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Addressing the needs of visual learners in training

According to a highly unscientific study I performed this morning on a few colleagues around the office, people recognize famous brands based on just parts of their logos! They didn't need the word Twitter, they didn't even need the entire bird in the logo — only its wing — to recognize everyone's' favorite social media channel. Mercedes Benz? No one fell for the hippie peace sign error. Microsoft? The green quarter in the upper right corner of their logo was enough. And so was the l from Coca-Cola.

What was my subject of study, you may wonder? Well, I just wanted to see for myself the image processor we call brain in full action. The human brain is said to process visuals 60,000 times faster than it does words. This might be just a myth, but to me, a picture is no longer worth a thousand words — it's worth 60,000!

From this to how visual cues affect the adults' process of learning was just a small step. A few click, actually.

First, a little bit of theory:

On adults' learning styles

Everyone learns differently, yet all of us seem to be prone to one of the three (VAK theory) or four (VARK theory) learning styles:

  • Visual — see the learning content;
  • Auditory — hear the learning content;
  • (Read/Write — read and/or write the learning content);
  • Kinesthetic — touch and interact with the learning content.

Of course, all learning styles are mingled in our learning process, but one always is more powerful than the other. More often than not, visual learning tops the results. I myself am a 60% visual, 30% auditory, and 10% tactile learner. Check out this quiz (based on the VAK theory) to find out your learning style.

How an LMS supports the visual learning style

Visual content plays a big role in the learning process of the majority of people. Visual cues help us better retrieve and remember information.

L&D professionals need to use visually engaging digital tools to address the needs of visual learners in training courses. Face-to-face courses need digital support for all the training materials, while online courses can't exist without an online learning platform. Therefore, a business LMS seems an integral part of delivering training courses to employees.

It's better to have brains than good looks, but why settle for half of what you can get? An LMS needs to do all the heavy work when it comes to creating courses, assignments, and tests, as well as gathering data for each learner and provide thorough reports. But it also needs to offer a great user experience for administrators, instructors, and learners alike.

Responsive design, intuitive user interface, integrations with third party productivity apps, clean infrastructure, complementary web fonts, or visually appealing color combinations — are all factors that can influence all visual learners and their learning progress.

Managers tend to prefer visual reports — with charts and graphics — over data-cluttered ones. Learners tend to prefer a variety of learning materials — text, photos, interactive presentations, concept maps, sketches, quizzes, videos — over text-only ones.

So, an LMS needs to offer both the brains, and the good looks when it comes to meeting the needs of all its users, and especially those of visual learners.

Engaging visual learners with training videos

Videos are the star of training materials. The higher engagement rates connected to video content are mostly the result of making learners use more than one sense during the learning process: sight, hearing, and sometimes even touch. This helps them make new connections easily and apply the new knowledge successfully.

Visual learners love videos because:

  • they can watch them as many times as needed until they get a strong grip of the new information;
  • they find it easier to understand new or difficult concepts, as videos provide a context for the learning content;
  • they feel videos connect learning to the real world, and make them more confident in applying what they learn;
  • they can easily find videos on any topic they are interested in, or when they need a more in-depth approach to a subject;
  • they feel they pay more attention on what is being thought and are more engaged overall with the learning materials.

Creating training videos no longer requires big budgets or highly-focused design skills — although neither can hurt — so instructional designers only need a decent camera and a video editing software to make do. Sometimes, small-scale is better than perfect, and velfies stand tall in this respect.

What about you? how do you prefer to learn? Do you identify yourself as a visual learners? How are videos impacting you learning? Share your thoughts in the comments section.