Learning Tips for Visual Learners in Distance Education Programs

10Essential Information
Distance learning programs may present course materials in a variety of formats, including pre-recorded lectures, online chat rooms, and interactive study materials. Different people have different styles of learning, although the three main categories are auditory, tactile, and visual. Auditory learners absorb information best by hearing and listening, tactile learners prefer to have hands-on experiences, and visual learners learn best when they can see a task or lesson being explained. This article focuses on the last group and provides some helpful tips and tricks for people who understand by seeing.

Online Program Levels Certificate, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral
Online Requirements Speakers, microphone, headset, access to software such as Word or Photoshop
In-Person Requirements Some programs may require residency or clinical rotation periods
Online Availability Fully online or hybrid formats
Online Undergraduate Degree Programs
Students looking for an online undergraduate education have plenty of options, as both diploma and degree options are available in a number of fields. Content delivery varies from school to school, but most programs use an online portal software such as Blackboard or Moodle to relay information to students. Visual learners can benefit from a number of tools, including video lectures and detailed diagrams. Other visual aids include Powerpoint presentations, graphic organizers, and blogs.

Information and Requirements
Students applying to undergraduate programs typically need only a high school diploma. Some programs, depending on their field, may require prerequisite coursework in subjects related to the major, such as math and science for engineering programs or foreign language for an international program. Technical requirements are also minimal, as students should not need more than internet access in order to attend these programs.

Common Undergraduate Majors
The following list contains a few examples of majors that online undergraduate students typically pursue:

Business administration
Accounting
Economics
Criminal justice
Marketing
Online Graduate Degree Programs
Whereas undergraduate degree programs provide a more general education, graduate education is normally much more specialized and focuses almost exclusively on a specific field or academic interest. Certain programs, especially those requiring technical expertise, may require on-campus sessions and laboratories wherein students can acquire valuable hands-on experience. These sessions can be an excellent opportunity for visual learners, as an in-person experience with a subject is often much more beneficial than listening to a professor describe it.

Balance Challenge with Skill

4Avoid putting the boss fight at the beginning and let players get in touch with their inner chi. Flow, as Jonathan Haidt puts it in The Happiness Hypothesis, “is the state of total immersion in a task that is challenging, yet closely matched to one’s abilities.” Aim to create challenging, yet interesting and achievable goals that lead to an optimal level of engagement. In A Theory of Fun, Raph Koster says a game should always be giving the player new patterns to analyze and resolve.

To achieve this, it is essential to understand the knowledge and skill level of your audience. It is also important to give players the ability to select the level of challenge (easy, medium, or hard). Creating different game modes (beginner versus advanced), embedding easy and hard challenges into a single level, or introducing increasingly difficult challenges as levels progress enables all players to enjoy and learn. It also maximizes re-playability because the players can learn something new each time they play.

We designed our trivia game with three levels. Questions and mechanics increased in difficulty from simple true-false to more complex multiple choice as the user progressed through the levels. Our action game was also designed with three levels. The first level was a simple scenario in which players had to bind two molecules to a receptor. The second level was a more complex case in which players had to identify normal receptors, avoid abnormal ones, and interact with faster moving molecules. The third level tested the mastery of all of these skills. This type of problem solving, according to Dan Pink, is key to intrinsic motivation because it gives players “autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”

Develop a Visual Language

3Goombas and piranha plants are as iconic to Super Mario Bros as star gems and hypercubes are to Bejeweled. Developing a visual language for a game is key to creating a uniform and intuitive game experience. We chose a game look with high saturation, strong outlines, and smoothed geometry to simplify complex molecular shapes. We also took liberty with the size and shape of the binding molecules to make the game easier to play and to reinforce the lock-and-key mechanism.

Two examples of visual language from science research and biomedical games
Figure 3. In this biomedical game, we used a simplified visual language to make complex objects like
protein receptors more iconic and easier to interact with.
Distilling complex biological content down into meaningful graphics, storyboards, and game levels was one of the most important, challenging, and time-consuming steps in the process. Luckily, we had several biomedical communicators on the team who acted as scientific consultants, artists, and game designers. Having these resources not only made our design process faster, but also made the player interactions and educational messaging more cohesive and accurate.

How to appeal against a school place decision

9How do I appeal?

You’ll receive a letter from your local authority stating that your child has not got a place at your chosen school. It will tell you how to make an appeal against this decision and the deadline by which you need to do this.

You must inform the local authority of your decision to appeal in writing. You’ll then be given a date for your appeal hearing at least ten days in advance.

What happens at an appeal hearing?

An appeal panel of between three to five members of the public will assess your case. At the hearing, the panel will be told why your application was turned down. They’ll check that the school’s admission arrangements comply with the Schools Admissions Code. Then you’ll be invited to say why you’re appealing against the school’s decision. You’ll need to explain why you think this school is best for your child and any special circumstances that support your application.

Once the appeal has been heard, the panel has to decide whose case is stronger – yours or the school’s. You’ll be told the result by post within seven days. The decision is legally binding. If your appeal is successful your child will be given a place at the school. If your appeal is unsuccessful, you can still put your child’s name on the school’s waiting list.

Tips for success

Contact the Advisory Centre for Education, which offers excellent advice on appeals. http://www.ace-ed.org.uk/
Write down what you want to say at your appeal hearing. You may find it easier to read out loud than speaking from memory.
Know your arguments and practice what you’re going to say.
You’ll need to explain why this school would be the best place for your child – concentrate on this, not on why an alternative school would be bad.
Take any additional evidence or documents with you – like a doctor’s letter if there are medical needs – to back up your case.

Understand Your Constraints

2Whether it’s gravity for hover vehicles or light speed for warp drive, understanding the constraints around your project is critical. Many designers feel that constraints make them more creative by defining the boundaries they can challenge.

Our team had many constraints to consider. Our platform was a large 8 x 2.5-foot touch table that comfortably accommodated six people playing at one time, two on each side and one at each end. This great crowd-drawing feature posed significant design challenges. Text and game elements had to be within view of each player (not on the other side of the table) and oriented right side up. Our solution was to use six individual docks for the trivia games and to split the table into two teams for action games.
Unlike Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, our game was targeted primarily at non-gamers: highly educated doctors of the baby boom generation, who were not likely to be familiar with gaming conventions. Without the ability to use sound, we focused on intuitive swipe gestures and finely tuned visual metaphors to make the game simple but not belittling or trivial.

We also knew that we would have limited time and much competition to capture attendees’ attention in a conference setting. For this reason, we designed the experience to be both flashy and quick. Participants were given a branded card to log in that contained a booklet with more detailed explanations of trivia and action educational concepts. Finally, participant play time could not exceed five minutes.

HOW TO LEARN ENGLISH FASTER: 10 TIPS

8English is a fun language to learn (here are 9 reasons why it rocks), and even though it’s considered an accessible and relatively easy one to learn, with 750,000 words and spelling that can throw off even the most skilled learner, learning English fast can seem impossible. But I’m here to tell you that it isn’t – as long as you have the right strategy.

Take these 10 tips on how to learn English faster as your starting point and you’ll master this wonderful language in no time!

1. READ EVERYTHING YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON
Classic literature, paperbacks, newspapers, websites, emails, your social media feed, cereal boxes: if it’s in English, read it. Why? Well, this content will be full of juicy new vocabulary, as well as a fair amount you already know. This helps you improve quickly, as re-exposure to learned vocabulary gives you new examples in context, therefore reinforcing those words in your mind. On the other hand, learning new words and expressions is essential to building your vocabulary arsenal, particularly in a language like English with so many words! However, don’t just read and move on – next, you’ve got to…

2. ACTIVELY TAKE NOTE OF NEW VOCABULARY
This tip is a classic one for good reason: it works! When learning, we often enjoy a new word of phrase so much that forgetting it seems impossible. But trust us, not everything sticks the first time. To fight this, get into the habit of carrying around a funky notebook or using a tool like Evernote. Whenever you hear or read a new word or expression, write it down in context: that is, in a sentence and with its meaning noted. This saves you time as you won’t return to that word and ask yourself: “What did that word/expression mean again?”

3. TALK WITH REAL LIVE HUMANS
What is a language for if not to communicate? Sure, we humans have become experts at communicating without opening our mouths – thanks Whatsapp! – but when push comes to shove, it’s true that speaking a language helps it stick in your head far better than only reading or writing it. Just think of how many times you’ve heard people say that they “understand, but can’t speak English.” A lot of would-be English speakers have turned talking into a huge insurmountable barrier that only serves to psyche them out. Don’t be like that. Seek out native speakers for an informal language exchange, enroll in a course, or take classes online.

4. SUBSCRIBE TO PODCASTS OR YOUTUBE CHANNELS (IN ENGLISH)
Like humor? Politics? Blogging? Cooking? With topics covering every interest imaginable, there’s an English-speaking podcast or Youtube channel out there for you. Subscribe to a few and listen while driving or watch during the commute to school or work. At first, you might find the native accents difficult, but stick with it and you’ll soon start to understand what you hear (as well as learning lots of new vocab from a native speaker!)

5. GO ABROAD
If there’s a better way to learn English than being immersed in it while living and studying in an English-speaking country, we’d love to know! It’s no secret that English is the most widely-spoken language in the world, and with a long list of countries to choose between, you can select your ideal learning environment based on hemisphere, weather, or favorite city. Think Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US, Canada, and South Africa to name a few!

6. USE YOUR FRIENDS
Have friends who post online in English? Don’t gloss over them in your newsfeed: scan the items they share and commit to exploring one or two each day. They might be news or magazine articles, videos, talks, blog posts, songs, or anything else: if it’s in English and the topic interests you, it’s going to be helpful!

7. ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it also propelled the language learner to fluency! As you learn English, you’ll soon collect a mountain of questions. Don’t sit on your doubts – be curious and resolve them! If you’re enrolled in a course, ask your teacher (it’s what they’re there for, after all). But if you’re learning alone, don’t worry: find answers in blogs or language websites, ask other learners, or read through forums. You’ll be happy you did!

8. TAKE A LEAD FROM THE STARS
Mix up your learning by picking a native English-speaking actor or singer you like. Now, head online, find a bunch of interviews they’ve given – and watch them! Watch once for gist, then again, taking time to note down interesting expressions and words you hear. The slang, stories, humor, and anecdotes that come out of these interview are sure to give you plenty to work with!

9. START WITH WHAT YOU REALLY NEED
Your English studies are likely to go far more quickly if you constantly remind yourself of your motives for learning. Are you going on a study exchange? Then, focus on vocabulary related to your studies. Have an overseas conference? Brush up on conversation starters to use with the other participants. Going on a gap year? Looks like travel and tourism vocabulary will be your guide. If you simply launch into learning English hoping to magically learn anything and everything at once, you’re likely to end up confused and burned out. Which brings us to…

10. DON’T KICK YOURSELF WHILE YOU’RE DOWN
When you start to feel like you’re not making ground – which happens to all learners at some point – don’t say, “I don’t speak English,” or “I’ll never get this.” In fact, ban those phrases from your vocabulary! They only blur your understanding of the progress you’re making and convince you that your dreams of speaking English well are impossible. Instead, say “I’m learning English and making improvements everyday,” “It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it,” “I’m so much better that I was six months ago,” and other phrases to remind yourself of the big picture.

Replace Words with Actions

7Although some of us are nostalgic for times gone by, we no longer live in the Wild West of text-based games like Oregon Trail. We found that when people play games today, they don’t read text; they want just to “figure it out.” Therefore, you should not rely on words to tell the story. Instead, use motion, interaction, and as Neil Long puts it, “Use mise-en-scene—the art of telling the story through the environment—to add detail to your narrative without being completely explicit.”

In our game, we used a visual map similar to a flowchart to prime the players on what game to expect. We then used a single speech bubble coupled with animated arrows to reinforce the message. Minimizing text means there are fewer problems with text orientation, which was a unique challenge of the large four-sided table.

From reading urban planning manuals to playing SimCity, people enjoy learning in many different ways. Experts like Jim Gee and David Shaffer agree that games enhance learning through role-playing events—real or fantasy—that players can’t experience in their own lives.

We wanted psychiatrists to walk away with two key messages: that two different molecules need to bind a normal functioning receptor to start a neural impulse, and that in schizophrenia this receptor functions improperly. To communicate these ideas, we made the main actions in the game “flicking” the two different types of molecules toward the receptor and “flicking” the gray abnormal receptor off the membrane.

Educational Games: Ten Design Tips for Immersive Learning Experiences

1Games have become the go-to technology for creating engaging and educational experiences. They have popped up online, in schools, in museums, at large corporate events, and at conferences. User experience designers are now facing the challenge of designing optimal gaming experiences in all of these new contexts.

People playing a game around a table surface.

A major pharmaceutical company tasked us with building a video game to teach attendees at an international psychiatry conference about the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. In case the complexity of the topic wasn’t enough, we also had to make the experience fun and engaging in a space filled with interesting exhibits, all competing for attention.

Our solution involved a series of short, interconnected games that took a new spin on both quiz- and action-style games (see Figure 1). Following the game’s success at the conference, we were inspired to share ten tips that we believe can help UX designers build blockbuster biomedical games.

Connect Learning to Prior Experiences

5Learning is like a game of Tetris: if you have time and the right building blocks, assembling a complete row is easy. But if you don’t, you’re left with gaps and an ever-growing tower of misconnected pieces. Game designers need to make it easy for players to build new knowledge. You can do this by layering information piece by piece and by using a visual language based on the audiences’ tastes and prior knowledge.

We used iconic biomedical representations of neurons, synapses, and neurotransmitters, which would all resonate with the psychiatrists. We also used the well-known lock-and-key metaphor for molecular interactions—also understood by this audience. Because players were able to visit other parts of the booth before playing the game, we ensured that the colors and shapes of our key molecules were similar to materials displayed in the booth so that the connections between the different media were clear.

Make It Fun

6Does fun, like the princess in the castle, seem to be just beyond reach? Well, button mashing won’t help! Challenges need to get harder and more surprising as players solve problems and learn new skills. This is because fun is created by uncertainty. Dancing just on the line between too hard and too easy is what leads to the “Aha! I got it!” moment, which motivates players to keep going. Neil Long has a great analogy: Good game design “is like a broken circle—make that break too big and the player won’t bridge the gap. Make it too small and it’s too easy, and the player gets bored.”

We added bonus ramps and combo cubes as surprising, non-biological elements, which proved to make the game more fun and kept attendees engaged (see Figure 4). We used points as well as color changes and pulsing glows of the game pieces and background to create an emotional connection and to reinforce good plays. We also showed players their final score, which was a combination of both individual and team efforts.