Top 5 Reasons to use Analogies in eLearning

Let us start by defining an analogy – It is a comparison of two things based on their being alike in some way.

Analogies are one of the best ways to help the slow learners understand different concepts. Here are 5 reasons why analogies work.

  1. It speeds up comprehension and reduce learner frustration

Analogies identify a strong comparison between the concept and something that the learner may have a pre-existing understanding of, and the learner adapts this pre-existing knowledge to understand the new concept. This also helps in reducing the chances of frustration when they cannot understand the concept. Once a comparison has been made and the foundation of the concept has been established, you can spend the rest of the module re-enforcing the concept that they have an elementary understanding of.

  1. It provides visualization that boosts retention

In many cases, analogies can be used to create a linkage between an intangible concept and a concrete visual.

Here’s an example – Investing in Mutual Funds is like a throwing a boomerang. Initially, you feel like it’s going away, but after sometime, you will find the benefits returning back to you.

  1. It easily becomes an interaction

Visual Information has proven to provide stronger retention, but it’s not the only advantage that you gain with analogies. In e-Learning, visual concepts are only a few steps away from becoming interactions. For example, when teaching a course on communication, the different modes of communication like radio, is explained by saying that data is received on many different channels at the same time – but in order to hear them, you have to be tuned to the right station. This is the same as communication, we have to tune into the same frequency to understand what is communicated and what need to be communicated.

  1. It helps in changing perception

One should adapt their communication to fit their communication style of the person they are speaking to.

Let us try to understand using this example.

  1. The Door: The other person can be thought of as a door. If the door is open , the learner can access results or new opportunities, and if the door is closed, the learner is shout away from all other opportunities.
  2. A Lock: A lock represents the unique set of requirements, this person has to open.
  3. A Key: A key can represent the communication style the learner is attempting to use with the other person.
  4. A Doorknob: A doorknob represents the learners attempt to ask the other person for something and if it turns, it represents that the mode of communication is successful.

The belief of not changing your communication style in response to another person is equated by suggesting that you are using the same key for very door. Using this example, they can see how it doesn’t make sense to communicate in the same way to every person.

  1. It can provide a role reversal that produces empathy

One of the difficult things that instructional designers are asked to do is to influence the learner’s desire to do something. Analogies are the most effective in this area because they can provide a role reversal that helps the learner appreciate the other side of an issue and can motivate them to change behaviour.

For example, a company’s reputation can be explained in terms of a beautiful glass mosaic, and each piece of the mosaic signifies a satisfied customer. All it takes is one misdeed and that is signified by a hammer breaking the said mosaic. This visual puts the learner in disarray and disbelief as they have become invested in the building of the masterpiece and one small deed can destroy said masterpiece and makes them conscious of their decisions.

A word of caution

  • Your Analogy must make sense: A mistake in the application of the analogy can result in more confusion in the mind of the learner.
  • Your analogy should fit within a Context: The perfect analogy for your concept may not always work for the particular context of the training or the culture of the business.
  • Your Analogy should be easy to understand: Your analogy must be simple and broad enough to be understood by a number of ages, genders, cultures and backgrounds
  • Use Sparingly: Like all good things in the world, use it sparingly as overuse may result in a bad outcome. Analogies in the right amount will enhance your course like a pinch of salt in food.
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