Curious what an Ecampus Instructional Designer is looking for when they approve slides for narrated lectures? It certainly depends on the course content.
Generally, the top three things I am looking at are copyright, accessibility, and aesthetics.
For this post, I am going to focus on copyright and I will return to the other topics in a future post. A copy of the slides, which includes links to helpful materials, is available below the video as well as a list of resources.
Have you ever created an online course without using images? No?
That is not surprising as images can convey emotions, ideas, and much more. Their value is often captured in an old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words.
This article will discuss the value of images in online course design and how using visuals to accompany instruction via text or narration might contribute to or detract from an online learning experience. Let’s begin.
Multimedia Learning: Images, Text, and More
Online learning is a modern form of multimedia learning. Richard Mayer (2009) described multimedia learning as that learning that integrates the use of words and pictures. In traditional classrooms these learning resources might be experienced as:
Textbooks:Text and illustrations.
Computer-based lessons: Narration w/animation
Face-to-face slide presentations: Graphics and audio.
In online learning multimedia may also include:
eBooks: Text and digital images
Video: Text, images, animations, coupled with audio.
Interactives: Maps, images, and video.
Digital Visual Representations: Virtual worlds and 3D models.
Screencasts: Software demos, faculty video feedback, and more.
Audio: Enhanced podcasts or narrated lectures.
These two short lists, although not exhaustive, demonstrates the importance of visual elements to multimedia based learning in online courses. There are many reasons why we might include any one of these multimedia learning experiences in an online course. For our purposes we will explore a bit more the instructional value of visuals to online learning.
So, how do words and pictures work together to help shape learning? Given that this is perhaps the most common learning object used in an online course it would seem useful to understand what may be considered this simple interpretation of visual literacy for learning (Aisami, 2015).
Visual Engagement Of A Learning Object
In a recent study of how people acquire knowledge from an instructional web page Ludvik Eger (2018) used eye tracking technology to examine a simple learning object composed of a title (headline), a visual element (i.e., diagram), and a box of written text. With no audio support for the learning object in this study, participants engaged the content via visual engagement alone. Results indicated that the majority of students started their learning process at the headline or the headline and visual element. The box of information, in text form, was the third part of the learning object engaged.
Within this context eye movement analysis indicates a learning process that is dependent upon a consistent visual flow. Purposely connecting the title, visual element and information text of a learning object may best reinforce learning. By doing this the course designer/instructor becomes a sort of cognitive guide either focusing or not-focusing learning via the meaning structure of the various learning object elements. In our case we want to use visual elements to support performance and achievement of learning tasks.
Choosing Visual Elements
In order to explore the choice of visual elements in an online learning experience it is helpful to understand how we process that experience from a cognitive science perspective.
Clark and Mayer (2016) describe that cognitive science suggests knowledge construction is based upon three principles: Dual channels, limited capacity and active processing. Let’s briefly examine what these are.
People have two channesl of cognitive processing 1) for processing visual/pictorial material and 2) one for auditory/verbal material. See Figure 1. below.
Humans can only process a few bits of pieces of information in each channel at the same time.
Learning occurs as people engage in cognitive processing during learning. This may include attending to relevant material, organizing that material into a coherent structure, and integrating that material with prior knowledge.
Due to the limits on any learner’s processing capability it is paramount that we select visual images that help manage the learning process. Our goal is to limit excessive processing that clutters the learning experience, build visual support for representing the core learning process, and provide visual support that fosters deeper understanding of the learning at hand. What does this mean in practice?
Managing Processing Via Image Use
Making decisions about image selection and use is a key to managing this learning process. Understanding the meaning of images to select is also key and is really a function of literacy in one’s field and visual literacy in general (Kennedy, 2013).
In practice we can use the following guidelines to make decisions about image use in multimedia-based online learning.
Control Visual Elements – Too many images on a web page or slide may force extraneous cognitive processing that does not support the instructional objective.
Select Visual Elements Carefully – Images difficult to discern are likely to negatively impact learning. Think about good visual quality, emotional and intellectual message of the image, information value, and readability.
Use Focused Visual Elements – Target selection of visual support to those images that represent the core learning material and/or provide access to deeper understanding of that core content.
Other Image Tips
Emotional Tone: Emotional design elements (e.g., visuals) can play important roles in motivating learners and achievement of learning outcomes (Mayer, 2013).
Interest: Decorative images may boost learner interest but do not contribute to higher performance in testing (Mayer, 2013). Use decorative images prudently so they do not contribute to extraneous learning processing (Pettersson & Avgerinou, 2016).
Challenge: Making image selections that contribute to a degree of confusion may challenge learnings to dive more deeply into core learning. This is a tenuous decision in that challenge in sense making may prove to foster excessive processing.
Access: Images must be presented in a format that is viewable to users to be practical. This involves an understanding of technical features of image formats, download capability, mobile use, and universal design techniques.
It is valuable to remember that visuals communicate non verbally. They are most effectively used when carefully selected and paired with text or audio narration. Visuals appeal to the sense of sight. They have different classifications and could be pictures, symbols, signs, maps graphs, diagrams, charts, models, and photographs. Knowing their form, meaning, and application is part of being a visually literate course developer or instructional designer.
PowerPoint Template Use In Developing Course Content
In online course development the production of narrated lectures that serve as course content if common. Often faculty turn to presentation software, such as PowerPoint, as the foundation of their presentation. Using PowerPoint for narrated lectures means faculty must consider developing presentation slides that are accessible, attractive, and visually focused. This is not an easy task without some guidance in these areas of presentation design. This is where PowerPoint template use comes in handy.
The Ecampus design team at Oregon State University has produced a series of PowerPoint templates to assist faculty produce effective, accessible, and visually attractive presentations. The templates are available via the PowerPoint Guidelines and Templates website that provide not just the templates but also best practices in template use.
How Does This Work?
On the site Ecampus faculty can find templates developed with seven different designs. Each has an application for a given area of the university or function. To illustrate this point I have placed an image of a template title slide for the College of Forestry design.
Using this template faculty can edit the text and background image to create their own custom PowerPoint design. Below is the entire College of Forestry design series. In it you can see that there is good variety of slide types and design layouts.
Adapting the template for other course uses if fairly straight forward. Simply collect the images you wish to insert into the template and add the pertinent text. Below is an example of an adapted series of slides turning what looks like a forestry presentation into an organic agriculture presentations.
With seven different templates to choose from faculty have a wide range of design options for narrated lectures using PowerPoint. These designs are also accessible and are visually consistent. Slide types vary to allow faculty to focus presentation attention on the subject at hand. This can save faculty time and effort in narrated lecture production. If you are an Ecampus faculty and you would like to learn how to edit and utilize this templates resource, ask your instructional designer.
Click the image above to view Cynthia Chapman’s lecture done in Adobe Presenter. Adobe Presenter is a PowerPoint plugin that allows you to narrate your presentation and upload it to the web in a fashion that is extremely accessible for students and is easy for them to navigate and review.
Each slide has a play button and slider with the total time for that particular slide
Presentation length is displayed on the bottom right
Each slide is listed by name in the sidebar for easy navigation and review
There is a “Notes” tab which displays notes for anyone who can’t hear the audio
There is a “Thumbs” tab for those who would rather navigate by picture
There is a “Search” tab that allows students to search all notes and slide text
Students love these narrated PowerPoints and these presentations are easier to make than you might think.