Visual Learning3 min read

Not everybody learns the same way. Some students want to learn alone, and some study in groups. There are those who write their own text-only summaries, and those who create their own graphs, charts, and flash cards when studying. Especially this last category, the visual learning category, seems to be a very effective strategy – even for those who aren’t specifically visually oriented. So why, we wondered, doesn’t education technology do more with visual learning?

The VARK Model to Learning Styles

An often used model to give insight into learning preferences is Neil Fleming’s VARK model. This New Zealand teacher divides students into four dimensions, as outlined below:

Visual Learning: VARK
Image source: beta286.print.kompas.com

According to this model, there are students who prefer to study
Visually: information in a graphical form (visual aids that represent ideas)
Auditory: information in a spoken form (lectures or discussions)
Read/Write: information displayed as words (text)
Kinesthetic: information through experiences (doing)

(Want to know what your preference is? You can do a quick test on the VARK website)

Students who prefer visual learning remember things by sight. They therefore benefit from information presented in the form of a map, diagram, chart or graph. It also helps if the content is supplemented with and strengtened by the use of arrows, patterns, colors and shapes.

The number of learners using visual aids when learning is especially high amongst adolescents and young adults. This is because white brain matter, which is responsible for transmatting brain information between lobes, has a myelin sheath. Myelin transmits nerve impulses, which process brain information. But this sheath isn’t fully developed until around the age of 25. So especially for high school and undergraduate students, it’s important to give the students the option to learn visually.



There is some criticism to this model. It has not been proven that students have preferences and that they will learn best if taught in a method corresponding to the individual student’s learning style. The VARK model therefore acknowledges that there is some overlap between the four learning styles they identify. There are those who argue that students benefit most from mixed styles, for instance using both textual and visual techniques, and offer those to all students

That’s why we believe edtech should give the student the option to review information in different ways.

Visual Learning in SOWISO

In SOWISO, depending on the subject, theory pages now offer explanations both visually and in plain text. Content is given in the form of cards, and students can easily change the way the information is presented on the top right of the card.

Here’s an example of one of our new visuals. This particular one is about simplifying fractions.

We chose to use pizza’s to visualize the concept of fractions. This technique helps students comprehend mathematical content that isn’t easy to ‘see.’ We also used animations and colors, both in the visual as well as the text, to add some visual spice to the most important bits of information.

By presenting information this way, the core text stands out more. Furthermore, the learning process is extra engaging, and the students who likes to learn visually are able to remember the visual elements of shapes, colors and movements. We have found that having the option to see information in different ways improves the learning experience of the student.

We currently working hard on adding more and more visual elements to our SOWISO content. We’d love to hear what you think of the concept. Has adding visual aids to your classes helped you?

Let’s talk again soon,

Jeroen

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