Infographics: In Support of Online Visual Learning

By Yarbrough, Jillian Ruth | Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, April 1, 2019 | Go to article overview

Infographics: In Support of Online Visual Learning


Yarbrough, Jillian Ruth, Academy of Educational Leadership Journal


INTRODUCTION

A picture paints a thousand words, while this is a common English Language Idiom, the phrase is true, and at least it is true for many people and many learners. As educators and trainers, we strive to create content that is meaningful and supports a variety of learning needs. Copious research supports the idea that visuals are important in the learning process. Some learners experience enriched learning with pictures,

" We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words'" (Medina, 2008).

Other learner's value pictures in combination with text,

"People learn and remember more efficiently and effectively through the use of text and visuals than through text alone" (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2016).

Infographics are tools that combine pictures and text to succinctly frame information and ideas. But, can infographics be used to support student learning in the online classroom? To examine this question, the researcher created infographics for an online management course. Each weekly infographic depicted major course concepts and was presented to the learners as a weekly content summary. The following paper will outline this infographics-based learning experience in five sections. First, describing relevant research that supports the use of visual communications in the online classroom. Next, a description of infographic design best practices based on a review of literature. Third and overview of the study procedures and methodologies. Fourth, a presentation and discussion of study results and finally, conclusions.

Visual Communication

In 1983, psychologist Howard Gardner introduced his book, Frames of Mind. Dr. Gardner's book presented his theory on multiple intelligences, the theory that people possess multiple types of intelligence and can learn through these various modalities. Among the seven intelligences, Gardner identified visual-spatial intelligence. Gardner describes visual-spatial intelligence as the capacity to use representations to perform valued activities in the world (Gardner, 1983).

"Gardner's version of visual-spatial intelligence incorporates the abilities to perceive the visual world accurately, to evaluate and modify those perceptions according to subsequent experience and to recreate components of a perception even without the physical presence of the original stimulus" (Cary, 2004).

Interesting, Gardner is certainly not the only theorist to recognize that many people have visual learning preferences. In Fleming & Mills (1992), Mills introduced four sensory modalities that are used for learning information, Visual, Aural, Read/Write and Kinesthetic or VARK. The first modality is visual, describing a learner that prefers the depiction of information in maps, diagrams, charts, graphs, flow charts, circles, hierarchies and other devices used to represent and exchange information (VARK, 2019).

Through the years, many researchers have found evidence that visual tools support cognition. In fact, 65% of the population has a preference towards visual learning (Gutierrez, 2014; Wallagher, 2016). Visuals are not only learner preferred, training and educational professionals have identified that visuals support efficient teaching. According to the Visual Systems Division (1997), visual are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text and visual aids in the classroom improve learning up to 400 percent. Ideas presented graphically are easier to understand and remember than those presented as words, (Kliegel et al., 1987). Visuals are more easily processed as it takes about ¼ of a second for the human brain to process and attach meaning to a symbol and it takes about 6 seconds to read 20-25 words (Thorpe et al., 1996). As the power of visual learning becomes apparent, visual learning opportunities are increasing in prevalence; in fact, the application of visual learning tools has increased over 9,000 percent since 2009 as people try to manage the information overload available through improved technology (Coulter, 2015). …

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