As medical education has evolved in recent years, the integration of new technology and new styles of presenting information has become paramount. One education method that has grown in prominence is the use of data visualization techniques to communicate and reinforce educational methods. The term “data visualization” encompasses a number of different multimedia approaches, including animation, video, infographics, and simulation. The defining trait among these approaches is that they stimulate visual learning pathways, providing an alternate approach to receiving new information. Visual learning has a number of key benefits that sets it apart from other teaching approaches and make it an attractive teaching approach.
- Easily Communicate Complicated Ideas
Humans have extremely limited attention spans. In fact, the modern human engages with a concept for only 8 seconds! The limited time spent focusing on a single concept makes it extremely challenging to present more complex ideas in a way that learners will easily digest and absorb. However, because human brains process images 60,000 times more quickly than they process text, data visualization provides a method to communicate complicated topics and information in a rapid and memorable way. Studies show that stimulating visual learning pathways enhanced long-term memory, and learners understand and retain more information. Use of infographics to summarize complex data or simulations to walk the learner through a difficult procedure can make a major difference in how well learners absorb and retain complicated messages.
- Capture and Reinforce Key Messages
The majority of physicians engage with educational activities for a short time, typically for 30 minutes or less. Given this limited time frame and the vast amount of information most educational activities cover, it is easy for key messages to get lost in the shuffle. Data visualization strategies provide a memorable way to highlight and reinforce key messages. This may be as simple as using icons, different color text, or short animations to highlight important points. While these changes are small, they can make a major difference: three days after listening to a spoken lecture, learners are only able to remember 10% to 20% of the key messages, but when lectures include visual aids to reinforce their key messages, learners recall 65% or more.
- Engage Learners Across Age Groups and Learning Preferences
A major benefit of data visualization is that it is highly customizable, and there are a number of different visualization techniques that can be used based on the situation, the audience, and the educational goals. Every adult has a different learning style and preference, and these preferences have changed as technology has become more pervasive and the medical workforce has become younger. Because they are highly customizable to learner need and situations, data visualization strategies allow educators to bridge the gap between different learning styles and situations.
Data visualization has become an essential component of medical education, shown to increase learning, improve information retention, and engage learners across demographics. Use of data visualization strategies in your educational activity can ensure it is well-received and memorable, increasing the overall reach and impact of your message.