3 Tips for Using Animations in eLearning

The use of animations in eLearning is a powerful way to create an engaging learning experience. I always find animations most beneficial when I want to bring my content to life or visually communicate an idea. But, let me ask you this: how often do you use animations in eLearning without any real purpose or intention?

The truth is, when you’re new to eLearning it’s easy to think of animations simply as a design embellishment, and nothing more. Although animations in eLearning can help you elevate your learning content, they can also be distracting when used poorly.

Here are three tips for using of animations in eLearning.

1. Use Animations with Purpose

Animations in eLearning

The use of animations in eLearning, like any other type design, must be applied with intention and purpose. If you are unable to explain the purpose of a particular animation, you should consider changing it or removing it altogether. This is not to say you shouldn’t use animations in eLearning as a design embellishment; rather, it should help you accomplish something.

For example, let’s say you place a block of text over a background image. To help create some visual contrast between the text and the background, you decided to apply a drop shadow to the text. Although the drop shadow is a design embellishment, it’s an excellent example of it being used with purpose: to make the text easier to read.

The same concept applies to animation. Let’s say you have several images on your slide, and you want the learner to focus on one image at a time. To accomplish this, you have each image animate in separately. Like the drop shadow example, the use of animation, in this case, serves a specific purpose.

2. Be Consistent with Animations

Animations in eLearning

When you use animations in eLearning design, it’s always important to use them consistently. Consistency in design prevents your animations from becoming a distraction to the learner and appearing to be used without intention.

When you develop an eLearning course, you (should) know the importance of using consistent colors and fonts—it makes your course look cohesive and demonstrates attention to detail. Why shouldn’t the same concept apply to using animations in eLearning?

When using animations in eLearning, think of it along the same lines of using different typefaces and colors. Just as you would create font and colors schemes, create an animation scheme that includes a defined set of entrance and exit animation. Once you design the animation scheme, use it consistently!

3. Use Animations to Show What You’re Saying

Animations in eLearning

Using animations in eLearning offers you the opportunity to communicate your ideas visually. Just like you might use a meaningful image or icon to communicate an idea, the same can be accomplished with animations.

When using designing an eLearning course with audio narration, think about how you can use animations to enhance the message you’re communicating. Look for opportunities to remove unnecessary on-screen text and replace it with a series of images or icons that animate in and out in sync with the audio narration.

When using animations in eLearning to show what you’re saying, it sometimes helps to take inspiration from other sources. For example, explainer videos have become a popular method for communicating ideas and are a great source of inspiration.

Bonus Animation Tip: When in Doubt, Fade In and Out

Animations in eLearning

Finally, I couldn’t talk about using animations in eLearning without talking about the type of animations you should and should not use. Although tools like PowerPoint or Articulate Storyline include long lists of entrance and exit animations, it doesn’t mean you should always use them! Although having an object enter with a spin and grow might be exciting, you have to ask yourself if it’s meaningful.

So, I’ll close out this post with a simple saying: when it doubt, fade in and out.

What other tips can you share about using animations in eLearning? Share them by commenting below!

Additional Resources

Tim Slade
Tim Slade is a speaker, author, and award-winning freelance eLearning designer. Having spent the last decade working to help others elevate their eLearning and visual communications content, Tim has been recognized and awarded within the eLearning industry multiple times for his creative and innovative design aesthetics. Tim is a regular speaker at international eLearning conferences, is a recognized Articulate Super Hero, author of The eLearning Designer’s Handbook and creator of The eLearning Designer's Academy.

5 Responses to “3 Tips for Using Animations in eLearning

  • Thanks Tim! Good article and good, simple and rememberable advice for me as I get started on a new Storyline project.

  • I’m glad you’ve put so much stress of purposefulness of using animation. This is valid also for other kinds of illustration materials – images, schemes etc.

    Unfortunately, to learn what really works as an illustration and actually helps learning, it takes experience but also one needs to remember about collecting the learners’ experience and ask them about whether given animation is really adds value to the text content.

  • Katy Atkinson
    7 years ago

    Tim, this is on-point. As with any detail of eLearning, animation adds to a streamlined look and feel, particularly if done right. One method of applying consistent animations in Articulate Storyline is the animation painter. I find it a big time-saver when I want to apply consistent animations on several objects at once. Another method that helps me is just duplicating an existing slide and then replacing the text or graphics for that slide.

    • Thanks, Katy! I agree with you on using the Animation Painter in Storyline. Simply duplicating slides/objects is another great method for ensuring consistency! Thanks for sharing your tips!

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