International Design Conference Design 2000

International Design Conference Design 2000


Dubrovnik, May 23 – 26, 2000

Application of Graphic Design in Visually Aided Educational Methods

Mr. sc. Vedran Jelavić, Head of Engineering Department at The

Polytechnic of Dubrovnik

Dr. sc. Luko Milić, Professor at The Polytechnic of Dubrovnik

Mr. sc. Don Hudspeth, President and Dean of the American College of

Management and Technology, Dubrovnik

Keywords: neuro-linguistic, auditory, visual, static presentation, dynamic
presentation, dynamic quantitative presentation and distance

Abstract:Visually aided educational methods combine verbal and visual techniques to transfer knowledge. A component of these methods has been studied in a relatively new area of Cognitive Psychology called Neuro-Linguistics. In Neuro-Lingistics study it has been demonstrated that visual image association combined with the transmission of new knowledge aids in the retention and understanding of the material. To maximise the performance outcome, a visual presentation must be carefully designed to enhance the interface between the speaker and the audience. Visually aided education methods were applied with 64 students in the course, Facility and Property Management, during the fall quarter of 1999 at the American College of Management and Technology in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Observations were made on the level of comprehension, the amount of co-operative behaviour, the level of class participation and the student to instructor relationship. Distance learning is an area of education that primarily relies on a visual interface with the student to convey knowledge. The observations and conclusions presented in this paper could be beneficial for this increasingly popular method of education delivery.

1. Introduction

Methods for transferring knowledge are increasingly becoming important issues for educational institutions. Different methods and approaches are used depending upon the profile and the level of the course. The traditional method of knowledge transfer is mainly realized through a speaker who lectures to an audience. The audience relies entirely on audio reception to gain the knowledge. The inherent weaknesses of this approach are that the audio reception can be easily interrupted and that the speakers dialogue does not effectively transfer the knowledge.

A relatively new area of Cognitive Psychology, called Neuro-lingustics, is now being used to improve the knowledge transfer between the speaker and the audience ( Robbins, 1994 ). The Neuro-linguistic method is based on the transfer and the reception of knowledge by utilizing two or more of the five senses (figure 1). The audience gains knowledge through the visual (imagery), auditory (hearing), gustatory (taste), olfactory (scent) and kinesthetic (touch) senses. In many cases it is not enough to solely receive information via the auditory sense. More efficient and effective knowledge transfer can occur when the audience can also see, smell, taste and touch in order to understand and learn. Since each audience, and the individuals in each audience, receives presented material differently, combinations of presentation techniques must be used. The most popular and simplest technique is the parallel use of an audio and visual presentation (shaded boxes in figure 1). This combination has been shown to be an effective and efficient method for knowledge transfer ( Jacobson, 1994).

Figure 1. Human Senses

2. Visually Aided Educational Process

The visual and verbal interface can be attained through various methods of presentation. The writers have categorised these methods as follows: static presentation, which utilises still pictures and images; dynamic qualitative presentation, which uses animation imagery; and dynamicquantitative presentation, which involves simulation. Static pictures and images can be effectively presented with the use of modern PC based graphic software. The imagery can be projected on a large screen and, or, the individual learners can access the it via a PC monitor. The PC allows the static pictures and images to be manipulated through scale changing and focusing details. Animation aids in the understanding of dynamic processes and is widely used in technical oriented courses. Simulation is quite often used in speciality training. Modern simulators utilise processors interfaced to consoles for both the students and the instructor.

Figure 2. Main Requirements for Modern Design

Graphics used in visually aided educational processes must be well designed in order to convey knowledge correctly and efficiently. Poorly designed graphics and imagery have the potential to distract and confuse the audience. Images must be tidy, distinct, and part of a thoroughly thought out design application in order to be effective. Creativity is essential in developing innovative and attractive graphics (figure 2).

Figure 3. Audiovisual Technique of Transferring Knowledge

Audio-visual techniques are the most common for knowledge transfer in the classroom environment. In this method, visual appliances are utilised to assist the instructor in the education process. The effectiveness of the audio-visual technique is related to the extent of interaction. The writers have grouped the extent of the interaction between the speaker, the audience and the visual appliance into five separate levels. On the lowest level, students are passive listeners. On the highest level they are actively contributing in the class through interaction with both the instructor and the visual appliance.

The first level is a verbal passive method of conveying knowledge which is a one way presentation from

the speaker to the audience (figure 4). Graphics are used to assist the instructor in his unilateral presentation. This method, although relatively simple for instructor preparation, can be very exhausting during long lectures. Also, audiences must be motivated to follow the instructor otherwise they are easily distracted and lose concentration. Visual appliances in this application usually

consist of overhead projectors and VCR/TV units.Figure 4. Level 1.

Level two is a verbal active method with instructors and students both contributing to the knowledge transfer. Imagery is used by both the instructor and the student to aid in the learning process. This is a better educational method because it allows the students to give the instructor feedback. The

Figure 5. Level 2. instructor can design the class according to the needs of the

students and pay more attention to particular topics. Student presentations during the class can often be the best verbal active contribution in a course. The students, in effect, subsidise the instructor for a short

period of time in the teaching role.

The third level is a visual passive method where the students view visual images presented by overhead projectors, VCRs, slide projectors, or personal computers (figure 6). Graphic software packages for PC use now enable students to view imagery in different positions, scales, and colours. The student can access the imagery, as he or she needs, in order to gain a full understanding of the material. Figure 6. Level 3.

Level four is the visual active method where students interact with visually active imagery on the PC (figure 7). Each student can personally select material that they require for the knowledge transfer and they can receive feedback with their learning. This method is becoming increasingly more popular as access to PCs, and the availability of interactive software increases for students. Students are now able to use animation and simulation models based on actual real world applications.

Figure 7. Level 4.

The fifth, and last level of audio-visual knowledge transfer is a three-way exchange between the student, the instructor and the computer (figure 8) which could be described as a visual-verbal active method. In this learning environment, the instructor assumes a facilitator role and co-ordinates the educational activities while students are gain knowledge individually or in groups. Computer based simulation, which at present is the most advanced classroom technique for learning, allows students to experience conditions that are very close to reality while still having feedback from the instructor and other students. Simulator development is now making greater use of equipment that interacts with the auditory, olfactory, and kinesthetic senses. Figure 8. Level 5.

The educational process must utilise all five levels of audio-visual interaction in order to motivate and actively engage students in learning. For example, complicated topics may be best learned and understood if the material is approached by initially using verbal passive methods (level 1). Verbal active methods (level 2) can then be used to supplement the learning. The best combination of methods is a function of the course material, the students, the support equipment available and the instructor.

3. Observations of Visual Applications in an Educational Process

Visually aided techniques were applied with 64 students in the course, Facility and Property Management, during the fall quarter of 1999 at the American College of Management and Technology. The students were divided into two class groups. The course lasted for 10 weeks, with two 2-hour classes per week for each group. The course was taught in the English language. English was a second language for both the instructor and the students. Each class experience accessed imagery with either an overhead projector, a VCR, or a PC. The instructor also used graphic symbols to categorise the course material; for example, all material pertaining to refrigeration and freezing equipment included an animated picture of a polar bear.

The following was observed in the course during the ten-week instructional period.

- Student concentration and focus appeared to be higher during classes where imagery was used in

conjunction with the lecture material.

- The students seemed to be more interested in the material when overheads or a VCR presentation was

used; they also were less distracted and consequently spoke very little amongst themselves ( about non-

class related subjects ).

- The graphics became a focal point, or reference, for discussion and learning, and also assisted in reviews

of material and knowledge testing.

- There also was more respect and open communication in the relationship between the instructor and the

students; the students appreciated that the instructor had made an extra effort to assist in their learning by

using the graphic symbols and imagery.

- Imagery can be used to make a potentially dry, or somewhat boring, portion of educational material

interesting for both the students and the instructor.

- Technical drawings are sometimes confusing for the student; better learning seemed to occur when the

instructor covered complicated topics by first starting with simple graphics and then gradually increasing

the complexity of the imagery.

4. Distance Learning

Distance learning is the process through which knowledge is transferred from an instructor, or from some sort of source, to students at a remote site. The most common form of this method of knowledge transfer is through PC based delivery. The knowledge transfer can be deliver “real time” on-line, or through “asynchronous learning” on-line. In the real time model students can actively interact with the instructor, or each other, in a “virtual classroom” environment. The asynchronous learning format allows the student to access the learning material when and where they wish, and consequently control the rate at which the knowledge is gained. Both models can be advantageous for the instructor (and the learning institute they are associated with) and the student.

The distance learning method for delivering knowledge has grown quickly with the increased availability of internet and email access for both instructors and students. Learning institutes and their instructors can offer courses to students across borders and time zones. The student no longer has to travel to the institute and sit in the classroom with the instructor. Both the institute and the student can have lower costs in the process. Once the course is developed, the incremental delivery cost for the learning institute, on a per student basis, is relatively low. The distance learning student saves money in travel costs and housing.

Since most of the knowledge exchange between the instructor and the student will utilise level three (visual passive), or level four (visual active) transfer methods, clarity and creativity in the design is crucial. The design component becomes even more important when the material is delivered in a language that is not the native tongue of the student. Accurate design in the graphics and animation can help to overcome the language barrier (Jelavić, 1999). Some learning institutes are delivering distance learning in remote sights by providing the students with a facilitator, or a teaching assistant.

Figure 9. Modified Level 5.

In addition to assisting the students in what the writers would call a modified level five (visual-verbal active) learning method, the facilitator can also give the instructor feedback on what is effective and what is confusing with the design of the graphics and imagery figure 9.

The modified level five approach may be a prerequisite for an efficient and effective level three and four delivery, particularly when the student is taking the distance course in a second language. This approach (Figure 10.) will be utilised in a course during the Spring quarter of the 1999/2000 academic year at the American College of Management and Technology located in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The findings could be useful for applications in other learning environments.

Figure 10. Real time on-line Distance Learning.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

Neuro-linguistic study has shown that knowledge transfer is more effective when it is deliver in a method that utilizes two or more of the five senses. With the expansion of PC based internet and email access, the visual interface presently appears to be the most efficient and cost effective method for neuro-linguistic learning. Which level of delivery ( as presented in this paper ) is utlilised is totally dependent upon the clarity and creativity of the design. Graphic and animation imagery aid in the understanding of the knowledge only if they access innovative and attractive design principles.

Distance learning is a growing area in the field of education and knowledge transfer. This method of learning mainly relies on a visual interface with the student. Consequently, design is also a crucial component of a successful transfer of knowledge in distance learning. The writers of this paper believe that it is important to receive feedback in any learning process, and recommend that a facilitator be involved with the initial phases of a distance delivery. In addition to aiding the learning process for the student, the facilitator can give the instructor feedback on the effectiveness of the design.


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