May 16

COMIC BOOKS AND ELEARNING: EXAMPLES AND RESOURCES by Jeffrey Dalto

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Comic books, the movies that they spawned, and graphic novels are a massive part of the American cultural scene these days.

For example, adults now freely admit to reading comic books. It’s no longer a dirty secret people hide. Do you read them? I do, and have since I was a kid.

We’ve seen serious books written about comics and the history of comics, including The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Heck, you can even take university classes on comic books–check out the courses offered by the Department of Comic Studies at University of Oregon as an example.

Graphic novels have come from nowhere to be very well respected. And deservedly so–a few of my favorites are Maus, Fun Home, and Persepolis. What are yours?

At the cinema, it’s sometimes difficult to see a movie that’s not based on a comic book character. That’s not necessarily a great thing (witness: Suicide Squad), but it does underline the fact that there’s a lot of interest in the characters and stories from comic books. The same with TV–how many shows on Netflix come from comic books?

And all this popularity isn’t without good reason. Sure, some of it is because with today’s CGI, it’s easier to make a more convincing superhero movie. But that’s not the whole story. Comic books and graphic novels are great ways to tell a story, and in particular, they are great ways to communicate visually.

Given all that, we’re going to give some thought to connections between comic books and eLearning courses in this article. That’s partly because a big part of an eLearning course relies on visual communication, and because visual communication is an especially effective way to learn.

This is the first of two articles about comic books and eLearning. In this article, we’ll give a general introduction to the idea and some connections. And in the next article, we’ll take a “deep-dive” view at the classic book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud, and we’ll see what lessons from that book we can apply to eLearning design and learning in general. In addition, yet another article takes a look at scenario-based learning, including some examples by the GREAT Anna Sabramowicz and Cathy Moore that are influenced by comic book design and storytelling.

If you want to zip ahead to the links of resources related to eLearning and comic books, they’re closer to the end of this article. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with relaxing and reading the whole thing.

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The General Interest in Comic Books and eLearning in the eLearning Community
Many people are talking about the connection between comic books and eLearning. And it’s not just us who want to introduce some elements of comic books and animation into eLearning for job training.

LOTS of people are interested in creating eLearning courses with a comic book-style. After all, if comic books are so popular, that must mean that people enjoy them. And why not introduce something enjoyable into workforce training?

We won’t go into this in detail, but here’s a short list of some articles on the web looking into this connection if you want to research this on your own a bit:

Articulate Blog–Have You Seen These Comic Book Style eLearning Courses?
Articulate Blog–3 Ways to Make Your eLearning Courses Look Like a Comic Book
Articulate Blog–Graphic-Novel Inspired Scenario
The eLearning Coach (Connie Malamed)–Creating a Comic Style for eLearning
The eLearning Coach (Connie Malamed)–10 eLearning Freebies (includes two related to comic books)
Anna Sabramowicz–The Comic Book Style of Scenario-Learning (video)
Anna Sabramowicz-Effective Scenario-Based eLearning for Instructional Designers
Arun Pradhan’s comic-book style explanation of Visual Learning
If you’re interested in learning more on this, a simple Google search will help you find even more resources.

And here are two great and justly famous eLearning courses that look a lot like comic books:

Cathy Moore’s Connect with Haji Kamal
Anna Sabramowicz’s and Ryan Martin’s Broken Coworker
Check those links when you have time. You will quickly come to appreciate the powers of the comic book visual style in these courses as well as see how well the style is suited to creating scenario-based learning activities.

Conclusion: The Connections Between Comic Books and eLearning
Hope you enjoyed this article and that it gave you a think or two to think about.

Speaking of, what ARE your thoughts about:

Comic books?
eLearning and comic books?
Scott McCloud’s book (if you’ve read it–remember, we’ll discuss it more in the following blog post?
Visuals for training?
Anything else you may be thinking of?
We hope you share your own thoughts, opinions, and experiences. Please use the comments section below if you’ve got a minute.

If you’re still interested, don’t forget to read our second article about Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. And be sure to check out the article on scenario-based learning to see some comic-book influenced example scenarios from Anna Sabramowicz and Cathy Moore, as noted earlier.

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Jeffrey DALTO

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He’s worked in training/learning & development for 20 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training.

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