Just listened to last week’s podcast of Science Friday. Ira interviewed a guest who specializes in “big numbers” and who talked about how one goes about communicating such indescribable values. Just as I was about to shout “Eames video” at my iTunes, a caller referenced the famous Powers of Ten short film.
The Powers of Ten is the classic video demonstrating how powerful “adding another zero” to numbers can be. While the video quality is clearly dated, it still stands as an excellent example of how to use multimedia to communicate complex concepts. (You’ll need to submit your name/email to view but it’s worth it)
Did you notice how little text was used to support the content? It’s an eight-minute narrative that contains LESS text than most one-minute elearning slides while effectively communicating distance and relationships from 1 meter (100) to 100 million light years (1024) and then down to .0000001 angstroms (10-16 meters).
The narration is supported by:
- zooming images;
- graphic overlays; and,
Text is only used to communicate the current distance from the Earth. Overall, it’s a very simple production. How simple?
This effect can be created with simple animations and motion tweens, however, we’ll take an even faster approach.
The zooming in and out of an image reminded me of the Sofake web site. Knowing that they released a Flash component/tutorial in the Flash MX Most Wanted book a few years ago, I downloaded the source files from the Friends of Ed web site (Jordan Stone’s examples).
Next I launched Google Earth and took six screenshots of my house in Phoenix at different view levels.
Finally, I dropped each of those images into Jordan’s source file and now have an interactive version of the Powers of Ten film.
This was a very quick example and for more customization, most designers would want to work with the development team. But in less than 30 minutes, we had a rapid prototype of the effect.
So, if using a minimal amount of text can be used to communicate incremental distances from 1 meter to 24 light years, why do we rely so heavily on text for so much of our courseware design?
Answer: It’s easy!
It’s considerably easier to Cntrl-C/Ctrl-V a block of text from our scripts than it is to create something. But if we don’t do it, who will?
Even if you’re currently stuck with page-turning elearning, what would two extra hours of development look like to drive home a key point or two? At the very least, it might wake up your audience:-)
Every course, regardless of how banal the content might seem, has opportunities for greatness. One of our roles as elearning designers is to identify those opportunities and creatively communicate them.