Effective visuals

Effective visuals

  • Pre-prepare visuals to optimise board space
  • Write succinctly
  • Use highlighting and point to direct attention

Optimising board space

Board space is very limited in the online classroom. Running out of room halfway through a proof or a solution and squeezing the rest into a gap on the side is unhelpful.

Here are some options for optimising use of your board space.

  • Load lecture notes into Microsoft OneNote or similar to obtain unlimited amounts of notepaper (for worked examples and explanations) beside the lecture notes.
  • Pack lecture slides less densely to allow more room for brief annotations.
  • Don’t write over printed slide notes. No one can read it. Don’t scrawl notes in any small gap between the notes. They don’t make sense when viewed afterwards. If you are out of room on the slide, you need to go somewhere else to write.
  • Include blank slides in your presentation where you can write examples and annotations.
  • Pre-prepare visuals for tutorials so that a single question displays at a time, with plenty of room to display or work through the solution. Don’t display the tutorial worksheet with all the questions listed: it leaves you with no room to work.
  • If you are going to be writing during the class, practise what you are going to write to work out how to best set it out on the online board.
  • Pre-prepare everything so you don’t need to write during the class.

Handwriting is difficult

Here are some suggestions.

  • Look for ways to minimise the amount of writing you need to do.
  • Prepare succinct solutions and give the extra explanation orally.
  • Pre-prepare written work (in word, Latex, OneNote) and then display it during the class rather than writing it up.
  • Factor the extra time needed for writing into your lesson.

Visuals to support learning

  • Use highlighting and pointers to direct attention.
  • If using complex visuals, take the time to explain each bit of them. Students cannot concentrate simultaneously on figuring out a complex slide and listening to you.
  • Keep visuals and text labels close together on the screen. If they are on different parts of the screen, this divides attention.
  • Use visuals that minimise cognitive load
    • use audio to explain visuals rather than written text
    • less is more (e.g., do not add redundant text that is a repetition of the audio), omit extraneous visual ‘noise’
  • Use graphics that build mental models – get students to explain and interpret the graphics.
  • Select visuals that communicate the relevance of the lesson content.

Design visuals that work in the virtual classroom interface

  • Visual real estate is very small and may only occupy part of the learner’s screen.
  • Plan visuals that are simple.
  • For complex graphics, use a series of slides that builds or use an overlay technique. This change of scenery will have additional advantage of holding learner attention.
  • Text on whiteboard – no smaller than 16 points.
  • Emphasise explanatory graphics.
  • Limit amount of text to key points.