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Do you need animation in your courses?

A new trend in (online) academic and professional courses is to include more multimedia. The theory goes that more interactivity leads to more engagement. This can be true. However, it does not necessarily follow that animation is necessary to courses.

Before investing in courses, think through the pros and guides on whether multimedia truly adds to your course, and whether it is worth the investment or not.


Let’s face it animation can look spectacular: having games and 3D scenarios and the like can have great professional appeal.

There are lots of things you can do with games and animation that you simply can’t with text:

  • Create characters that learners can engage with and that can range from the commonplace to cute or mythical.
  • Stories are particularly well suited to games and animation. This is because the structure of games typically have a cognitive hook of a beginning, middle and end. Stories like the ‘hero’s journey’ are familiar to almost everyone.
  • Including a competitive element such as a points tally, leaderboard, or time restricted goal to complete a course appeals to many learners.
  • Games and animation can also lead to alternative learning scenarios. For instance, learners can choose between options or alternatives. These decisions can create more consequence for learners and lead again to more engagement.


Games and animation is not without limitations.

Here are a few things to consider before going all out with games and animation.

  • One of the main issues/critiques of games and animation is that they do not lead to learning. While visuals and engagement is important to learning, it is not the end goal: learning is. It is probably not a good idea to use games to teach knowledge that would be better picked up via video, text or quizzes.
  • Games without purpose or that really slow down the learning experience is not uncommon. When games are built for skills or knowledge acquisition they can be magic. However, some learners find them slow and unappealing.
  • When learners are seeking to gain insight, reflection, or some internal dialogue, games can be distracting and needless. This is because there is a strong external stimulus, and this tends to externalise ideas, rather than promote deep learning. Games can involve deep learning, but often do not.
  • For many learners, the inclusion of games and animation can pose challenges. For those in remote or regional, non-urban areas, the speed of internet can really impact the experience of learning. Without having internet bandwidth or speed can be a classic issues.
  • Visual clutter can also be a turn off for some learners. If there is a lot of visual and audio noise within a game, if the purpose is unclear, or the information is overwhelming, learners can switch off.


Games and animation can bring courses to life. They can be used to develop entire courses, scenarios, or simply break up learning with interesting and engaging digital assets.

It’s not useful for all courses, however.

Thinking through the learning goals of your course prior to development is key.