U of M Webinar: Slide Design for eLearning


[Meagan, off camera] Hello everyone. Thank you so much for
your patience; we really appreciate it. We’re going to get started here. My name
is Meagan Fleming. I’m gonna be your
moderator for today’s webinar. If you
have future questions about this webinar or other programs that we offer, please
contact the Information Center. The
Information Center’s contact information will be on the last slide of this
presentation. There are some logistical
items that I’d like to address before we begin. I ask that you please submit your
questions throughout the webinar so that we can address them at the end during
our Q&A portion. So there is a Q&A
section on your right-hand side of your screen that you can ask your questions
to. The button is in the top right corner,
and the send button is at the bottom. And
then we’re going to be sending an email the next few days here with a link to
the recording of this webinar. The link
will be sent to the email address that you submitted during registration. Please
join me in welcoming Ann Fandry. Ann is
an academic technologist, writer, and Instructor. Her areas of expertise
include graphic and information design, course website usability, online course
design, accessible digital communication, visual communication, and digital and
visual literacy. She is the author of
Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning,
published in 2017. She holds a Master’s
degree in Learning Technologies from the University of Minnesota College of
Education and Human Development. Thanks so much, Ann. [Ann] Thanks, Meagan. Hello,
everybody. I love doing webinars because
it’s always kind of a fun mystery to know who’s sitting there at their desk
and listening in today. So thank you very
much for your time. I want to talk with
you a little bit about what you’ll learn in this session. We are going to talk
about the basics of the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, CTML, and why
it’s useful in planning the design of your screens. We’ll talk about three
multimedia principles and also how to make your slides accessible so that your
screens can be accessible too. This
webinar assumes that you’re using PowerPoint
or another slide software to make your e-learnings or to mock-up designs to
import into e-learning software. So I’ll
use those terms, slide and screen, somewhat interchangeably. Particularly
for the accessibility section, I’ll be talking only about e-learning
deliverables rather than HTML environments. HTML environments involve a
larger set of accessibility best practices and that’s a whole nother talk
in itself. This whole webinar is meant to
share some techniques that will instantly improve the effectiveness of
your slides. But what do I mean by
effective? Effective slides help your
audience understand and remember. Simple
concept. When the e-learning slide is
synced with a voiceover narration, the visual content and the verbal content
should create a condition that I call illumination, where both messages work
together. And that’s the essence of
multimedia learning. At the very least
the verbal and the visual messages shouldn’t conflict with each other. eLearning often emulates the type of
ineffective slide design that we see in live presentations. It’s ineffective, and
you all know this already. You’ve sat
through many presentations where slides look like this. It’s ineffective because,
in a nutshell, it forces that learner into an uncomfortable situation. This
example slide that you’re looking at now contains seven bullets’ worth of facts
and ideas about Bitcoin, starting with the definition and listing other related
facts and tidbits. This slide author knew
that their slide had too much text on it and decided to add a little bit of bling
to the top to try and add some visual interest. But what’s the problem for the
learner? First, there’s the visual
overwhelm that you probably felt when you looked at this slide: where to look
first? It is, as they say, a wall of words. Second, there’s that natural tendency for
the learner to start reading those words and tune out the audio. I’m imagining
some of you started reading these bullets right away and are just tuning
back in to me right now because I’m talking to you. If I were actually
presenting this Bitcoin content I’d be speaking in complete
sentences, and you’ll note that these bullets are not written in complete
sentences. That condition creates a
mismatch between what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing. You quickly figure
out that you need to make a decision between whether to read my slide or
listen to me. If this were a pre-recorded
elearning the learner would need to either live with this constant switching
back and forth between inputs or they would need to pause the recordings so
they could read the slides first and then listen to the audio. It’s
inefficient from both a time perspective and a learning perspective. Third, you
probably notice that there are different fonts and different font sizes going on
in this slide. We have a natural tendency
to assign meaning to differences when we see them in our visual field, and you
probably spend some time wondering whether there was a purpose for this
discrepancy or if I had just simply made a mistake. And then, hopefully, ultimately
you decided that I had purposely designed this to make a point. In any
case, all these factors detract from the efficacy of this slide as an elearning
because they took away from the focus of the content. All these things I’ve just
mentioned are examples of extraneous cognitive load, which we have some
control over. There are three types of
cognitive load. Cognitive load refers to
that mental effort that the learner puts forth during the learning event. And I’ll
go through each of those three types. The
first is intrinsic. Intrinsic cognitive
load has to do with the difficulty of the material itself. Instructional
designers can do some things to mitigate that difficulty but we can’t make
difficult material any less difficult. It
is what it is. Germane load is the effort
of the learner that the learner themself puts in when they’re learning. This is
often seen as metacognitive strategies like reviewing and rehearsing
information to try and remember it. We
can’t do anything about that load either; and in fact, it’s not a bad thing, and we
want to encourage learners to be doing this kind of effort while they’re
learning. Lastly is extraneous cognitive
load, and I’ve put that in gold because I want to contrast it between the ones
that we do have some control over and the ones we don’t. Extraneous load is
caused by all that visual and verbal noise on your slides that can conflict
with or make it harder to grasp the main message. And as I said we have some
control over this and that’s what this talk is about. So let’s dive into this
Cognitive theory of multimedia learning, which in my view provides a really
useful framework for making decisions about the visual and verbal messages in
your instructional designs. The cognitive
theory of multimedia learning shows how we learn from words and graphics
together, and why we can’t physically read and listen at the same time. Here’s
what the model looks like as Richard Mayer first published it in 2001. Don’t
worry if it looks overwhelming; I’m going to show it to you just briefly here as a
whole and then I’m gonna walk you through it piece by piece in a minute. First I want to share some of the basic
assumptions that this theory rests on, and here in my visual I’ve depicted
these assumptions as three supports that undergird the theory. First is active
processing. This is the idea that
learning is an active process and you don’t actually learn anything unless
you’re doing something active in your brain such as asking yourself questions
or comparing the new information to things you already understand. The second
assumption is limited capacity, the idea that we take in new information via our
working memory which can hold only a limited amount of information at once. Third and last is dual coding. This is
the assumption that we take in visual information and verbal information
through separate channels in our brains. So those are the three assumptions that
the multimedia learning theory rests on. Now let’s go through this story. It’s
basically the story of how we select information from a multimedia
presentation to pay attention to, how we organize it in our brains and integrate
the verbal and visual pieces to create one unified mental representation of the
message. In an earlier slide you may
remember me showing this sort of sunshine, referring to this condition
of illumination, and that’s what we’re going for here. So I hope that that
concept gets clearer as we keep going. The story involves three kinds of memory:
sensory memory; working memory, which is what we’re most concerned with in slide
design as I said, because cognitive overload happens in working memory and
then the overload is what we’re trying to mitigate when we are making effective
slide designs. I hope you all find this
as exciting as I do. I think this is the
coolest stuff. From the original theory,
Mayer and other researchers described 12 principles to help guide multimedia
learning decisions. So we can all use all
of those tools. And I’m only showing you
the three that we’re going to talk about in this presentation: coherence, temporal
contiguity, and spatial contiguity. They’re all fancy words, but I promise
you the principles themselves are really straightforward, easy to follow, and I’m
going to talk about them in plain, everyday language as we go along. So
let’s start with where you are right now. And I will tell you in advance that I am
using a technique called “conceal and reveal” that many of you probably use
when you are doing live presentations. It’s when you isolate one part of the
graphic and walk people through each piece of the graphic as you talk about
it to help control visual overwhelm and help focus people’s attention. This is a
technique that you can start using right away, just using the animation feature of
your slide presentation software or your elearning authoring software. But let’s
start where we are right now, listening to the multimedia presentation. I’m
talking and showing you slides with words and pictures. You are going through
an instantaneous process of taking in information through your sensory organs:
words through your ears and words and pictures through your eyes. From those
many inputs that you might choose to pay attention to in this situation— some of
which I can control and some of which I can’t— you select words and pictures to
pay attention to, you organize those words into a verbal model and those
pictures into a pictorial model, and then you integrate them into a unified mental
representation. And the only way
that you bring information from your working memory into your long-term
memory is by hooking your new information into stuff that you already
understand. All of that stuff
work happens in working memory, which as we’ve said only holds a certain number
of pieces of information at a time. And
all of this is to say— main takeaway here: We can’t physically listen and read at
the same time. So what does that mean for
different types of e-learning that you may be designing? Some elearning is
multimedia with a verbal and a visual message. Some is just all audio. Some is
just having people read from screens. And
given that, you can definitely write out a whole entire screen worth of words if
there’s no audio narration or if the narration matches the screen words
exactly. But the moment one of those two streams
of information diverges, that’s when you’re asking the learner to make a
decision between which of the two information streams for that they should
pay attention to. And that’s the
condition that we want to try and mitigate or get rid of completely
ideally. And this presentation obviously
is us doing the multimedia, so that’s what we’ll be talking about for the rest
of this talk. And in fact the whole rest
of this presentation now that we’ve gotten through sort of the preliminary
information is talking about some principles for effective slide designs
for eLearning. I’ll weave those
multimedia principles in as we go along but they won’t be an explicit focus of
any of those slides that you’ll see visually. So here’s five principles for
effective eLearning designs. First, make
your eLearning designs accessible for people reading with their ears and for
people reading with their eyes. When I
say “accessible for people reading with their ears,” I’m talking about making the
elearning compatible with adaptive technologies like screen reader software—
and there’s other ones— that some of your learners will be using when they access
your elearnings. I’m also talking
about all those other conditions under which a lot of us consume eLearnings. For
example, I currently have the ability to see with
my eyes but there are times when I daze out during recorded elearnings. And
there’s times when my eyes are fatigued from too much screen reading and things
get a little blurry for me. And there are
times, I will admit, when I walk away from my computer screen to make tea and I am
just listening to the recording. So if
you’re a person who thinks of accessibility as an extra set of things
you need to do to your elearning projects at the end of the design
process so that deaf or blind people can access them, I hope you’ll come along
with me and expand your definition of what
accessibility means and what we’re really doing that process for. I’ve come
to understand disability is not about the person you may think of as having
one, it’s about how the thing I made for them disables them and keeps them from
being able to access the information in my design. It’s me who disabled them. That’s an important distinction for me
as an instructional designer because it places the onus on me to make sure that
I’m doing everything I can to meet the needs of the learner. And what that
distinction has done for me in my practice is that I now think of
accessibility as one of the foundational sets of design factors that I as an
instructional designer am thinking of at the beginning of the project, right
along with all the other things that all of us are thinking about when we’re
doing this work: learning objective alignment, pacing, sequencing, audience
level, tone of voice, graphic design, user experience, all those things. But to
reiterate, I’m thinking of accessibility at the start of the design process not
the end. And that can save time at the
end, and I’ll show you what I mean by that. Accessibility best practices, like I
said a few minutes ago, is a whole talk in itself, but I want to share just five
things that you can do easily. I do them
all the time in my work and they can— once you understand these principles,
they can kind of help you make additional design decisions based on
whatever context you’re looking at. So I
hope you find them useful. First is the
idea of providing text alternatives for any non text content. Anytime you have
nontext content like an image or a chart or a figure from a textbook, it needs to
have a text alternative for people who aren’t looking at it or who can’t see it. This means two things for us as
elearning designers. First, my script for
my audio narration needs to thoughtfully describe the images on the screen, which
you’ll hear me trying to model in this presentation and I’ve done a little bit
of so far and I hope you agree that I’m doing an okay job of it. And second, it means completing the alt
text field in the elearning software. If
you don’t know what I mean by that, I’m coming up to a slide in a few slides
from now with a resource for you for you to explore alt text further and what
that means. So this one I have cut and
pasted out of a journal and I will need to explain what’s going on. I’ve got a
slide example that reads, “the shape of a population pyramid reflects the growth
rate” and compares a rapid growth population pyramid from Nigeria and a
slow growth population period from Canada. In the second example I’m showing
an example of a table that is not actually a data table, it’s a picture of
a table. You could probably tell that
from this screenshot. We’ve all done
something like this in order to save time. But it’s only accessible when you
also take the time to create and link to a text version that you’ve typed out
anyway. So it can save you time to have
created that text version beforehand. Another thing to be thinking about when
you’re thinking about how to make your elearning project accessible is to
supply captions and a transcript. When
you have time-based media like a video recording or an animation or an audio
recording, just make sure it’s captioned and that there’s also an available
transcript. Those WCAG 2.0 guidelines—
web content accessibility guidelines— actually require both
transcript and captions for video, but for audio you of course only need a
transcript. The lynda.com interface, which
I have pictured here in a screenshot, does a great job of providing both of
those tools for us. I think we’ve all
appreciated those tools if you are familiar with Lynda and how elearning is
delivered there. A third thing: use layouts to arrange
your content rather than manually created text boxes. Layouts know how to
talk to adaptive technologies like screen readers, while text boxes require
that you sequence them manually and also that you add alt text to them. So you’ll
save yourself a lot of time if you use those predetermined layouts in your
slide template or if you take the time to design your slide layouts at
the beginning of a project. Related to
layouts, we need to imagine how the screen will be navigated by someone who
is using a keyboard to tab through each of the objects. And we need to make sure
the objects are sequenced in a meaningful order. Ideally the order in
which you’ve determined the visual hierarchy in your visual design would be
the same order that you would sequence objects. So that’s what I mean by logical,
meaningful order. This is a picture of
the reordering interface that’s available in PowerPoint. Google slides
doesn’t have this reordering feature like this. I know that Articulate does, and I’m
not sure how Captivate and some of the other authoring softwares handle this. But just for you to know that this is a
consideration that you should have. If
you don’t take the time to order the objects in a meaningful sequence,
adaptive technology software will read them in the order that you created them
and that may be different than the logical sequence that you had intended. This is also to iterate that if you use
those predetermined slide layouts that we looked at on the previous slide, some
of that work is already done for you because the slides—the adaptive
technology will read from top left to bottom right. You can check the sequence
by putting your cursor on one of the objects in your slide and pressing the
tab key and seeing where the tab— where the focus goes to determine what the
reading order is. Fourth, never use color
alone to indicate meaning; use color plus a second indicator to communicate
meaning. Some of these examples, depending
on the context of what you’re trying to show: color plus boldface, color plus size,
or color plus style. A good way to test
whether your design depends too much on color is to print it out in black and
white and see if it’s still understandable in the absence of color. One combination I hope you will not use
in a digital environment is color plus underline, unless it is actually a
hyperlink. Otherwise people will think
that you’re elearning is broken. So I’m
putting a nice big hash through that as a suggestion to not do that. And while
we’re talking about color, just want to talk very briefly about
color contrast. Contrast is measured as a
ratio of brightness to darkness. Most of
the time you’ll be good eyeballing this kind of thing, but I will give you a
resource for how to check color contrast in a couple of slides from now. But you
want to— you want to go for very dark text against very light background or
very light text against a very dark background. You may know more about your
learner context than I do and you may have additional points to add to this
discussion about screen lumens and visual fatigue. But what I want to
accomplish with this contrast conversation is just to make sure that
whatever you do, the text is clearly visible against the background. Now most
of us would not let this kind of thing happen on elearning projects: this is a
grayscale slide with the word “color contrast issues” in a lighter shade of
gray. Some of you, depending on what kind
of device you’re using, may not be able to see these words at all, but they are
there. But what I do see fairly often is
when people try to put text on top of images. This black text is placed on top
of an image of the side of a building that has a variety of colors in the
background. The text reads, “add a
highlight box behind text to create contrast over images.” It’s hard to read
though, because it competes with the background, and you can see especially it
competes in the darker areas of the image on the bottom line. We can improve
this contrast problem by doing just what the text says, which is to place a
highlight box behind the text. I also
added a little transparency to the box behind so you could see the image
as well as get the color contrast. You
are always safe with black and white. But
sometimes you want to use colors that are not black and white, and sometimes
you may have a question about whether you have adequate color contrast. So
here’s a second resource for you: it’s webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker. And that is a great resource if you know
the hexadecimal values for your colors. You can use that there. The last thing I
want to say about color is just to not assume that other people, particularly
your learners, will experience color the way you do. Some members of your audience
may have a vision impairment or they may not perceive color the way you do. This
slide shows each of the color swatches that I used in this deck along with the
hexadecimal value. Black is #000000. Knowing the hex values of your colors
can help you test for adequate color contrast as I mentioned a minute ago, and
it can also help with your design projects if they span multiple systems;
for example, if you want to use your company’s branded colors in both your
e-learning and on a separate website. Now
I’ve taken a picture of that previous slide and loaded it into a
colorblindness simulator. And you can
find a bunch of web tools that will do this kind of thing. I use one called
Color Coblis. This slide is simulating the
experience of my color palette for someone with red-green color blindness,
which is the most common type. And in
this shot, this is what my palette would look like if someone printed it off on a
black and white printer. This is another
reason we want to make sure we have good, strong color contrast between the
foreground and the background of the text on the screen. So this ends the
section of things that I wanted to say about color, and the end of my short list
of considerations for making accessible e-learning designs. But I want to leave
you with one more resource, the University of Minnesota’s accessibility
resource website. Accessibility.umn.edu has lots more
information about how to create accessible instructional materials,
including a video tutorial series that will show you start to finish how to
prepare slides for distribution, which is not exactly what we’re talking about
here, but quite quite close, quite related. So I hope you’ll find that resource and
bookmark that. So recall that we are
going through five principles for making good decisions in terms of multimedia
Elearning. So number two is to remove decoration in
all its forms because it detracts from the learning. Instead use images to evoke
emotion, to show what something looks like, to show a relationship, or to show
where something is located. And if you
missed that list, I’m going to visualize it in the next couple of slides. This is
called the coherence principle, which finds that people actually learn better
when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included. So here’s that Bitcoin slide again, that
little bit of innocuous bling that that slide author included at the top because
they thought that all that text made the screen look boring, it took you some time,
even if only a little bit of time, to figure out that that was decoration. Some
of you probably thought about it for a little longer before you realized it was
the Bitcoin logo. Now here is a makeover
that some designers might make in order to mitigate the amount of text on that
previous ineffective slide. This version
makes a conscious choice to put very little text on the slide and put a nice
big graphic. The text reads, “Bitcoin
transactions are recorded in a public ledger known as a blockchain.” The text is
accompanied by that grayscale close-up of one of the links that you might find
on the swings at the playground. This
slide looks— you might agree with me— more
modern, more clean, more sleek. But there’s
another problem with this type of slide that is an even bigger case for leaving
off extraneous details. I hope you’ve spotted it. I’m gonna go
ahead and jump to what I think is wrong with it, which is that
blockchain is not the same as swingset chain; they’re completely different
things. But people tend to remember
things that they see over things that they hear, and now we have put the image
of the wrong kind of chain into their head. This may interfere with them
actually remembering what the blockchain is. So beautiful slides is not
always the end-all be-all. I’m just going
to show you one more slide in this makeover series to make this point that
sometimes the design that looks prettiest and most modern is not always
the most effective. In this instance, a
schematic showing some more details of blockchain and how it works will likely
be more effective for understanding the technical aspects of this concept. So
here I’ve drawn four blocks which contain a hash and a timestamp. They’re
linked together with an arrow labeled “time” going forward and the blocks are
arrowed backward, showing that the blocks are verified backward to the start as
time proceeds forward. I see extraneous
images included on all types of slides, again, I think as an effort by people to
try and make things look less boring. Here’s a corporate stock photo. This is what I call “the 21st century of
clipart.” It’s plugging up a big hole, big
white space on that slide. I’ve also seen
it where the stock photo is plugging up a slightly smaller hole. And the problem
that I have with these things is that we are, in our culture, so inundated with
images all day long that we don’t stop to think about the fact that images are
so packed with information in and of themselves, and this information may or
may not be congruent with your message. In this example, the title of this slide
is “How to coach clients in filing the 1089.” And the image is a close-up of a
person’s hands holding a modern quill pen. They have well pressed dress shirt
cuffs. Eyeglasses are also visible. So
that’s a lot of information already, most of which you took in nearly
instantaneously. But an image like this
can send learners going off in all kinds of other directions mentally, and it
widens the gap between what you’re trying to tell them and what they’re now
thinking about. You may have gotten
distracted by the color of that manicure and may be wondering what this— what year
this photo was taken. That’s where my
mind went when I looked at it. Perhaps it’s
also occurred to you that the word “lunch” is clearly visible on this model’s
notebook, so you’ve realized there’s a disconnect between the promised topic
and the fact that this person clearly is writing in their appointment calendar
rather than helping coach clients in filing the 1089. In essence this slide
author was trying to make an interesting slide but ended up inadvertently
misleading and distracting the learner. So this slide violates the coherence
principle. Sometimes people interpret the
antidote to “slides have too much text on them” to mean, “let’s get rid of all the
text and have our learners look at pictures the whole time.” I hope you’ll
view the slides that are part of this webinar as evidence that carefully
selected text can accompany an audio narration under appropriate conditions. When we overuse this images-only design
technique slide after slide, we’re actually diluting the impact of it. And
even though your slide deck might look slick and polished, it probably won’t do
much to help your audience understand and remember the content. And as we’ve
said, comprehension and retention of information on the way to application of
that information is our main objective in any instructional design project. So here are four good reasons to use
images and graphics: to evoke emotion, to show what something looks like, to show a
relationship, or to show where something is located. Now I visualized these on the
slide because I think they’re kind of worth visualizing, powerfully pointing to
them, and hopefully they’ll make it into your notes if you’re somebody who’s
taking notes. And incidentally, I used that
conceal and reveal technique again. I
know you’ve seen that already in this deck. So here are some examples. This is
using an image to evoke emotion. This is
using an image to show what something looks like. This is showing the six
kingdoms of life to show a relationship; you can contrast this slide with the
idea of if I were to have listed those six kingdoms of life just in bullet
points and how you get a little bit more information when they’re arranged visuospatially
like this than if they were just bullet points. And then finally, to
show where something is. You could do
this with maps. In this example I’m
showing how you might walk people around a visual display, something complex like
a website. And incidentally I made the
webpage in this example into grayscale so that the colors of the website itself
would compete less with the signifiers that I had, the red boxes, where I
directed your eyes to the parts of the display that I wanted you to look at. So
that’s showing where something is. Where
words appear on the slides make sure the narration reads the words exactly as
they appear rather than paraphrasing. As
I’ve said previously in this talk, having words on a slide isn’t necessarily bad,
but like all other design techniques the words should be carefully and
intentionally selected with attention on the fact that people remember better
what they see and hear than what they just hear or just see, as I’ve said also. This technique is also easy to overuse. It’s the problem with powerfully
pointing at every single thing in your slide deck. One visual— any one visual
technique creates fatigue. Therefore, we should strive for a visual
variety just the same way as you coach your performers to strive for vocal
variety when they record the narrative track for your elearnings. I’ve thrown a
lot of information your way because we only have this one little hour together. But I hope that you will come back to
this recording in the future too so I’m not going to feel
bad about that. The fourth design
principle I wanted to talk about today is to make sure the graphics and
narration match up both in time and space. This advice is articulated in the
temporal and spatial contiguity principles I alluded to back at the
beginning of the talk. The temporal contiguity principle means
that the audio track matches what’s going on on the screen at any given time. But especially in an elearning project
that contains an animation, we need to make sure that the narration is
presented at the same time that the visual action it’s describing. This, like
all the principles, seems like a fairly obvious point, but I believe that our
instructional design practices are improved when we’re able to put
descriptive research-based evidence behind our decisions, so I think it’s
worth mentioning and talking about. Separately, I want to talk about spatial
contiguity, which means that people learn better when words and pictures are
integrated rather than when they’re listed separately. The other day someone
sent me a slide deck that had an organizing graphic on slide 2 and then
proceeded to present new information on slides 3 through 7 that required the
organizing graphic in order to make sense of. It was frustrating to me
because I had to keep clicking back to slide 2 for reference when it could have
been easier for me if the slide author had provided those reminders of the
relevant parts of the organizing graphic on each of the slides where I needed
that information rather than having me click back to it. Spatial contiguity is
all about providing a good user experience for your learners and making
sure that all the information they need is close at hand. Here’s a second example. It will be more difficult to make sense
of this diagram of the anatomy of a common snail if your learners have to
match up a number in the diagram with the number in the legend in order to
find the name of the body part. Even
though the legend is right next to the diagram, the learner is having to put
forth more mental effort, unnecessarily, to convert the numbers to labels and
back again in their minds. This
instructional graphic is vastly improved just by placing the words
right in the diagram. And we can go one
step further, depending on your context. 24 new things is probably way too much
to keep track of on a single slide. Notice how much less stressful this
diagram is if we limit the number of items and just show the parts of the
digestive system. Five, last of my
principles, is to strive for consistency within your screens and cohesion across
all the slides in your deck. I recommend—
and I do this myself— making a style guide for yourself each
time you embark on a new design project. This step doesn’t need to take a lot of
time; in fact, it can take you less time the longer your project is and the more
screens or slides you have in it, because you find as you go along that all of
your design decisions are made for you, after a fashion. A consistent set of
colors— color system— and a consistent set
of typefaces are the obvious visual decisions that you can make, but there
are also less obvious ones that you will want to make a decision about also. Those
can include things like the shapes of your pointers and also the speed of your
animations. I chose all fast ones for
this talk; I could as easily have chosen ones that come in a little bit more
slowly. The thing that matters most is
consistency and choosing one thing, sticking with it for your whole deck. If
we make consistent decisions in the slides we’ll have a cohesive looking
deck at the end. And the reason this is
important for elearning is not only professional credibility for you as the
author of the e-learning or you as the slide presenter, it also— as we have
learned, people tend to make meaning of things when they encounter differences
in a visual display. And if people are
encountering a lot of different fonts and a lot of different ways of conveying
what’s important and what’s subordinate information, they
have to spend more time decoding what you’re trying to say. You can make that a
more efficient process for them by making one set of decisions in your
slides and making sure that people can learn how to learn from your slides one
time and then it goes faster for them also when they go on. I
wanted to offer you— let you know that this exists. This is a book I wrote
called Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. It’s available for free at the website
academicslidedesign.org. It is the result of the
research that I did for my Master’s on multimedia learning theory. And I rewrote it
and illustrated it and want— I hope that you will go check it out if you
feel that this resource might be useful for you. And here we have arrived with an
extra three minutes for questions. So
what do you have? What are you thinking about? Matt. Matt Sturos, thank you for
this question. You’ve asked us, “What is
the best aspect ratio to use for designing elearning slides for the
diverse screen types that our learners will be using?” I think that I don’t know
the answer to that question. But what I
would say is what I have understood about screen aspect ratios is that 16:9—
that 4:3, the old aspect ratio that we were all using, the one that was a bit
more boxy, was designed for older LCD projectors, and we now have the newer
screens that are high-definition and that’s what the that the 16:9 or 16:10
aspect ratios are meant to try and help with. So I think that as devices continue
to modernize and people continue to modernize with their devices that we are
better off designing for that higher definition interface. And you may know
more about your elearning—your elearner context than I do, and you may
have more data about what their— what kind of devices that they have. But that
would be my first stab at that question. Thank you for that. Oh let’s see. Marlene Jon Choi: “Not a question but
a note.” Hi, Marlene. “These principles also
apply to pages in Canvas as well as slide decks.” Yes! Good! I am glad that you
find these principles to be a little bit more universal than just for elearning. I’m so glad that you that you made that
comment. Thank you. Hi, Diane Kleinman. “Is
it okay to use red to highlight or use a call-out on a slide or any colors that
are more or less preferred with colorblindness issues?” Thank you for
that question. I am thinking that the best way to test
for whether you have a successful color combination is if you print out the
slides in black and white and see whether or not it looks like the color
contrast is still preserved. That’s
really what you’re looking for. So I
showed a grayscale slide that had red highlights on it and I could also have
taken a picture of that and uploaded it to a colorblindness simulator just to
see what it might look like. And those colorblindness simulators are
useful because they show you what things look like in grayscale as well. So
you could try something like that. I hope
that points you in the right direction toward that decision-making. Judy Leibfried has asked, “How do you
feel about providing a printed copy of the slides to participants? Too
distracting? Or helpful?” I love this
question. In my day job I consult with instructors
who are lecturing to large groups of undergrads and there’s the concern
that if you provide the printed copy of slides to people in advance that they
are just looking through to the end. There is— I just read the abstract for a
study that talked about providing the slides as notes that
you could fill out, with some of the information removed and having some of
the— having basically a skeleton of the notes. And that kind of thing can result—
depending who your audience is of course, because I know not everybody is
working with undergrads and in that context— but that having the ability
to have something sort of halfway filled out for them can improve learning
outcomes. That’s what that study found. In
terms of— and you might put some more about the context of your question in the
chat box if that wasn’t useful to you. But I think printed
copies of slides are— to me, as an adult learner, I like to have the ability to at
least get the electronic version of things so that I can make my own notes
and access things later. So the way I
would approach that decision is just to be thinking about the user experience
and everything that I know about my audience. Stacy Barnsen, hello. “Would you
have any tips or suggestions for designing something that a student will
be accessing via smartphone?” I do. And
when I think about designing for all the different types of devices that people
might be accessing our e-learning content from, I think that making sure
that we have strong contrast of not only color but also of the size of text, and
if we can, offering some tools for learners to be able to change some of
those settings on their own— Many of the elearning softwares are
adding some controls that you can offer for the learner to be able
to make the text bigger on their own or make it smaller or whatever
they need to do. And like I said, many of
them if— there’s browser extensions that can help
help you be able to change the appearance of your text, other
things that the learner themself might do on their smart phone in order to make
the elearning easier for them to use. But what I would say more globally with
with that question is to be thinking more universally about the design,
and making sure to go back to those accessibility principles that I talked
about at the beginning of the talk. Thinking about things like whether I
have a text alternative to support those kinds of things where people are needing
to access the content some other way than the main way that you have
designed. So that’s what I would say
there. Well, I sure have had a fun time
talking to the cameras here, and there’s some awesome people here in the room as
well. So thanks very much for spending
part of your lunch or part of your day with me, and I hope to connect with you
again. Take care.

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U of M Webinar: Slide Design for eLearning


[Meagan, off camera] Hello everyone. Thank you so much for
your patience; we really appreciate it. We’re going to get started here. My name
is Meagan Fleming. I’m gonna be your
moderator for today’s webinar. If you
have future questions about this webinar or other programs that we offer, please
contact the Information Center. The
Information Center’s contact information will be on the last slide of this
presentation. There are some logistical
items that I’d like to address before we begin. I ask that you please submit your
questions throughout the webinar so that we can address them at the end during
our Q&A portion. So there is a Q&A
section on your right-hand side of your screen that you can ask your questions
to. The button is in the top right corner,
and the send button is at the bottom. And
then we’re going to be sending an email the next few days here with a link to
the recording of this webinar. The link
will be sent to the email address that you submitted during registration. Please
join me in welcoming Ann Fandry. Ann is
an academic technologist, writer, and Instructor. Her areas of expertise
include graphic and information design, course website usability, online course
design, accessible digital communication, visual communication, and digital and
visual literacy. She is the author of
Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning,
published in 2017. She holds a Master’s
degree in Learning Technologies from the University of Minnesota College of
Education and Human Development. Thanks so much, Ann. [Ann] Thanks, Meagan. Hello,
everybody. I love doing webinars because
it’s always kind of a fun mystery to know who’s sitting there at their desk
and listening in today. So thank you very
much for your time. I want to talk with
you a little bit about what you’ll learn in this session. We are going to talk
about the basics of the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, CTML, and why
it’s useful in planning the design of your screens. We’ll talk about three
multimedia principles and also how to make your slides accessible so that your
screens can be accessible too. This
webinar assumes that you’re using PowerPoint
or another slide software to make your e-learnings or to mock-up designs to
import into e-learning software. So I’ll
use those terms, slide and screen, somewhat interchangeably. Particularly
for the accessibility section, I’ll be talking only about e-learning
deliverables rather than HTML environments. HTML environments involve a
larger set of accessibility best practices and that’s a whole nother talk
in itself. This whole webinar is meant to
share some techniques that will instantly improve the effectiveness of
your slides. But what do I mean by
effective? Effective slides help your
audience understand and remember. Simple
concept. When the e-learning slide is
synced with a voiceover narration, the visual content and the verbal content
should create a condition that I call illumination, where both messages work
together. And that’s the essence of
multimedia learning. At the very least
the verbal and the visual messages shouldn’t conflict with each other. eLearning often emulates the type of
ineffective slide design that we see in live presentations. It’s ineffective, and
you all know this already. You’ve sat
through many presentations where slides look like this. It’s ineffective because,
in a nutshell, it forces that learner into an uncomfortable situation. This
example slide that you’re looking at now contains seven bullets’ worth of facts
and ideas about Bitcoin, starting with the definition and listing other related
facts and tidbits. This slide author knew
that their slide had too much text on it and decided to add a little bit of bling
to the top to try and add some visual interest. But what’s the problem for the
learner? First, there’s the visual
overwhelm that you probably felt when you looked at this slide: where to look
first? It is, as they say, a wall of words. Second, there’s that natural tendency for
the learner to start reading those words and tune out the audio. I’m imagining
some of you started reading these bullets right away and are just tuning
back in to me right now because I’m talking to you. If I were actually
presenting this Bitcoin content I’d be speaking in complete
sentences, and you’ll note that these bullets are not written in complete
sentences. That condition creates a
mismatch between what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing. You quickly figure
out that you need to make a decision between whether to read my slide or
listen to me. If this were a pre-recorded
elearning the learner would need to either live with this constant switching
back and forth between inputs or they would need to pause the recordings so
they could read the slides first and then listen to the audio. It’s
inefficient from both a time perspective and a learning perspective. Third, you
probably notice that there are different fonts and different font sizes going on
in this slide. We have a natural tendency
to assign meaning to differences when we see them in our visual field, and you
probably spend some time wondering whether there was a purpose for this
discrepancy or if I had just simply made a mistake. And then, hopefully, ultimately
you decided that I had purposely designed this to make a point. In any
case, all these factors detract from the efficacy of this slide as an elearning
because they took away from the focus of the content. All these things I’ve just
mentioned are examples of extraneous cognitive load, which we have some
control over. There are three types of
cognitive load. Cognitive load refers to
that mental effort that the learner puts forth during the learning event. And I’ll
go through each of those three types. The
first is intrinsic. Intrinsic cognitive
load has to do with the difficulty of the material itself. Instructional
designers can do some things to mitigate that difficulty but we can’t make
difficult material any less difficult. It
is what it is. Germane load is the effort
of the learner that the learner themself puts in when they’re learning. This is
often seen as metacognitive strategies like reviewing and rehearsing
information to try and remember it. We
can’t do anything about that load either; and in fact, it’s not a bad thing, and we
want to encourage learners to be doing this kind of effort while they’re
learning. Lastly is extraneous cognitive
load, and I’ve put that in gold because I want to contrast it between the ones
that we do have some control over and the ones we don’t. Extraneous load is
caused by all that visual and verbal noise on your slides that can conflict
with or make it harder to grasp the main message. And as I said we have some
control over this and that’s what this talk is about. So let’s dive into this
Cognitive theory of multimedia learning, which in my view provides a really
useful framework for making decisions about the visual and verbal messages in
your instructional designs. The cognitive
theory of multimedia learning shows how we learn from words and graphics
together, and why we can’t physically read and listen at the same time. Here’s
what the model looks like as Richard Mayer first published it in 2001. Don’t
worry if it looks overwhelming; I’m going to show it to you just briefly here as a
whole and then I’m gonna walk you through it piece by piece in a minute. First I want to share some of the basic
assumptions that this theory rests on, and here in my visual I’ve depicted
these assumptions as three supports that undergird the theory. First is active
processing. This is the idea that
learning is an active process and you don’t actually learn anything unless
you’re doing something active in your brain such as asking yourself questions
or comparing the new information to things you already understand. The second
assumption is limited capacity, the idea that we take in new information via our
working memory which can hold only a limited amount of information at once. Third and last is dual coding. This is
the assumption that we take in visual information and verbal information
through separate channels in our brains. So those are the three assumptions that
the multimedia learning theory rests on. Now let’s go through this story. It’s
basically the story of how we select information from a multimedia
presentation to pay attention to, how we organize it in our brains and integrate
the verbal and visual pieces to create one unified mental representation of the
message. In an earlier slide you may
remember me showing this sort of sunshine, referring to this condition
of illumination, and that’s what we’re going for here. So I hope that that
concept gets clearer as we keep going. The story involves three kinds of memory:
sensory memory; working memory, which is what we’re most concerned with in slide
design as I said, because cognitive overload happens in working memory and
then the overload is what we’re trying to mitigate when we are making effective
slide designs. I hope you all find this
as exciting as I do. I think this is the
coolest stuff. From the original theory,
Mayer and other researchers described 12 principles to help guide multimedia
learning decisions. So we can all use all
of those tools. And I’m only showing you
the three that we’re going to talk about in this presentation: coherence, temporal
contiguity, and spatial contiguity. They’re all fancy words, but I promise
you the principles themselves are really straightforward, easy to follow, and I’m
going to talk about them in plain, everyday language as we go along. So
let’s start with where you are right now. And I will tell you in advance that I am
using a technique called “conceal and reveal” that many of you probably use
when you are doing live presentations. It’s when you isolate one part of the
graphic and walk people through each piece of the graphic as you talk about
it to help control visual overwhelm and help focus people’s attention. This is a
technique that you can start using right away, just using the animation feature of
your slide presentation software or your elearning authoring software. But let’s
start where we are right now, listening to the multimedia presentation. I’m
talking and showing you slides with words and pictures. You are going through
an instantaneous process of taking in information through your sensory organs:
words through your ears and words and pictures through your eyes. From those
many inputs that you might choose to pay attention to in this situation— some of
which I can control and some of which I can’t— you select words and pictures to
pay attention to, you organize those words into a verbal model and those
pictures into a pictorial model, and then you integrate them into a unified mental
representation. And the only way
that you bring information from your working memory into your long-term
memory is by hooking your new information into stuff that you already
understand. All of that stuff
work happens in working memory, which as we’ve said only holds a certain number
of pieces of information at a time. And
all of this is to say— main takeaway here: We can’t physically listen and read at
the same time. So what does that mean for
different types of e-learning that you may be designing? Some elearning is
multimedia with a verbal and a visual message. Some is just all audio. Some is
just having people read from screens. And
given that, you can definitely write out a whole entire screen worth of words if
there’s no audio narration or if the narration matches the screen words
exactly. But the moment one of those two streams
of information diverges, that’s when you’re asking the learner to make a
decision between which of the two information streams for that they should
pay attention to. And that’s the
condition that we want to try and mitigate or get rid of completely
ideally. And this presentation obviously
is us doing the multimedia, so that’s what we’ll be talking about for the rest
of this talk. And in fact the whole rest
of this presentation now that we’ve gotten through sort of the preliminary
information is talking about some principles for effective slide designs
for eLearning. I’ll weave those
multimedia principles in as we go along but they won’t be an explicit focus of
any of those slides that you’ll see visually. So here’s five principles for
effective eLearning designs. First, make
your eLearning designs accessible for people reading with their ears and for
people reading with their eyes. When I
say “accessible for people reading with their ears,” I’m talking about making the
elearning compatible with adaptive technologies like screen reader software—
and there’s other ones— that some of your learners will be using when they access
your elearnings. I’m also talking
about all those other conditions under which a lot of us consume eLearnings. For
example, I currently have the ability to see with
my eyes but there are times when I daze out during recorded elearnings. And
there’s times when my eyes are fatigued from too much screen reading and things
get a little blurry for me. And there are
times, I will admit, when I walk away from my computer screen to make tea and I am
just listening to the recording. So if
you’re a person who thinks of accessibility as an extra set of things
you need to do to your elearning projects at the end of the design
process so that deaf or blind people can access them, I hope you’ll come along
with me and expand your definition of what
accessibility means and what we’re really doing that process for. I’ve come
to understand disability is not about the person you may think of as having
one, it’s about how the thing I made for them disables them and keeps them from
being able to access the information in my design. It’s me who disabled them. That’s an important distinction for me
as an instructional designer because it places the onus on me to make sure that
I’m doing everything I can to meet the needs of the learner. And what that
distinction has done for me in my practice is that I now think of
accessibility as one of the foundational sets of design factors that I as an
instructional designer am thinking of at the beginning of the project, right
along with all the other things that all of us are thinking about when we’re
doing this work: learning objective alignment, pacing, sequencing, audience
level, tone of voice, graphic design, user experience, all those things. But to
reiterate, I’m thinking of accessibility at the start of the design process not
the end. And that can save time at the
end, and I’ll show you what I mean by that. Accessibility best practices, like I
said a few minutes ago, is a whole talk in itself, but I want to share just five
things that you can do easily. I do them
all the time in my work and they can— once you understand these principles,
they can kind of help you make additional design decisions based on
whatever context you’re looking at. So I
hope you find them useful. First is the
idea of providing text alternatives for any non text content. Anytime you have
nontext content like an image or a chart or a figure from a textbook, it needs to
have a text alternative for people who aren’t looking at it or who can’t see it. This means two things for us as
elearning designers. First, my script for
my audio narration needs to thoughtfully describe the images on the screen, which
you’ll hear me trying to model in this presentation and I’ve done a little bit
of so far and I hope you agree that I’m doing an okay job of it. And second, it means completing the alt
text field in the elearning software. If
you don’t know what I mean by that, I’m coming up to a slide in a few slides
from now with a resource for you for you to explore alt text further and what
that means. So this one I have cut and
pasted out of a journal and I will need to explain what’s going on. I’ve got a
slide example that reads, “the shape of a population pyramid reflects the growth
rate” and compares a rapid growth population pyramid from Nigeria and a
slow growth population period from Canada. In the second example I’m showing
an example of a table that is not actually a data table, it’s a picture of
a table. You could probably tell that
from this screenshot. We’ve all done
something like this in order to save time. But it’s only accessible when you
also take the time to create and link to a text version that you’ve typed out
anyway. So it can save you time to have
created that text version beforehand. Another thing to be thinking about when
you’re thinking about how to make your elearning project accessible is to
supply captions and a transcript. When
you have time-based media like a video recording or an animation or an audio
recording, just make sure it’s captioned and that there’s also an available
transcript. Those WCAG 2.0 guidelines—
web content accessibility guidelines— actually require both
transcript and captions for video, but for audio you of course only need a
transcript. The lynda.com interface, which
I have pictured here in a screenshot, does a great job of providing both of
those tools for us. I think we’ve all
appreciated those tools if you are familiar with Lynda and how elearning is
delivered there. A third thing: use layouts to arrange
your content rather than manually created text boxes. Layouts know how to
talk to adaptive technologies like screen readers, while text boxes require
that you sequence them manually and also that you add alt text to them. So you’ll
save yourself a lot of time if you use those predetermined layouts in your
slide template or if you take the time to design your slide layouts at
the beginning of a project. Related to
layouts, we need to imagine how the screen will be navigated by someone who
is using a keyboard to tab through each of the objects. And we need to make sure
the objects are sequenced in a meaningful order. Ideally the order in
which you’ve determined the visual hierarchy in your visual design would be
the same order that you would sequence objects. So that’s what I mean by logical,
meaningful order. This is a picture of
the reordering interface that’s available in PowerPoint. Google slides
doesn’t have this reordering feature like this. I know that Articulate does, and I’m
not sure how Captivate and some of the other authoring softwares handle this. But just for you to know that this is a
consideration that you should have. If
you don’t take the time to order the objects in a meaningful sequence,
adaptive technology software will read them in the order that you created them
and that may be different than the logical sequence that you had intended. This is also to iterate that if you use
those predetermined slide layouts that we looked at on the previous slide, some
of that work is already done for you because the slides—the adaptive
technology will read from top left to bottom right. You can check the sequence
by putting your cursor on one of the objects in your slide and pressing the
tab key and seeing where the tab— where the focus goes to determine what the
reading order is. Fourth, never use color
alone to indicate meaning; use color plus a second indicator to communicate
meaning. Some of these examples, depending
on the context of what you’re trying to show: color plus boldface, color plus size,
or color plus style. A good way to test
whether your design depends too much on color is to print it out in black and
white and see if it’s still understandable in the absence of color. One combination I hope you will not use
in a digital environment is color plus underline, unless it is actually a
hyperlink. Otherwise people will think
that you’re elearning is broken. So I’m
putting a nice big hash through that as a suggestion to not do that. And while
we’re talking about color, just want to talk very briefly about
color contrast. Contrast is measured as a
ratio of brightness to darkness. Most of
the time you’ll be good eyeballing this kind of thing, but I will give you a
resource for how to check color contrast in a couple of slides from now. But you
want to— you want to go for very dark text against very light background or
very light text against a very dark background. You may know more about your
learner context than I do and you may have additional points to add to this
discussion about screen lumens and visual fatigue. But what I want to
accomplish with this contrast conversation is just to make sure that
whatever you do, the text is clearly visible against the background. Now most
of us would not let this kind of thing happen on elearning projects: this is a
grayscale slide with the word “color contrast issues” in a lighter shade of
gray. Some of you, depending on what kind
of device you’re using, may not be able to see these words at all, but they are
there. But what I do see fairly often is
when people try to put text on top of images. This black text is placed on top
of an image of the side of a building that has a variety of colors in the
background. The text reads, “add a
highlight box behind text to create contrast over images.” It’s hard to read
though, because it competes with the background, and you can see especially it
competes in the darker areas of the image on the bottom line. We can improve
this contrast problem by doing just what the text says, which is to place a
highlight box behind the text. I also
added a little transparency to the box behind so you could see the image
as well as get the color contrast. You
are always safe with black and white. But
sometimes you want to use colors that are not black and white, and sometimes
you may have a question about whether you have adequate color contrast. So
here’s a second resource for you: it’s webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker. And that is a great resource if you know
the hexadecimal values for your colors. You can use that there. The last thing I
want to say about color is just to not assume that other people, particularly
your learners, will experience color the way you do. Some members of your audience
may have a vision impairment or they may not perceive color the way you do. This
slide shows each of the color swatches that I used in this deck along with the
hexadecimal value. Black is #000000. Knowing the hex values of your colors
can help you test for adequate color contrast as I mentioned a minute ago, and
it can also help with your design projects if they span multiple systems;
for example, if you want to use your company’s branded colors in both your
e-learning and on a separate website. Now
I’ve taken a picture of that previous slide and loaded it into a
colorblindness simulator. And you can
find a bunch of web tools that will do this kind of thing. I use one called
Color Coblis. This slide is simulating the
experience of my color palette for someone with red-green color blindness,
which is the most common type. And in
this shot, this is what my palette would look like if someone printed it off on a
black and white printer. This is another
reason we want to make sure we have good, strong color contrast between the
foreground and the background of the text on the screen. So this ends the
section of things that I wanted to say about color, and the end of my short list
of considerations for making accessible e-learning designs. But I want to leave
you with one more resource, the University of Minnesota’s accessibility
resource website. Accessibility.umn.edu has lots more
information about how to create accessible instructional materials,
including a video tutorial series that will show you start to finish how to
prepare slides for distribution, which is not exactly what we’re talking about
here, but quite quite close, quite related. So I hope you’ll find that resource and
bookmark that. So recall that we are
going through five principles for making good decisions in terms of multimedia
Elearning. So number two is to remove decoration in
all its forms because it detracts from the learning. Instead use images to evoke
emotion, to show what something looks like, to show a relationship, or to show
where something is located. And if you
missed that list, I’m going to visualize it in the next couple of slides. This is
called the coherence principle, which finds that people actually learn better
when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included. So here’s that Bitcoin slide again, that
little bit of innocuous bling that that slide author included at the top because
they thought that all that text made the screen look boring, it took you some time,
even if only a little bit of time, to figure out that that was decoration. Some
of you probably thought about it for a little longer before you realized it was
the Bitcoin logo. Now here is a makeover
that some designers might make in order to mitigate the amount of text on that
previous ineffective slide. This version
makes a conscious choice to put very little text on the slide and put a nice
big graphic. The text reads, “Bitcoin
transactions are recorded in a public ledger known as a blockchain.” The text is
accompanied by that grayscale close-up of one of the links that you might find
on the swings at the playground. This
slide looks— you might agree with me— more
modern, more clean, more sleek. But there’s
another problem with this type of slide that is an even bigger case for leaving
off extraneous details. I hope you’ve spotted it. I’m gonna go
ahead and jump to what I think is wrong with it, which is that
blockchain is not the same as swingset chain; they’re completely different
things. But people tend to remember
things that they see over things that they hear, and now we have put the image
of the wrong kind of chain into their head. This may interfere with them
actually remembering what the blockchain is. So beautiful slides is not
always the end-all be-all. I’m just going
to show you one more slide in this makeover series to make this point that
sometimes the design that looks prettiest and most modern is not always
the most effective. In this instance, a
schematic showing some more details of blockchain and how it works will likely
be more effective for understanding the technical aspects of this concept. So
here I’ve drawn four blocks which contain a hash and a timestamp. They’re
linked together with an arrow labeled “time” going forward and the blocks are
arrowed backward, showing that the blocks are verified backward to the start as
time proceeds forward. I see extraneous
images included on all types of slides, again, I think as an effort by people to
try and make things look less boring. Here’s a corporate stock photo. This is what I call “the 21st century of
clipart.” It’s plugging up a big hole, big
white space on that slide. I’ve also seen
it where the stock photo is plugging up a slightly smaller hole. And the problem
that I have with these things is that we are, in our culture, so inundated with
images all day long that we don’t stop to think about the fact that images are
so packed with information in and of themselves, and this information may or
may not be congruent with your message. In this example, the title of this slide
is “How to coach clients in filing the 1089.” And the image is a close-up of a
person’s hands holding a modern quill pen. They have well pressed dress shirt
cuffs. Eyeglasses are also visible. So
that’s a lot of information already, most of which you took in nearly
instantaneously. But an image like this
can send learners going off in all kinds of other directions mentally, and it
widens the gap between what you’re trying to tell them and what they’re now
thinking about. You may have gotten
distracted by the color of that manicure and may be wondering what this— what year
this photo was taken. That’s where my
mind went when I looked at it. Perhaps it’s
also occurred to you that the word “lunch” is clearly visible on this model’s
notebook, so you’ve realized there’s a disconnect between the promised topic
and the fact that this person clearly is writing in their appointment calendar
rather than helping coach clients in filing the 1089. In essence this slide
author was trying to make an interesting slide but ended up inadvertently
misleading and distracting the learner. So this slide violates the coherence
principle. Sometimes people interpret the
antidote to “slides have too much text on them” to mean, “let’s get rid of all the
text and have our learners look at pictures the whole time.” I hope you’ll
view the slides that are part of this webinar as evidence that carefully
selected text can accompany an audio narration under appropriate conditions. When we overuse this images-only design
technique slide after slide, we’re actually diluting the impact of it. And
even though your slide deck might look slick and polished, it probably won’t do
much to help your audience understand and remember the content. And as we’ve
said, comprehension and retention of information on the way to application of
that information is our main objective in any instructional design project. So here are four good reasons to use
images and graphics: to evoke emotion, to show what something looks like, to show a
relationship, or to show where something is located. Now I visualized these on the
slide because I think they’re kind of worth visualizing, powerfully pointing to
them, and hopefully they’ll make it into your notes if you’re somebody who’s
taking notes. And incidentally, I used that
conceal and reveal technique again. I
know you’ve seen that already in this deck. So here are some examples. This is
using an image to evoke emotion. This is
using an image to show what something looks like. This is showing the six
kingdoms of life to show a relationship; you can contrast this slide with the
idea of if I were to have listed those six kingdoms of life just in bullet
points and how you get a little bit more information when they’re arranged visuospatially
like this than if they were just bullet points. And then finally, to
show where something is. You could do
this with maps. In this example I’m
showing how you might walk people around a visual display, something complex like
a website. And incidentally I made the
webpage in this example into grayscale so that the colors of the website itself
would compete less with the signifiers that I had, the red boxes, where I
directed your eyes to the parts of the display that I wanted you to look at. So
that’s showing where something is. Where
words appear on the slides make sure the narration reads the words exactly as
they appear rather than paraphrasing. As
I’ve said previously in this talk, having words on a slide isn’t necessarily bad,
but like all other design techniques the words should be carefully and
intentionally selected with attention on the fact that people remember better
what they see and hear than what they just hear or just see, as I’ve said also. This technique is also easy to overuse. It’s the problem with powerfully
pointing at every single thing in your slide deck. One visual— any one visual
technique creates fatigue. Therefore, we should strive for a visual
variety just the same way as you coach your performers to strive for vocal
variety when they record the narrative track for your elearnings. I’ve thrown a
lot of information your way because we only have this one little hour together. But I hope that you will come back to
this recording in the future too so I’m not going to feel
bad about that. The fourth design
principle I wanted to talk about today is to make sure the graphics and
narration match up both in time and space. This advice is articulated in the
temporal and spatial contiguity principles I alluded to back at the
beginning of the talk. The temporal contiguity principle means
that the audio track matches what’s going on on the screen at any given time. But especially in an elearning project
that contains an animation, we need to make sure that the narration is
presented at the same time that the visual action it’s describing. This, like
all the principles, seems like a fairly obvious point, but I believe that our
instructional design practices are improved when we’re able to put
descriptive research-based evidence behind our decisions, so I think it’s
worth mentioning and talking about. Separately, I want to talk about spatial
contiguity, which means that people learn better when words and pictures are
integrated rather than when they’re listed separately. The other day someone
sent me a slide deck that had an organizing graphic on slide 2 and then
proceeded to present new information on slides 3 through 7 that required the
organizing graphic in order to make sense of. It was frustrating to me
because I had to keep clicking back to slide 2 for reference when it could have
been easier for me if the slide author had provided those reminders of the
relevant parts of the organizing graphic on each of the slides where I needed
that information rather than having me click back to it. Spatial contiguity is
all about providing a good user experience for your learners and making
sure that all the information they need is close at hand. Here’s a second example. It will be more difficult to make sense
of this diagram of the anatomy of a common snail if your learners have to
match up a number in the diagram with the number in the legend in order to
find the name of the body part. Even
though the legend is right next to the diagram, the learner is having to put
forth more mental effort, unnecessarily, to convert the numbers to labels and
back again in their minds. This
instructional graphic is vastly improved just by placing the words
right in the diagram. And we can go one
step further, depending on your context. 24 new things is probably way too much
to keep track of on a single slide. Notice how much less stressful this
diagram is if we limit the number of items and just show the parts of the
digestive system. Five, last of my
principles, is to strive for consistency within your screens and cohesion across
all the slides in your deck. I recommend—
and I do this myself— making a style guide for yourself each
time you embark on a new design project. This step doesn’t need to take a lot of
time; in fact, it can take you less time the longer your project is and the more
screens or slides you have in it, because you find as you go along that all of
your design decisions are made for you, after a fashion. A consistent set of
colors— color system— and a consistent set
of typefaces are the obvious visual decisions that you can make, but there
are also less obvious ones that you will want to make a decision about also. Those
can include things like the shapes of your pointers and also the speed of your
animations. I chose all fast ones for
this talk; I could as easily have chosen ones that come in a little bit more
slowly. The thing that matters most is
consistency and choosing one thing, sticking with it for your whole deck. If
we make consistent decisions in the slides we’ll have a cohesive looking
deck at the end. And the reason this is
important for elearning is not only professional credibility for you as the
author of the e-learning or you as the slide presenter, it also— as we have
learned, people tend to make meaning of things when they encounter differences
in a visual display. And if people are
encountering a lot of different fonts and a lot of different ways of conveying
what’s important and what’s subordinate information, they
have to spend more time decoding what you’re trying to say. You can make that a
more efficient process for them by making one set of decisions in your
slides and making sure that people can learn how to learn from your slides one
time and then it goes faster for them also when they go on. I
wanted to offer you— let you know that this exists. This is a book I wrote
called Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. It’s available for free at the website
academicslidedesign.org. It is the result of the
research that I did for my Master’s on multimedia learning theory. And I rewrote it
and illustrated it and want— I hope that you will go check it out if you
feel that this resource might be useful for you. And here we have arrived with an
extra three minutes for questions. So
what do you have? What are you thinking about? Matt. Matt Sturos, thank you for
this question. You’ve asked us, “What is
the best aspect ratio to use for designing elearning slides for the
diverse screen types that our learners will be using?” I think that I don’t know
the answer to that question. But what I
would say is what I have understood about screen aspect ratios is that 16:9—
that 4:3, the old aspect ratio that we were all using, the one that was a bit
more boxy, was designed for older LCD projectors, and we now have the newer
screens that are high-definition and that’s what the that the 16:9 or 16:10
aspect ratios are meant to try and help with. So I think that as devices continue
to modernize and people continue to modernize with their devices that we are
better off designing for that higher definition interface. And you may know
more about your elearning—your elearner context than I do, and you may
have more data about what their— what kind of devices that they have. But that
would be my first stab at that question. Thank you for that. Oh let’s see. Marlene Jon Choi: “Not a question but
a note.” Hi, Marlene. “These principles also
apply to pages in Canvas as well as slide decks.” Yes! Good! I am glad that you
find these principles to be a little bit more universal than just for elearning. I’m so glad that you that you made that
comment. Thank you. Hi, Diane Kleinman. “Is
it okay to use red to highlight or use a call-out on a slide or any colors that
are more or less preferred with colorblindness issues?” Thank you for
that question. I am thinking that the best way to test
for whether you have a successful color combination is if you print out the
slides in black and white and see whether or not it looks like the color
contrast is still preserved. That’s
really what you’re looking for. So I
showed a grayscale slide that had red highlights on it and I could also have
taken a picture of that and uploaded it to a colorblindness simulator just to
see what it might look like. And those colorblindness simulators are
useful because they show you what things look like in grayscale as well. So
you could try something like that. I hope
that points you in the right direction toward that decision-making. Judy Leibfried has asked, “How do you
feel about providing a printed copy of the slides to participants? Too
distracting? Or helpful?” I love this
question. In my day job I consult with instructors
who are lecturing to large groups of undergrads and there’s the concern
that if you provide the printed copy of slides to people in advance that they
are just looking through to the end. There is— I just read the abstract for a
study that talked about providing the slides as notes that
you could fill out, with some of the information removed and having some of
the— having basically a skeleton of the notes. And that kind of thing can result—
depending who your audience is of course, because I know not everybody is
working with undergrads and in that context— but that having the ability
to have something sort of halfway filled out for them can improve learning
outcomes. That’s what that study found. In
terms of— and you might put some more about the context of your question in the
chat box if that wasn’t useful to you. But I think printed
copies of slides are— to me, as an adult learner, I like to have the ability to at
least get the electronic version of things so that I can make my own notes
and access things later. So the way I
would approach that decision is just to be thinking about the user experience
and everything that I know about my audience. Stacy Barnsen, hello. “Would you
have any tips or suggestions for designing something that a student will
be accessing via smartphone?” I do. And
when I think about designing for all the different types of devices that people
might be accessing our e-learning content from, I think that making sure
that we have strong contrast of not only color but also of the size of text, and
if we can, offering some tools for learners to be able to change some of
those settings on their own— Many of the elearning softwares are
adding some controls that you can offer for the learner to be able
to make the text bigger on their own or make it smaller or whatever
they need to do. And like I said, many of
them if— there’s browser extensions that can help
help you be able to change the appearance of your text, other
things that the learner themself might do on their smart phone in order to make
the elearning easier for them to use. But what I would say more globally with
with that question is to be thinking more universally about the design,
and making sure to go back to those accessibility principles that I talked
about at the beginning of the talk. Thinking about things like whether I
have a text alternative to support those kinds of things where people are needing
to access the content some other way than the main way that you have
designed. So that’s what I would say
there. Well, I sure have had a fun time
talking to the cameras here, and there’s some awesome people here in the room as
well. So thanks very much for spending
part of your lunch or part of your day with me, and I hope to connect with you
again. Take care.

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