Has anyone ever given you directions by just talking? Usually they gesture with their hands when they say, “turn left at Main St. and then go another mile to the big red barn…” If you work with the deaf or have a family member hard of hearing you may know sign language. Although giving directions is not formalized sign language, it is a language nonetheless – body language.
The term Instructional Design always bugs me when most of the focus and energy is placed on the design of the instruction and not much thought is given to the design of the delivery. Instructional Design encompasses the whole gamut of learning, yet most often when it comes to eLearning, somehow the design process gets overlooked.
Ever work on a collaborative eLearning project, and once it made it over to your desk you look at it and say, “If everyone would just design like me we’d have the bestest eLearning ever!” If you’re a soloist then it’s no problem. If you work on a team or in a training department then you may be familiar with having a meeting to discuss when the next meeting is to then discuss 17 color choices for the interface!
This post is not about getting bogged down on all the things to consider in the overall design of an eLearning course. This is about following a theme. Think of a collection of icons or icon packs. All the elements follow a design theme whether they are 3D or hand drawn. In my view, eLearning courses should follow a similar design theme across all elements.
Some of the overlooked elements are those small images or icons used as a way to direct learners to more information. For example: More Information icon or button; a Tip or Reminder image or icon, etc. Even after the instruction or lesson, the assessment should follow the same design theme.
So how does giving directions with your hands tie in with eLearning? The simplest way I can think of is if someone points me in a direction, my assumption is they want me to go there. Same in eLearning. If I want to draw your attention to something I may put an arrow, or use a brighter contrasting color with some instructional text. You’ve done it a thousand times. I’m a big proponent of communicating graphically, so if I can use an image to direct you, that’s just less text I have to write – and I’d much rather draw than write!
Ever say, “Go that way…” and point with your index finger? Why? You just said “Go that way,” so why do we have to point, too? Unless some sort of body language is included with that statement, the directionee will be as lost as they were before they asked you.
This theory of mine kind of works the same way in eLearning. If I put a string of text that says, “Go to the Next page,” learners won’t know how to proceed without some visual representation of where ‘Next’ is. A simple hand drawn hand with the index finger extended may be useful as shown here:
By drawing one hand and reflecting it vertical (flipping) it can be reused. The same hand rotated can be used as a directional pointer to visually say, “Look Here!” or by adding a string, this image can be used as a reminder or a tip as shown here:
Just as the index finger extended has several uses, the hand with the thumb extended can communicate other uses. For instance, a thumbs up image can communicate a correct answer to a question, while a thumbs down would be the opposite – incorrect. Or perhaps when emphasizing a Best Practice, a thumbs up can be a visual symbol to say “This is good stuff!”
If you take a moment to think about it, there are countless ways to use hands a simple communicating images. How many can you think of right now? How many ways can these two communicate?
You’ll notice these hands only have three fingers typical of a more cartoony style rather than a more realistic drawn hand. That’s not the point. The point is the theme in which they are used. The same hand with the index finger extended can be done in a more pixel style like this:
Obviously I’m not suggesting using hand-drawn hands in all your eLearning. I’m merely suggesting that images can communicate just as effectively. Just as the juxtaposition of words (spoken language) and hand gestures (body language), the juxtaposition of text and images opens up a wider range of possibilities. Using hands are natural as we communicate with them everyday!
Now your lesson for the day is to look at your hand and list as many ways to communicate with it (middle finger doesn’t count). First one to a hundred wins!