Whiteboard animation is one of the most powerful teaching tools. Beyond having an educational “look”— the drawing hand recalls a teacher’s hand at a classroom chalkboard — whiteboard animation is able to break down complex concepts into simple, engaging videos (or GIFs). Here’s an example:
Before making your own whiteboard animation video, it’s important to understand why this style is effective. In this post, we break down the scientific grounding for whiteboard animation as an educational tool and how you can create whiteboard animations for your own organizations.
3 reasons to use whiteboard animation
According to psychologist Richard E. Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning, “people learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included.”
Mayer’s guidelines and other core principles of psychology make a strong case for using whiteboard animation.
The video style is guiding and simple, so viewers know what material to focus on without being overwhelmed. It’s also engaging — viewers experience a first-person sense of involvement in the construction of the concepts as the information is gradually revealed. With these three qualities, whiteboard animation is a powerful learning tool.
1. Whiteboard animation is guiding
Mayer’s Signaling Principle says, “people learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added.”
Whiteboard animation follows this principle with the cue of a drawing hand. It gradually reveals information, so it works well as a signaling mechanism to direct viewers’ attention. Here’s another example from voice artist, Samuel Fleming:
The effectiveness of the drawing hand is supported by recent research. Instructional technologist, Selen Turkay states that the cueing mechanism of the whiteboard hand facilitates “overt attentional allocation to direct learners’ attention to important content, making educationally important aspects salient.” Another study conducted by educational psychologist Logan Fiorella, together with Mayer, found that the presence of the drawing hand improved students’ learning in multiple situations. The students showed greater comprehension after seeing the instructor’s hand draw the lesson.
2. Whiteboard animation is simple
Besides the Signaling Principle, Mayer also offers a Coherence Principle that states, “people learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included.”
Whiteboard animations embrace this principle with basic black-and-white drawings and minimal text. This simplicity makes it easier for viewers to hone in on the essential content of the lesson without becoming overloaded or distracted by extraneous information.
But whiteboard animations aren’t merely simple. They’re also focused in their simplicity, incorporating what Mayer would refer to as “visually appealing” features, such as the guiding line drawings and the deliberate and sparing use of color to highlight the most instructionally salient material. Used strategically, such features, according to Mayer, initiate the cognitive process and lead to better learning outcomes.
Here’s an example showing pops of color for emphasis. Vyond’s Whiteboard Animation style is now color-customizable.
By sticking to the essentials in a visually appealing way, the whiteboard animation breaks down complicated concepts and communicates them in an understandable way.
3. Whiteboard animation is rewarding
Along with Mayer’s learning principles, further research helps to explain why whiteboard animation is a powerful learning tool.
The step-by-step revealing process of whiteboard animation encourages learning by engaging the viewer in an active way. When they see the drawing hand, the audience anticipates receiving information. As information is gradually revealed, it draws viewers in with the reward of the completed drawing and the finalized main point of each lesson.
Psychologist Richard Wiseman explains how this rewarding pattern can help us learn better. “You’re just making people go ‘ah, this is fun.’ Suddenly, it’s not so much work and that only makes them have a better time and, more importantly, it means the information is just going in,” says Wiseman.
Wiseman’s research shows that whiteboard animation does actually lead to greater retention. His study determined an astounding 15% increase in recall in the test-takers who viewed a whiteboard animation versus those who didn’t.
Researchers of instructional technologies have also proposed other hypotheses for viewers’ engagement in whiteboard animation. Turkay states that “[w]hiteboard animations place viewers in the animator/narrator role as the images are constructed, presumably with the goal of helping viewers mentally construct the concepts.”
This interactivity is built into whiteboard animation through the drawing hand, which puts the viewer into the physical position of the animator. Such “first-person experience of involvement”, Turkay continues, “encourages knowledge construction,” and Turkay’s research, in fact, shows whiteboard animations to have positive effects on the retention of learned material.
With these three key features — being guiding, simple, and interactive — whiteboard animation is equipped to engage learners and clearly communicate information. Factors such as minimal design and the focused use of color make it easy for viewers to comprehend information, while the drawing hand makes the learning process interactive, ultimately helping learners to retain meaningful information.
How to create great whiteboard animation videos
Whiteboard animation is a powerful learning tool with its minimalist style and drawing hand motion. With that said, there are often ways to maximize the educational value of a whiteboard video, whether it’s adding another style or blending them with additional learning materials. Drive your message home with these tips for creating great whiteboard animation videos.
Keep it short
It’s tempting to create a long whiteboard video — you may feel that you need to explain every detail of your subject to make sure viewers are informed.
The truth is that making your whiteboard video long will most likely make it more difficult for viewers to learn from it. The longer the video, the more cognitive overload it creates. With too much information to learn, viewers won’t retain all of the content you’ve shared.
Boost the educational value of your whiteboard by keeping it brief and focusing on your main points. We recommend creating whiteboard videos that are 60 seconds or less in length, like this video from L&D expert, Keith Anderson:
This length gives you enough time to focus on one bite-sized lesson or message without adding in too many details that overwhelm viewers.
To learn more about creating quick educational videos, visit our microlearning video hub.
Mix video styles
While whiteboard animation is effective on its own, as mentioned above, it can be mixed with other video styles to teach concepts more fully. Each style has its own unique connotations that can enhance the message or lesson you’re communicating. Live video might humanize the abstract concepts discussed on the whiteboard, whereas animation gives you full creative control to illustrate your points.
Say, for example, you want to create an explainer video to describe how your product works. To start the video, you might use whiteboard animation. The lack of color in the style can emphasize how life is more dull or worse without the product. Then, when you describe your product’s benefits, the video can switch to color to convey that your product improved the situation. Alternately, color mixed with whiteboard animation can be used to highlight key points, actions, or characters in your video.
Watch these examples from Snag., Cerego, and The Bergamot to see three different ways to mix whiteboard animation with color and live action video.
Emphasize video with supporting collateral
Your whiteboard animation doesn’t need to be the only educational content you provide. Supplement your video with supporting materials — advertisements, emails, learning guides, one-on-one training — to help your viewers understand your message even further.
For example, if you created a whiteboard animation video for new employee training, you might also create a PDF reference guide to give new hires with all their onboarding details. Or, you could keep a poster that explains the concept in the same room where you play the video.
Build your whiteboard animation skills
Continue learning about whiteboard animation videos with the following Vyond resources:
Apply these tips to create great whiteboard animation videos that are not only informative but also engaging for viewers to watch.
Engage and educate with whiteboard animation
With its combination of simplicity and movement, whiteboard animation is an excellent style for teaching new concepts. There is scientific grounding to back up its learning benefits, and it’s easy for organizations to create these videos, since they’re so short and straightforward. Use this guide to get started and create your first whiteboard animation video in Vyond.
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