Animation is an engaging format for delivering online content. We see it used in TED-Ed presentations, educational documentaries, and elsewhere. It is also much easier to make than many people think. Simple and free, or inexpensive, online systems allow anyone to make animated videos in a variety of formats. The creator chooses from a menu of characters, actions, and backgrounds; adds a narration audio track; and then chooses how the elements will move around a scene. These systems only take a few minutes to learn, and while they will not win you an Oscar, they are perfectly fine for online teaching.
One use of animation is to publicize a course on the faculty member’s webpage. I made one announcing a faculty development course that used two characters talking in a bar about challenges they face in teaching, with one announcing my course as a solution. Yes, it sounds hokey, but it’s an attention grabber that sets the tone of my training as interesting and innovative. We do little to inform students about courses or try to interest them before they sign up. Normally, they just get a brief description in a course catalog or perhaps a syllabus. An animated video will capture students’ attention and get them motivated to take the course. Animated videos can also be used in an online course to introduce a week’s content, what students should do, and what students will get out of each activity. They can also be used to deliver content itself if the instructor prefers not to use other video formats. Take a look at this example of an animation used to deliver a lesson on animal ethics: https://youtu.be/3HAMk_ZYO7g
Another option is to have students make animations as assessments. I have had students make animations that teach a topic. This is far more engaging to the student than a traditional paper, and students will respond with surprising amounts of creativity. Plus, the videos can be added to the course content itself to educate future students.
Here are some easy to use animation systems for making your own videos.
is one of my favorite tools for making RSA Animate-style videos. These videos display a hand that writes out, draws, or pulls in what you want to appear on the screen, making for a powerful effect that captivates your audience. As a creator, you are given a blank canvas and can add images from the system’s own repository or those that you import. You then direct the hand to pull in images as if they were being moved onto a whiteboard. You can also type text that the hand will draw out for you or load black-and-white images that the hand will draw out for you in the video.
To create this, or any other form of video, make sure to record your narration first and load it onto the site. Then pick the elements and set the action to match your narration as you move through the timeline. See a video introducing a faculty training site I designed as an example: https://youtu.be/id_AiIljB4Q
is similar in layout and functionality to VideoScribe. There are just small differences in characters and functionality. I find it easy to use, and I like the free stick figures with different motions that you can include, such as happy, sad, angry, and so on. Take a look at an example I made that introduces our school to new faculty: http://bit.ly/2glqwkt
. Also take a look at this tutorial on how to create a video in Powtoon: https://youtu.be/ypLODMIpGic
is a cloud-based system that allows you to put different elements onto a canvas, like the former systems. It differs because it provides a much greater range of characters, backgrounds, and movements, as well as more detailed scenes and different effects. It also provides a wide range of templates from which to choose. The quality level is up to marketing level, which is its intended audience, though it works fine for educational content.
lets users build videos using animated characters and preset scenes. You choose the character and scenes, and the action runs automatically. You can then either type text that the system will translate into a voice, which is admittedly a bit choppy, or add your own voice. Like most systems, it operates on a freemium system that gives you limited functionality for free. You can start with the free system and, if you like it, pay for the premium version to do more. Take a look at this short example: http://bit.ly/2gzwrp7
uses characters that look more like real people than other systems while still being animations. It also provides a three-dimensional effect rather than the flat effect of other systems. Like GoAnimate, with Plotagon you choose a scene with characters and motion and type in the dialogue. The movements are not perfectly smooth and the dialogue comes out a bit robotic, but it gets the message across in an interesting way. Here is the example I mentioned above about introducing a new faculty development course: https://youtu.be/87huqocuNzc
Try one of these systems to capture your students’ attention and add interest in your courses.