Technology's expanding role in the classroom has transformed the way instructors teach and the way students learn. As online courses and blended learning environments continue to grow in popularity, technology provides a new foundation for greater success in the classroom. Using technology to enable better visual communication benefits both teachers and students by increasing engagement and student success.
Visual communication in education is critical as the human brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than text content alone. For context, visual communication is the use of videos, photos, drawings, diagrams and animation — often in combination with text, voice narration and music — to clearly relay information. As an instructor, you obviously want to see your students succeed. Using technology that eases the creation of visual educational content can help ensure better results.
Student expectations have shifted. Nowadays, they want the ability to choose when, where and how they learn. To meet these expectations and maintain high enrollment, many educational institutions offer online courses or blended learning environments with a mix of in-class and online instruction. As the higher-education landscape changes, your role as a teacher changes, too.
So now what? On top of developing lesson plans, teaching courses, grading assignments and holding office hours, you are expected to create visual learning tools. When teaching an online course, teachers are completely reliant on videos and other visuals for communication and engagement. There's no physical classroom setting.
Some instructors simply don’t have the time to learn how to incorporate visuals into their courses. Others may not have a support staff or IT department to guide them through properly using the technology. And there is always a learning curve when trying something new. For many teachers, adapting to this new learning environment seems like a daunting task.
It’s really not so bad
Despite those perceived challenges, implementing technology to enhance visual communication in the classroom has major benefits for both teachers and students. Any amount of time you spend learning how to better communicate visually with your students will be paid back to you in saved time later. Believe me, it’s worth the effort.
First, using technology to create visuals can save this precious thing we call time. With visual communication, the number of questions, responses and clarifications between students and teachers can be reduced significantly. In fact, when people follow directions that use illustrations, they perform significantly better than they do with text-only instructions.
Replacing or supplementing a text description with video or other visuals allows you to be as clear as possible when giving directions. The content can be easily revisited, rewound, or revised, which can help answer questions or present new information to your students. Students are then empowered to review and reference the content as often as needed.
Inevitably, instructors will receive similar questions from multiple students. In this case, visual communications may help avoid repeating the same answers. Sharing a FAQ video or annotated screenshot with students is a much better solution than typing the same response over and over.
Using visual communication in the classroom can also prevent learner confusion from the start. As the teacher, you are an expert who can identify where most students begin to struggle with course material. Every semester, you can pinpoint when the course becomes challenging and which concepts tend to be harder for students to grasp.
However, students don’t know what they don’t know. Visuals let you be proactive, answering students’ questions before they even know what to ask. Research shows that visuals improve comprehension by 50 percent. A demo video that walks students through specific assignments or an animation that serves as a visual guide to a difficult topic can keep the entire class engaged and on track.
Tools of the trade
Fortunately, there are a variety of tech tools that enable instructors to communicate quickly and visually with students, specifically video. Even more fortunately, not all of these tools require you to be a professional video editor or technology expert to get the most out of them. Quite a few are designed for the everyday user, someone who has little or no experience creating or editing visual content, but needs to as part of their job.
Here are some things to keep in mind for creating remarkable visual content for your students:
- Your visuals do not have to be perfect. You do not have to be an artist or a video producer, and students understand that
- Be your natural self. Your students want to hear from you, their instructor
- Create visuals that are engaging, memorable and command attention
- Incorporate interactive features, such as quizzes and discussion boards
- Include callouts or key takeaways to highlight valuable information
- Create personable content that makes students feel like you are sitting next to them
Visuals play an important role in learning, and with the right tools, they're easy to create on your own. Whether you see the value of implementing visual lessons in the classroom or you’re doing it out of absolute necessity, the end result will be better communication, engagement and student success.