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How do science animations enhance eLearning?

Digital space where digital media and animation meets science

Learning can be hard. And remembering what you’ve learned can be even more difficult.

Many students scratch their heads when they’re first introduced to a complex scientific concept in class. I sure did. It was only after class when I reinforced my learning with an animated explainer video on YouTube, that I was FINALLY able to understand the science and let out a breath of relief.

That's the power of science animations for eLearning. 🪐

Both engaging and concise — science animations have found a place in modern curriculums, transforming the way we digest and comprehend complex scientific ideas. Today, we're diving into the deep end of the pool to explore how science animations actually enhance learning.

Visual learning is embedded in our brains

You’ve likely heard a lot of people identify as “visual learners”. 👀

Though in truth, the vast majority of people will process information far more effectively with the help of visual aids. It’s simply undeniable that visuals play an integral role in how we understand the world around us, and even more so when the visuals are living, moving, and breathing through an animation.

In fact, several studies have found a link between:

(both of which we dig deeper into further down in this post 👇)

With 50% of the brain being devoted to processing visual information, watching a video or animation is like speed-reading through your favourite book or scientific paper in a blink of an eye!

Flip book animation of bird flapping
If only we could zoom through textbooks like a flip-page animation!

Every learner would benefit from watching an animation which presents complex scientific concepts in a palatable manner. This way, learners can focus on meaning rather than getting bogged down with complicated details.

Animated storytelling enables students to remember what they’ve learned

Climate change is great example of a scientific field that current and future generations will be heavily invested in.

To understand it, students could read through several textbooks about global temperature changes, hypotheses about the shift in the seasons, the centimeter-by-centimeter rise in sea levels, or the immeasurable impacts to worldwide ecosystems. 📚

Or, you could follow the journey of a lonely polar bear on our melting icecaps, navigating what’s left of their home through a visually stunning animation. 🐻‍❄️

Polar bear floating away on the melting ice caps
First it was my ice couch last week, and now there goes my ice kitchen.

Which one would you remember more?

  • The former is great for providing every minuscule detail about the scientific basis, current affairs, and impacts of climate change.

  • But the latter is more likely to hook you in, and embed the big picture ideas into your memory.

Still, some may argue that stories in animations are prone to oversimplification. Though, what’s vital is that the animation fulfils its primary goal: to hook you in with emotion and make you to want to learn more!

In other words, animations do not replace traditional textbooks, but instead supplement each other. In fact, our director Dr Tullio Rossi created an animation about Coral Bleaching, which was then the inspiration for several educational booklets on the subject, catered to students of various age groups.

With a simplified narrative, you can enable students to retain and recall information more effectively, as experiences tied to emotions are more deeply embedded in our memory.

iCarly GIF of Sam saying These things are great! It's like TV in your head!

Embedding a story within a science animation can enable learners to enjoy or understand the topic first, which is the best kind of motivation to encourage further learning!

Science animations are highly accessible learning materials for anyone anywhere!

It’s no secret that the recent global pandemic flipped the switch on traditional learning, pushing us into the world of online education. Since then, educators have needed new innovative strategies to adapt to a remote teaching approach, with science animations being a key part of the solution. 🗝

Indeed, animated explainer videos have emerged as a powerful tool for teaching and eLearning. Though in reality, they have always been great at teaching science, like these 5 epic YouTube channels have been doing for years.

Science animations offer an audiovisual experience where students can pause and take notes, all from the convenience of their personal study spaces. While recorded online lectures have continued to offer this experience, watching 1-2 hour PowerPoint lectures have often been associated with a drop in student engagement. The human attention span is a fleeting thing!

Student binge-watching 30+ recorded lectures before the big semester exam.
Student binge-watching 30+ recorded lectures before the big semester exam.

So what do we need to prioritise to ensure that an animated explainer video remains accessible?

🗝 The key is in the length of the lesson

If you condense the key messages of the lesson into a concise and captivating script for an animation, students will be empowered to learn without feeling a sense of information or jargon overload. We recommend animations of 2-3 minutes each to broadly introduce students to a topic, which can always be supplemented with reading material or the lecture itself afterwards to flesh out the ideas. This means less waffling, more explaining, and more engagement! And it’s important to note that when outsourcing animations, they are usually priced by the minute. So keeping the animation short helps to stay within budget!

📖 Storytelling is vital

According to presentation experts Chip and Dan Heath, only about 5% of people remember a statistic, while 63% remember a story. Stories naturally pique human curiosity, especially if they’re written with a certain game-changing storytelling formula in mind, or with the inclusion of a relatable character (like the polar bear from earlier). Lessons should therefore should evoke as much of a student’s curiosity as possible!

🏃🏻 Use motion wisely to explain concepts

Animation is all about moving objects, and therefore motion is key to creating a great animated explainer video. For instance, a ball being pushed from Point A to Point B is a clear way to explain the fundamental laws of physics to young children. Their eyes are glued onto one object on the screen. Therefore when creating an animation, it is important to always consider what the eyes are drawn to at any given moment. Too many moving objects, or too much motion, can be difficult to follow (and you might just blow the student’s cognitive load!). If you’re looking to DIY your first animation for the classroom, consider a beginner-friendly style from our selection. 😉

And so with these considerations, imagine how animation could unlock a world where we minimise geographic and cognitive boundaries to learning, and ensure everyone has access to quality science education!

Trade your classroom whiteboard for an animation

It’s time to clear out the complex whiteboard scribbles and make some room for an animation which will speak VOLUMES for your students.

Though, if you’re not an animator yourself, you can enlist the help of the right experts!

Animate Your Science is run by a dedicated team of PhD-trained science communicators and professional artists, whose mission is to communicate complex science by creating captivating animated explainer videos for researchers, educators, and more. Through our custom animation services, you’ll be able to convey your lesson’s vision to us, which we’ll then transform into a compelling short animation that’s fit for the classroom projector. It’s a fantastic return on investment in order to provide your classroom with engaging, informative, and memorable learning material!

Need a sample? Here’s an animation we created to explain how genetically-engineered bacteria have been used to diagnose for colon cancer. The work was featured on two news outlets here, and here!

Contact us today to learn more about how to Animate Your Science!

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