Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
In today’s information rich society, and as more and more information becomes available, one begins to wonder: what is the best way to learn this information? Perhaps, traditional indepth articles are no longer the best way to learn new information. As the average attention span of humans decreases, it is possible that there are new methods that increase knowledge in a shorter amount of time? “By using engaging and informative infographics, educators can better deliver messages to their speciﬁc audiences (Niebaum, Cunningham, Sabo, Carroll, Bellows, 2015). The use of graphics and images attracts and engages the learner (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). “Images are powerful, which consequently makes a percentage of Extension clientele to indicate that they are ‘visual-learners’” (Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2016). Infographics could be the future of learning (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). In a study conducted at Kansas State University in 2018, researchers examined how different audiences (i.e. Extension personnel and students) learn information from infographic and text versions of the same information (Soehner & Johnson). The researchers utilized a hands-on activity and survey to determine which version is preferred for providing information in a clear and concise manner (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). Speciﬁcally, they used a recent article in a pest management professional journal to create an infographic version of the text to help determine how learning is best achieved (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The results of this study could also imply preferred methods that Extension clientele receive information.
The researchers conducted a quiz and anonymous survey that was approved from the KSU-IRB ofﬁce to measure learning and obtain preference data from different user groups (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). In order to conduct this experiment, the researcher’s ﬁrst selected a recent journal article titled “Integrated Pest Management of the Brown Recluse” that would normally be distributed to research personnel (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). Then, the researcher created an infographic that contained all of the same information as the article, just in graphical form (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The infographic layout captured all of key points of the article using concentrated text; and laid out in a logical order, grouped by subject heading. A short comprehensive quiz that contained four questions relative to the information found in both materials was created to collect relevant data (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The quiz asked the participant to indicate professional status (i.e. Extension personnel or student).
Figure 1. Journal article.
Figure 2. Infographic.
The researchers also created a short survey for participants to complete after the quiz activity (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The questions were on the survey were as follows (Soehner & Johnson, 2018):
This scale was included to certify the variance between locations did not have a large effect on the results of the survey. The researchers conducted the quiz/survey three times (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The subjects would be given both materials, the quiz/ survey, and ﬁve minutes to complete it (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). On October 15, 2018 the researchers surveyed a group of 5 research students in a small room type setting (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). On October 16, 2018 the researchers had an exhibit table at the Kansas State University Research and Extension Annual Conference in the Kansas State University Union Ballroom (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). At this conference, extension agents were learning about various projects in a poster session as well as professionally networking (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). In order to attract extension personnel to participate in the quiz/survey, they were given a free pair of gloves for completing the survey (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). On October 31, 2018 the researchers conducted the survey with two lab sections of the Entomology 613 Pest Diagnosis class in Waters Hall (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The researchers analyzed the data using the Microsoft Program Excel (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). They entered the survey responses into Excel as a spreadsheet with responses to each question by subject (row) (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). Each individual question of the survey was put into a bar chart separated into the student and extension personnel categories (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The responses are shown as a percentage of total participants within each group because group sizes varied (Soehner & Johnson, 2018).
Figure 3. Did infographic or text help you to better understand information?
Figure 4. Did you primarily use the infographic, the text or both equally?
Figure 5. The infographic was clear.
Figure 6. The infographic had aesthetic appeal.
Figure 7. I preferred the text to the infographic.
According to Figure 3, both extension personnel and students indicated that the infographic helped them to better understand the information. Figure 4 indicates that infographic was used by both subjects more than the text. However, it should be noted that a larger number of students indicated text as their primary source (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). While conducting the study both researchers observed the use of the text article among students (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). Figure 5 shows that a majority of participants either agreed or strongly agreed that the infographic was clear (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). This question was included in the survey because it corroborated that the infographic was comparable to the article (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The results shown in Figure 6 were a little more skewed from the researcher’s interpretation of the data. The majority of participants either strongly disagreed or disagreed that the infographic has aesthetic appeal. Figure 3 indicates that the majority of people disagreed or strongly disagreed that they preferred the text to the infographic (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The averages of the perceived mental effort resulted as 4.55 for extension personnel and 4.62 for students (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). These similar averages indicate that the location of the different test had little effect on the results, also that all of the results were relatively comparable (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). The students and extension personnel also had very comparable averages when looking at the percentage correct of answers to the comprehensive questions (Soehner & Johnson, 2018).
Conceivably, for best learning outcome, infographics should have more aesthetic appeal (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). Possibly the reason that the results did not yield as large of a majority is because the infographic had less of an aesthetic appeal as desired (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). Overall, the results indicated that the infographic helped both students and extension personnel learn better and that it was the preferred material (Soehner & Johnson, 2018). Extension educators can beneﬁt from this study by delivering extension materials in the form of an infographic. As with any educational method, the best results related to a comprehensive educational intervention is to utilize a variety of educational methods with an overarching purposeful educational design.
Crick, K and Hartling, L. (2015). Preferences of Knowledge Users for Two Formats of Summarizing Results from Systematic Reviews: Infographics and Critical Appraisals. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0140029. httsp://doi.org/10.1371/journal/pone.0140029.
Dunlap, J.C. and Lowenthal, P.R. (2016). Getting graphic about infographics: design lessons learned from popular infographics. Journal of Visual Literacy, 35:1, 42-59.
Martin, L.J. (2018). Exploring the Role of Infographics for Summarizing Medical Literature. Health Professions Education. https:// doi.org/10.1016/j.hpe.2018.03.00.
Niebaum, K, Cunningham-Sabo, L., Carroll, J. and Bellows, L. (2015). Infographics: An Innovative Tool to Capture Consumers Attention. Journal of Extension 53(6):6TOT8.
Ozdamli, T., Kocakoyun, S. Sahin, T., and Akdag S. (2016). Statistical reasoning of impact of infographics on education. aProcedia Computer Science 102: 370 – 377.