Animations for Learning: Design Philosophy and Student Usage in Interactive Textbooks

Published 2019


Dr. Nikitha Sambamurthy
Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

Dr. Alex Daniel Edgcomb
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Prof. Frank Vahid
University of California, Riverside

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Animations have been used in science and engineering to facilitate student learning of difficult
concepts. For example, microwaves have been animated to help electrical engineering students
visualize field behaviors, and electron flow in electrolyte solutions have been animated to
address misconceptions in college chemistry. Much research has examined the effectiveness of
animations and visualizations in engineering education. Further, many types of animations utilize
various formats for conveying the dynamic concepts. Some formats utilize captions, some are
continuous, some give student controls like pause and play speed, some use animations for only
motion, and so on. We have developed an animation format philosophy over the last 7 years that
has been applied to multiple engineering and math disciplines with wide-spread adoptions. Our
animations are integrated into web-based interactive textbooks and been viewed 30 million times
by over 500,000 students across 600 universities. The philosophy includes two general actions:
Unveiling a complex concept, and visualizing a dynamic process. This paper describes that
animation format philosophy, including pedagogical considerations made in designing
animations, multiple examples, and reasons for implementing an animation.

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