The Other Meaning of Illustration and Its Terrible Paucity in Elearning

 In Design, E-learning, Instructional Design

Don’t we all like visually stunning and animated people, places, and things? But how are concepts, principles, and procedures best illustrated? By developing examples and non-examples.

Much instructional design is about fleshing out concepts, procedures, and principles with illustrations (examples). The more varied your illustrations, the greater the possible learning.

At the heart of learning is the cognitive schema that learners build in their minds, often as a schema that fits into another schema.

The mere definition of a concept, step listing of a procedure, or statement of principle rarely results in embedding these content types as schemas in the learner’s mind.

Only with a diverse and sufficiently divergent range of examples and non-examples, does the learner generalize each content type across the specific examples or instances, and in the process extracts and assimilates a truly generalized schema in their mind.

Most definitions or statements of content types are accompanied with a typical example, a very typical example. While this typical example may serve to recall the definition itself, greater applicability or capability to generate performance lies in exposing the learner to a more varied set of examples and non-examples, divergent in range from the typical to the atypical. This and this alone will enable assured performance in the field, on the job.

With a greater inventory of examples and non-examples, your learning is assured of high quality interactions (examples lend themselves to better visualization), non-repetitive interactivity (same examples do not repeat themselves), and more challenging interactions (non-examples play a huge role in framing assessment distractors).

Next time, spend less time looking for the right visual graphic or do so only after have robust illustrations of the concepts, procedures, and principles in your design inventory. As a bonus: You may find it easier to find the right visual cues for your elearning based on your example or illustration armory.

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