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Short, informative, focused: The secret ingredients of…


Give your learners a focused burst of information to reinforce your elearning course.

An explainer animation puts a lot of information on a single subject into a small package. They’ve been used widely by businesses and organisations to introduce complex concepts to customers and learners.

What is an explainer animation?

They have some key characteristics:

  • Short – Less than 3 minutes
  • Animated – Moving graphics
  • Informative – There’s a message
  • Focused - Deals with one subject

The explainer animation is often used as an additional element to an existing course. They offer added value for the learners by accelerating their knowledge of the subject matter.

From the learner’s point of view, explainer animations are interesting, attention grabbing and informative. Many people are familiar with this short video format, and have seen high profile public examples.

The WWF’s Change The Way You Think series is an example of this popular medium being used to drive an information-heavy message home in a way that a page of text can’t.

Learner benefits

Animations for learning take time to design and create, so it’s important to think about how they can be used most effectively to add value to the course.

Short video and animation content has some inherent advantages over text or still images when used in a learning context.

  • Attention grabbing

They help learning designers market the course to learners who are then more likely to complete courses. Explainer animations used for marketing and products have been shown to increase conversion rates by 20% .

  • Memorable

A well-designed explainer animation will keep the most important points from the training fresh in the learner’s minds, even after completion. By changing where and how often the animation appears in the course, you can help improve its impact on knowledge retention.

  • Easily shared

By making the animations available separately to the course you can use them as micro learning bursts that help reinforce the core material in a more convenient format.

By making the animations very short - around 15 seconds – you can boost their appeal for sharing.  Research suggests short clips are 37% more likely to be shared than longer content.

When can explainer animations appear in a course?

  • Start

Set the scene for a more detailed scenario by giving your learners an explainer animation that introduces the key areas of the course.

  • Middle

They can offer a useful transition from one subject to another. Because they focus on one thing that a learner needs to concentrate on, they help to focus their attention on the most relevant knowledge before moving on or being assessed.

  • End

A recap can be really useful for concentrating learners on the issues that they faced earlier in the course. It’s not the right place to introduce new areas of knowledge, but it will leave them with a good overview of the information they’ve learnt.

  • Separate

After introducing an explainer animation in a course you should consider making it available as standalone content. Learners can use the animation as a reminder of the content or a prompt to revisit training.

The business case for explainer animations

By improving the experience for learners you’re helping reach the goals of the course. Explainer animations can have more direct benefits for the wider business.

  • Cost savings

The faster your learners can get to the most relevant information for them, the more time and money you’ll save. Explainer animations allow learners to hone in on the subjects they need training in and avoid covering unnecessary ground.

  • Productivity

One of the most important ways that L&D can benefit the business is improving productivity. Using more efficient training tools like explainer animations gets learners up to speed more quickly .

  • Easily localised

Using illustration, animation and voice overs makes it easier to localise and translate the content of an explainer animation, compared to a video or photographic approach.

When rolling out elearning content to a global audience, it’s easy to overlook the time needed to make the different elements of a course suitable for all the audiences. Illustration and animations are one of the best ways to keep a consistent message across borders without investing too much time and money into localisation.

  • Re usable

The right piece of elearning content can be used many times in many different places. Explainer animations offer this flexibility.

If a course uses an illustrative approach, the assets from the course can be used in the animation. Creating explainer animations from existing assets saves time.

How are explainer animation being used in workplace learning?

Here are some of the ways we are using explainer animations as part of an elearning programme:

  • Change management – A major member of the fast moving telecoms market is using explainer animations to introduce new techniques for dealing with change within the organisation.
  • Values – A large retailer presents their values and policies in a short explainer animation to help learners understand the relevance to them.
  • Leadership – The different employee roles that a site manager needs to consider are laid out in explainer animations for a large UK company. A second animation recaps the specific issues of a module based around on site processes.
  • Systems overview – An explainer animation introduces the different systems and networks involved in a European agency.
  • Customer service – An automotive company uses an animation to introduce different customer service scenarios and visually explain why they are so important to the company’s performance.

Adding explainer animations to your next elearning programme has a variety of benefits for your learners and organisation.

Author: Rhea Stevens, Senior Learning Designer, Sponge