If nothing else, the key thing that both marketers and educators have in common is that they’re trying to create a deep, emotional connection between their audience and the message they’re trying to get across.
In marketing, this is beneficial because it helps motivate someone to take whatever step you need them to — usually, it involves finally coming down off of the fence and making a purchase. In education, it’s about getting students invested in a particular topic or less in a way that lets that enthusiasm create its own momentum. Students are more receptive to even complicated topics when they’re actively engaged with them. It doesn’t just make it easier for a teacher to teach — it makes it easier for a student to learn and, more importantly, to want to continue to do so in the future.
Marketers have been using visual communication to do precisely that for generations and to a certain extent, teachers have as well. But more often than not, teachers still fill lessons with textbooks featuring page after page of dissections of topics that naturally keep students at arms length.
Visual communication therefore becomes one of the best chances you have at actually breaking free from that mold.
The importance of visual literacy
What an increased emphasis on visual communication in the classroom really does has to do with a benefit that marketers have been enjoying for quite some time: it increases the sense of visual literacy within the context of the audience you’re speaking to.
Experts agree that visual literacy not only deepens that aforementioned connection between a student and their subject, but it also by design actively encourages the type of analytical interpretation that is invaluable in the classroom. Essentially, you’re teaching students a skill that itself eliminates some of the other major barriers that are present to learning in the process.
Evidence already exists that suggests most people attempt to visualize while reading to get a better understanding of what the text is trying to tell them. By doubling down on the power of visual communication, an educator can essentially cut out the middle man — they can convey the same information, no matter how complicated it may be, in a method that is naturally easier and more enjoyable to interact with.
The power of visuals in the classroom
For the sake of example, let’s say that you’re teaching students a complicated, multi-part lesson about the final days of the Roman Empire. You have two options available to you: you could sit down and write a textual lesson plan outlining everything you want them to know in great detail. Or, you can sit down with a presentation maker like Visme and present the same information in smaller, bite-sized chunks filled with relevant visuals and other related images.
Both options will contain the exact same information, just presented in two totally different ways. You might think that the former is more “academic” or “appropriate” for the classroom, but one thing that it objectively isn’t is more effective.
The truth is that the vast majority of your students will learn better via the second technique. Not only will this make communication faster and more efficient, but it will also help them store information longer, the visuals will aid in comprehension, those images will act as stimulators for emotions and all of this will come together to drive motivation, too.
The same is true for other types of visual materials, too. Using a graph maker to illustrate the political parties of the Roman Empire as a pie graph rather than as a wall of text will always yield better long-term results. The same is true when you use a service like Uscreen to turn that same lesson into a video.
None of this is to say that there is anything “wrong” with your students. It’s not a “problem” that people learn better visually than they do in a text-based world. It’s actually education finally catching up to the way that the human brain has always worked to begin with.
It’s a lesson that marketers learned years ago – which is why you’re seeing fewer 10,000 word marketing documents and more Infographics, presentations and other types of collateral. If you really want to speak to an audience in an effective way, you need to do so in their native language.
For humans, that “native language” has always been visual-based more than anything else. It’s an idea that has always been true and it always will be, so it’s time to take a page out of the marketer’s playbook and use that to your advantage.
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.