Animation vs. Textbooks: The Facts


Walt Disney was once famously quoted as saying: “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something, than educate people and hope they were entertained.”

This has never been more true today, with many people constantly on the lookout for new methods that break down complex areas of study and condense learning into a simple yet informative format, to seemingly do the impossible: make learning fun.

Many people struggle to get their heads around the complex processes involved within science especially, and often resort to hours of reading numerous textbooks to try and make sense of certain scientific areas. For anyone in this position, I have some good news for you.

Animation > Textbooks
Research is now showing that watching animation as an educative material is one of the most effective methods for learning and retaining information, particularly within scientific subjects. Check out the findings below:

  • In 2004, Stith reviewed the ability of computer programs and animations to teach cell biology to students. He found that using animations was an effective alternative to using textbooks and concluded his review by encouraging the widespread use of animations in biology teaching.
  • In 2006, Thatcher compared the use of a textbook to a computer animation in teaching a group of medical students about DNA replication. Using the computer animation was found to be substantially more effective than the textbook, with significantly higher test results achieved. Even using the textbook after watching the animation did not raise test scores any higher, therefore indicating that using the animation by itself was enough to get the highest score possible for each candidate.
  • Similar findings were found in a study by Soika et al in 2010. During this, they compared two teaching methods – traditional paper teaching and teaching via computer animation. The differences seen were significant and education via animation was found to be more effective than the alternative paper format.
  • In 2015, the Virtual Cell Productions team at North Dakota State University studied and recognised the importance of interactive animations in conceptualising scientific processes, particularly related to cellular structures. They developed and released several freely available multimedia materials to support the learning of upcoming scientists who were struggling to understand particular areas of science.

So, there you have it. The next time you need to learn the basics about a complicated subject just remember: ditch the textbook, and watch animations instead.

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