How Does Animation Reach All 3 Learning Styles?

Behind the scenes, Blog
July 16, 2018


Do you find you just can’t sit still when trying to learn something? Do you pick up more information from audiobooks than books? Or do you, like me, sleep at night amongst a big pile of graphs, maps, and pie charts? Whether or not you recognise it by name, chances are you’ve probably encountered the VAK model.

Yes, VAK. Sounds like an Invader Zim character, is actually an acronym for three learning styles identified by psychologist Walter Burke Barbe and fellow colleagues. VAK stands for Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic, and refers to three identified strength areas when it comes to learning new information. Most of us would claim to have a preference for learning by one of these methods (watching, listening, or doing) though research shows a mixed approach is generally gets the best results. With so many different learning styles how can we create something that will be memorable for all types of learners? How can animated video reach across the whole VAK audience?

1) Reach visual learners with iconography
Those of us who identify as visual learners traditionally absorb information in the form of writing, graphs, charts, and maps. We learn from watching, we have a better time visualising ideas and outcomes in our minds, and we are generally very good looking. That last part may or may not be scientifically proven.

On top of traditional text and graph tools, we have the added resource of video to learn from in today’s screen age. When approaching a factual video visual learners will benefit from explainer videos which use icons, pictograms and character actions to demonstrate the major points of the concept.

Feast your eyeholes on this example.

This video for software company Rundl uses clear iconography and visual storytelling to explain the concept of a professional services company. Split-screen is used to introduce the idea of multiple, interconnected services being needed to complete a project. A Rubik’s cube appears to represent the process being ‘complex’, a stopwatch for ‘time-consuming’, and a jack-in-the-box for ‘full of surprises’.

Within the first 12 seconds we understand the problem – the difficulty of dealing with a myriad of professional services – and the need for the brand solution of service management. Simple these icons might be, they plant a visual pneumonic of the concept in the viewer’s head which makes it easier to recall the basic concepts of the video later on.

2) Reach auditory learners with carefully curated sound
The auditory learners among us would probably prefer to hear a podcast version of this article. Hearing a lecture, having a face-to-face discussion, and giving oral presentations are classic ways of reaching and hearing from auditory learners in their element.

When watching an animated explainer video, an auditory learner best picks up information from the words of the narrator, character dialogue, musical style and sound effects. They’re more inclined than visual learners to take cues from changes in the narrator’s tone of voice, and more likely to remember written info when it’s accompanied by background music.

The research on whether listening to music helps or hinders our learning process varies widely, but for an auditory learner the idea is to simply be cohesive with your sound choices. That means choosing music where the mood matches your message. Sound effects should be used to emphasise key moments, and your voiceover script should read naturally and flow logically so your major points can be easily recalled later. Auditory learners are likely to respond well to jingles and other song-based videos, like the classic ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ campaign.

3) Reach kinesthetic learners with interactivity
If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you learn by doing. You are likely tactile, practical, and take a hands-on approach to new things. Maybe you prefer to learn new information while shooting a few hoops, squeezing a stress ball, or playing with a fidget spinner (and desperately trying to hide the fact that you own a fidget spinner). So if animation is all pictures and sound, how can an animated video speak to a kinesthetic learner?

Animation is ideal for demonstrative ideas like workplace training and educational videos, where viewers are shown a concept and then are given a chance to respond or try it for themselves. Brand videos in particular commonly end with a real world call-to-action – call us for more info, visit in-store for a free sample, order now on our website. In the case of the kinesthetic learner the CTA is the softer sell: it’s keeping their attention earlier in the video that’s the hard part.

Structure your videos with some level of interactivity to really seal the deal with a kinesthetic learner. This could be voluntary interaction like a ‘repeat after me’ segment in an educational video, or a more involved game-like structure where interactive choices are necessary to progress through the content. Financial education site Banqer takes advantage of this method to teach basic debt literacy to kids with this interactive video series. Using a first-person perspective camera and Youtube end screen tools, the viewer is placed in the shoes of the main character, and must make decisions which affect the outcome of the story.

Mixing it up
While defining yourself by your preferred learning style might hold a similar allure to determining your true Hogwarts house, studies show no evidence that teaching someone only by their preferred learning mode (referred to as the ‘meshing hypothesis’) gives better results. Studies do show, however, that using a variety of techniques (referred to as ‘mixed-modality’ presentations) is generally effective at improving results.

The ideal form of learning for a general audience combines visual, aural and kinesthetic elements. If we want to talk in terms of explainer videos (and we do), this is the combination of animation, voice and music, and a clear call-to-action.

Written by Maree Railton, smiling politely.