If you're a habitual blog reader, then you've already been made privy to my foray into the effective use of fonts and some font resources. And you've already delved deep into color with my 4 part series on using color in learning (color and mood, color and learning, using color for special needs, and color resources). Now I'm going to turn my attention toward the effective use of images for learning.
Dynamic or Static Images?
Dynamic Images are images that can move (such as video). Static images, such as charts or screen captures, do not move. Researchers wanted to know if people learned procedural tasks best by watching a video or working through step-by-step instructions that include images. Results of the research varied. Pick a team--static or dynamic--and you'll be able to find scientific evidence to back up your choice. So which should you use in your eLearning?
In a study by Stefan Hartmann for the University of Erfurt, student participants were split into groups and shown how to fold origami by different means of instruction (video, still images, video with audio, and still images with audio). The results of the study showed that for more spatial tasks, instructional information is best presented in video format. If still images must be used, they would be well-served to be paired with informative audio.
In a Science Direct study done by Sally Bogacz and J. Gregory Trafton, expert meteorologists were examined to find if they chose to use static or dynamic images for representation purposes and whether the information they extracted from these images was static or dynamic. The assumption was that weather cycles are dynamic by nature so dynamic displays would be the preferred choice. In fact, the experiment showed the opposite outcome. The meteorologists were not only capable of transferring the static images to dynamic images, but given the control of actions this allowed, they preferred to do so.
This research shows that not all fields will benefit from animated images. When constructing your eLearning, ensure that you work closely with experts in the field to be able to garner which learning styles work best, including which formats are already used and which formats will continue to be used after the training.
Why not both?
Detailed above is just one study on each side of the dynamic vs. static images debate. I found a seemingly endless supply of scientific research pitting dynamic images against their static counterparts. Given the fact that there was evidence suggesting both sides to be effective, I found the studies in general to be inconclusive. The most compelling research I found dealt with combining static and dynamic images to enhance the learning process.
Amaël Arguel and Eric Jamet ran a set of experiments entitled "Using Video and Static Pictures to Improve Learning of Procedural Contents," in which the successful use of both static and dynamic images was acknowledged and then expanded upon. They found that by combining both types of images, viewers scored better at performing procedural tasks than they did by viewing either dynamic or static images alone.
In a piece by Barbara Tversky and Julie Bauer Morrison entitled "Animation: can it facilitate?" the conclusion was made that while video may often be the best choice for facilitating knowledge, it should be used carefully and in specific ways. For example, schematic, diagram-like animations were found to be more successful than those that were realistic. Adding static illustrations like arrows was found to improve the facilitation of knowledge. Furthermore it appeared as though the real key to making dynamic images work was interactivity. Giving learners the ability to fast forward, start and stop as well as control over the speed, zoom and orientation, allowed for ease of use and let students get straight to the learning that they needed most.
It seems to me that combining dynamic with static images is the most sure-fire way to go when designing eLearning. If the budget simply will not allow for such videos, try to use still images in a way that makes them as dynamic as possible by adding audio or interactivity.
Click here for Part II of the Graphic Series, Using Static Images to Improve Learning.
Click here for Part III of the Graphics Series, Recommended Free Image Sites.
Click here for Part IV of the Graphics Series, Easy Image Manipulation.
Click here for Part V of the Graphics Series, Tips for Making Your Own PowerPoint Graphics.
About the author: AJ George is IconLogic's lead Technical Writer and author of both "PowerPoint 2007: The Essentials" and "PowerPoint 2008 for the Macintosh: The Essentials." You can follow AJ on Twitter at http://twitter.com/andrayajgeorge.