When I was in middle-school, I was always most excited about my painting class. Now, I wasn’t any small Picasso; on the contrary. Both myself and my teacher were quite aware of my lack of talent, but it made me really happy to play with colors. I didn’t make the most beautiful paintings, I didn’t get the best grades in class, but I was mesmerized by the way I could mix different colors and use them to create something on a canvas.
When I got a little bit older and went to high-school, the painting classes were replaced with a lot of math and programming subjects that I wasn’t as excited about. There’s just nothing appealing to the eyes in doing a math equation. I always missed having a class where I could create something that was visually interesting.
The point of this rant about my school experience and condition as a small neglected artist, is that ever since I was kid I was attracted to visual elements and that hasn’t changed till this day.
The power of colors over learning
Let’s talk a bit about learning and today’s students. Most of them are the same as I was — they are drawn to things that catch their eye, whether it’s a colored candy, a video game with some cool graphics, or a book with beautiful pictures.
Students have a short attention span and there are still a lot of subjects that they don’t like to learn about or absolutely hate (Economics comes to mind in my case). Of course, whether they like to learn or not about those subjects, they are still mandatory in most schools and they need to be passed. So how can teachers get better results from their students on those not so alluring subjects? The answer is by including as much visual and interactive elements as possible in the learning process.
Technology today has made it a lot easier for teachers to help students become more passionate about learning and not see it as something they need to get done in order to do something more fun, like going outside and playing with their friends. A good example of technology use to make learning more captivating by including visual elements is virtual reality.
Another good example are different learning tools such as LMSs, learning platforms, content authoring tools, and so on. These tools help schools organize their learning activities and make learning more interesting for students.
How visual elements can improve the learning process
Even though now there is a lot of technology and learning tools available, there are still many schools that can’t afford or simply don’t want to use any of them. And even the schools that use the technology still have most of their subjects created around a lot of text and bulks of information, without using any engaging elements.
There are a ton of studies on how visual elements help improve learning and I’m absolutely sure that most schools and teachers are familiar with the concepts. But why is it so hard for them to implement these?
Let me give you just one example of how things unfold when a school decides that they want to make learning more appealing for their students and teachers.
Most schools think that getting an LMS or any learning platform will help them instantly improve the learning process and make students and teachers more engaged. It’s not that simple. One thing is to get an LMS and another thing is to get a good LMS and learn how to use it properly in order to achieve the best results.
For example, most schools and universities still go through the RFP (Request For Proposal) process when getting a learning platform. In my opinion, this is an unnecessary and extremely old-fashioned process that doesn’t fit in anymore with today’s world full of technology, but nevertheless it’s still there.
So the school creates this really huge RFP with about 400 requirements that need to be filled in (no, I’m not exaggerating), 10 types of attachments, and so on. They usually list in the RFP every single feature that they think they need and that the LMS must have, but they usually end up not using at least 70% of them.
It’s good to know exactly what you want from an LMS, but most schools usually miss the most important part. They say they want an LMS that is engaging, user friendly, and appealing to students, but in their RFP you only find two lines related to these aspects.
Let’s flip things for a moment. What if schools would focus on the visual elements and user experience first instead of the feature set? What if the people in charge of selecting an LMS would ask questions like:
- Does this LMS has an intuitive user interface?
- Is it easy to navigate?
- How hard would it be to learn how to use it?
- Can I find everything I need easily?
- Would students and teachers enjoy working with it? Will they be excited about it?
- Does it have fun elements that will grab students’ attention and help them learn faster and more efficient?
These are the mandatory aspects that are essential to the learning process and every school should focus on. Of course, this is just one side of the story. The other side are the vendors and how they design their products, but that is a subject for another post.
In the end I leave you with a question: do you prefer your students to learn just because they have to, in order to get a grade, or would you like them to learn because they actually enjoy it?