10 essential rules on the use of ANIMATION in online learning
Animation, don’t we just love it – The Simpsons, Family Guy, Southpark, The Lion King, Wallace and Grommet. Unfortunately in many online learning programmes, I’ve learned to loathe it, not because it’s bad but because it’s often inappropriate and sometimes unnecessary.
By animation, I mean graphics that move. This ranges from full character animation, to crude figure animation, lip-synched but static faces, objects that move, lines that are drawn upon the screen, builds and animated transitions.
1. Be wary of extraneous animation
In a now famous experiment, where one group who only saw a relevant three minute animation of a lighting strike was compared to a group who viewed the same animation of a lightning strike with six additional, ten second animation clips, of bending trees, lightning striking into the trees, an ambulance arriving and a victim being stretched off with a crowd of onlookers. The first group outperformed the second by coming up with 30% more solutions, Mayer, Heiser and Lonn (2001). You see a lot of this, as animators go into movie mode and extend simple, meaningful, explanatory, instructional animation into complex, extraneous, non-explanatory moving wallpaper.
2. Rinse the animation
In a car brake animation, Mayer found that stripping out some of the complex concepts and getting these over, before the animation was shown, resulted in an increased efficacy of the animation. The lesson here, is to examine the animation script and rinse out things that you think could be better explained using text and static graphics. This also makes budgetary sense.
3. Avoid animating text
Text is meant to be read not admired for its dance moves. Whenever I see a tile or text flip, rotate or bend without good reason, I’m annoyed. Maybe, just maybe, if it’s meaningful. I once animated the word University to make it turn upside down, as I was talking about the ‘Flipped University’. That’s fair.4. Do not use text and animation together
‘Text and animation’ which both use the visual channel, cause cognitive dissonance and often confuse rather than achieve learning. Animation, like video, should use audio narration, rather than accompanying text, Moreno & Mayer (1999).
5. Do not separate animations from explanatory audio
In an experiment where the workings of a bicycle tyre were explained, to a group with an integrated animation and audio and another group with separate ( one after the other) animation and audio, when tested for transfer, the first group generated 50% more solutions. This large effect was repeated over eight different experiments, Mayer & Anderson (1991) (1992), Mayer & Sims (1994), Mayer et al (1999).
6. Animate for flow
For processes, procedures and ordered steps, animation can be used to build and explain the flow. In particular, animated invisible processes, such as fluid (blood flow, hydraulics etc.) and air-flow can be used to good effect. Flow charts, mindmaps and other complex diagrams can benefit from meaningful and useful animation. The 2D and 3D benefits of animation can do what text and audio can never do, show things they can never show.
7. Graphics and diagrams
Simple wipes that show lines on a line graph appear as if being drawn from left to right, or histogram bars being wiped on, can be explanatory and therefore useful. Indeed, animation can be used to bring data to life, with just a few simple moves.
8. Avoid animation in navigation
Animated icons, menus that have things rotating, spinning logos – you name it, I’ve seen it. There are things that just need to be stopped, superfluous distractions that damage learning. Don’t turn your learning programme into a fruit machine – unless it’s meant to be a fruit machine. Just don’t do it.
9. Lipsynched agents
The jury is out on animated tutors and agents but crudely animated agents or crudely animated lipsynch is a no, no.
10. Don’t get seduced
There is a bottom line here – don’t use animation until you have exhausted all other possibilities. It’s expensive, can be distracting and is difficult to change and update. Don’t get seduced by animation, move on.
Once again, rules are never absolute. There are times, in children’s learning, for people with specific learning difficulties and so on, where these rules should be broken. But there’s nothing like animation for producing cognitive overload which inhibits learning. Note also that I’m not referring to animated graphics as used in high level games and virtual reality.More in the series....
10 ways to make badass INTROs in online learning
10 bloody good reasons for using much-maligned TEXT in online learning
10 essential online learning WRITING TIPS in online learning
10 stupid mistakes in design of MULTIPLE CHOICE questions
10 essential points on use of (recall not recognition) OPEN RESPONSE questions
10 sound pieces of advice on use of AUDIO in onlinelearning
10 ways based on research to use VIDEO in online learning