Making the most of animation in elearning

Animated video can be a powerful way to convey a concept and engage your learners. But where is animation’s sweet spot, and when should you consider a different approach? Read on for some inspiring examples that demonstrate the benefits and impact of using animation to facilitate learning.


95% of learners respond best to visual or verbal information

Animation is a broad medium and can come in many forms, with different visual styles and approaches that can be used to appeal to all groups of people. The Social Science Research Network has concluded that 65% of people are visual learners and 30% of people learn by hearing. This makes animation the perfect format for delivering content that appeals to your learners.

If you’re thinking of using animation in your elearning it’s important to consider upfront what you’re trying to communicate and the effect you’re looking to have on your audience. This will help you decide if animation is the best approach to use.

5 examples of animation in elearning being used at its best

1. To introduce a concept or topic

One of the most common use cases for animation in elearning is to introduce your subject matter. It’s likely that you’ll have come across this many times either via introductory videos in learning content, or promotional pieces that help spread the word about a topic.

Using animation can get the essence of your topic across in a clear and concise way to grab people’s attention and explain its importance, which can then be expanded on in the wider learning content. This introductory video from Litmos Heroes on the subject of Unconscious Bias is a great example.

This example introduces the subject of Unconscious Bias in an engaging way, with colorful illustrations and typography that help visualize the concepts.

Bringing in humor through the tone of the voiceover and the playful animation grabs attention without overshadowing the serious subject matter – something that would have been hard to achieve in a sensitive way through film.

2. Tell a story

Stories have the ability to hook us in, connect with us emotionally, inspire us and be remembered. Done well, storytelling can really make your learning content come alive.

This interactive experience from The Open University uses animation to bring three very different narratives to life. The stories each explore a sequence of events leading up to the arrest of a character and subsequent analysis of criminal evidence.

Interactive experience

Animation is a great choice here as enables the learning content to introduce topics like violent crime without being too alarmist – a line that can be difficult to balance with video.

Using an animated approach in this interactive was also a pragmatic choice, as filming live action video with the number of locations and characters required would have been a costly and time-consuming choice. Animation instead enables each scenario to be fully brought to life, depicting the detail of each story without any constraints.

The stylised illustrative approach has also influenced the rest of the learning content with color-coding and graphics being woven through the whole scenarios to make the experience feel cohesive and joined up.

View the interactive in full here.

3. Make complex information memorable

One of the strongest use cases of animation is to help simplify and communicate complex information. This is where animation really comes into its own as you can use it to communicate information that can’t be captured in video or text alone.

We’re thinking of explainer videos that show you the inner workings of the human body, large scale geographical processes, complex economic models or my personal favorite, that part in Jurassic Park where they explain the whole premise of the film through a simple animation about DNA. All of the above would be lengthy to explain in text and impossible to film as a video.

This animated video from Aviassist explains the Radio Broadcast format required for safely operating remotely piloted aircraft in the vicinity of an uncontrolled airport.

The animation uses visual aids to communicate the technical knowledge required for drone operation and summarises the information in less than a minute, making it bitesize but memorable.

4. Bring personal accounts to life

You’re probably all familiar with talking head videos, or vox pops, which can be a powerful and cost-effective way to bring personal accounts to life. But what if you aren’t able to film video clips of those people you’re looking to interview?

This interactive game from The Open University weaves viewpoints and opinions from historical philosophers throughout a series of scenarios which explore the morality of lying. These are presented via short animated talking head clips, which bring the philosophers to life and characterize them in a visually playful way.

Interactive game

A talking head viewpoint from the philosopher, Aristotle.

Each animation is combined with audio voiceover to bring the characters to life, providing an effective and engaging visual alternative to a text-based quote. In addition, each looping clip is reused a number of times throughout the interactive, as well as in static image form, to get the most of out of the assets.

View the interactive in full here.

5. Grab attention and provoke discussion

Whilst animations are primarily used to communicate information, they can also be used to encourage further discussion and highlight issues that require action.

TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. This lesson from educator Balsher Singh Sidhu poses the question ‘Are we running out of water?’ and explores the impact of our lifestyles on water consumption and how we can make changes to reduce this impact.

Animation lesson

The lesson is accompanied by thought-provoking questions, additional resources enabling someone to dig deeper into the topic, and a forum for further discussion to encourage peer to peer learning.

Considering the actions you want someone to take as a result of viewing your animation is an important step to inform how your animation will lead onto further content and resources.

View the full lesson here.

These five examples demonstrate a range of use cases for animation in elearning, which we hope have got you thinking about how you can introduce animation to support your content.

One final question – What about the cost of animation?

Often L&D teams can be hesitant about opting for animation in elearning as the upfront cost and time impact can be seen as a blocker, but if you’re sure that animation is going to benefit your learners then there are different options you can consider.

Not all animation needs to be on par with Pixar! A simpler approach can be just as effective without breaking the bank. This example produced by the creative production agency Brickwall for the NHS Leadership Academy awards shows how a subject can be brought to life via simple animated icons and text.

Animated icons and text

It’s also worth considering the lifespan of your animation and the wider application beyond its original use. Animation can be more easily edited further down the line than film, so if you anticipate future iterations or updates to your content then it can be a good route to go down. And there’s also the option of reuse across different mediums.

At Elucidat, we commissioned a bespoke animation for our website homepage which introduces our authoring platforms benefits and stand-out features. As part of this process, we also obtained a large resource of static assets and looping clips that we have been able to use more widely across both internal and external materials – a great addition to our brand library and good ROI for the initial investment in animation.


Inspired by these animation examples?

Visit our Showcase for more elearning inspiration and examples of ways to engage your audience.

Many of these examples are Giftable, so we can share them into your Elucidat account to use as a starting point.