introduction animation.
    As we specialize in branding services and making the right first impression, we firmly believe that creating an introductory animation for online courses is a must. Of course, you can stick to the traditional “hi, I’m your professor Steve and we are going to learn a lot about petrophysical properties of reservoir rocks,” but it is better for everyone to invest in a creative and beautiful animation that will attract students and make you seem not only as a competent and reliable educator but also as an interesting and skilled professional.
  • Add some humor!
    Of course, it depends on the target audience, specific topic, and the conceptual style of your online course, but we believe that humor livens up anything. For some reason, not all online educators agree with us. It is completely fine to insert a little subtle joke or even a professional one – to prepare your students for the myriad of those jokes they’re going to listen to or tell themselves in the future.

Those are the main pitfalls that we wanted to mention, but you will probably find yourself stumbling over some other unpredictable traps which is normal when you’re navigating your way through something new and exciting. If you would like to know how to make animations for education or video lessons, contact us and we will provide you with some other insights and share our experience of creating online learning websites and sets of animated lectures.

On a final note

As you can see, animation can provide endless opportunities for curious educators who want to push themselves and try to conquer new creative territories. E-learning is an incredibly innovative teaching model that can bring modern and original ways of learning to the forefront of the educational system.

If you’re trying to expand your audience or trying to liven up your online course, using animations is as good as it gets – easy to incorporate into the training, useful for explaining complex concepts, engaging, and thought-provoking.

There is no strict rule as to how and when to use animation in e-learning. We provided our insights and experience of creating and using animations, but you are free to choose your own way of handling this fascinating educational tool.

If animations have won you over and you would like to incorporate them thoroughly into your online course, feel free to contact us, and we will be happy to create a set of powerful animations for you and your learners.

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