The Applied Roles of Graphics in E-Learning

The Applied Roles of Graphics in E-Learning

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-972-4.ch003
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In today’s modern and networked generation, sophisticated graphics are expected for learning. These digital graphics fulfill a number of learning purposes: to direct attention, to provide examples, to offer evidentiary proofs, to set a context, to introduce a personage or character, to offer an affective jolt to increase memory retention, to entertain, and others. Digital graphics work on both subconscious and conscious levels, and these effects will be examined. This chapter will enhance reader awareness of these rich and varied roles and potentially evoke a variety of creative graphical solutions.
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Chapter Objectives

  • Consider the applied roles of graphics in e-learning

  • Introduce graphical user interface; visual branding; documentation and verification; human identity and social presence; explanations, exemplification, categorization, comparison and contrast; relationships, cause and effect, and causal analysis; processes; downloads and enablements; argumentation and persuasion; complex information visualizations over time; decision-making and problem-solving; the creation of an immersive virtual context; extension of the human imagination; augmented reality, mobile applications, and ambient intelligence, and user-generated imagery

  • Enhance reader awareness of potential creative graphical solutions based on the roles of digital graphics in e-learning



Graphics and visuals fulfill numerous roles in e-learning, for both academic and work-place training purposes. In a general sense, these enhance the e-learning and keep it from being purely textual reading and writing. Images may supplement a curriculum. Still and dynamic images contribute to a full-sensory multi-media learning experience, enhanced by sound and interactivity. Visuals may make online learning more engaging and memorable. Visuals may be a centerpiece of the learning—the analysis, problem-solving and decision-making. Images may convey complex information.

A majority of visuals in e-learning work on the conscious levels but often go unnoticed by users who may be inattentive or untrained in looking at the graphics analytically. Digital images also promote different types of literacy: “statistical, graphic, cartographic and domain” literacy for youth (MacEachren, Harrower, Li, Howard, Downs & Gahegan, 2002). Visuals can enhance human imagination, and they can promote more accurate visualizations of particular phenomena.

This chapter will explore the various functions of digital imagery in e-learning and will offer examples of each type. One assumption is that there may be overlapping functions of the images, but that there are likely central guiding purposes. These will be organized in the order of the more simplistic, stand-alone images and then move to the more complex, immersive visuals. The organizing concept will be based around that of the main learning purposes of the images and their uses in the particular e-learning contexts. This involves consideration both of the motivations of the creators of the visual, the uses by the instructors, and the uses by the learners. Examples of each and some design implications for each will be considered.

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