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Animations for Learning: Design Philosophy and Student Usage in Interactive Textbooks

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technical Session 12: Teaching and Learning

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Nikitha Sambamurthy Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Nikitha Sambamurthy completed her Ph.D. in engineering education at Purdue University in 2017. Nikitha works with zyBooks, a startup that develops interactive, web-native textbooks for college courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines.

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Alex Daniel Edgcomb Zybooks

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Alex Edgcomb is Sr. Software Engineer at, a startup spun-off from UC Riverside that develops interactive, web-native learning materials for STEM courses. Alex is also a research specialist at UC Riverside, studying the efficacy of web-native content and digital education.

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Frank Vahid University of California, Riverside

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Frank Vahid is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Univ. of California, Riverside. His research interests include embedded systems design, and engineering education. He is a co-founder of

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Animations have been used in science and engineering to facilitate student learning of difficult concepts. For example, microwaves have been animated to help electrical engineering students visualize field behaviors, and electron flow in electrolyte solutions have been animated to address misconceptions in college chemistry. Much research has examined the effectiveness of animations and visualizations in engineering education. Further, many types of animations utilize various formats for conveying the dynamic concepts. Some formats utilize captions, some are continuous, some give student controls like pause and play speed, some use animations for only motion, and so on. We have developed an animation format philosophy over the last 7 years that has been applied to multiple engineering and math disciplines with wide-spread adoptions. Our animations are integrated into web-based interactive textbooks and been viewed 30 million times by over 500,000 students across 600 universities. The philosophy includes two general actions: Unveiling a complex concept, and visualizing a dynamic process. This paper describes that animation format philosophy, including pedagogical considerations made in designing animations, multiple examples, and reasons for implementing an animation.

Sambamurthy, N., & Edgcomb, A. D., & Vahid, F. (2019, June), Animations for Learning: Design Philosophy and Student Usage in Interactive Textbooks Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32095

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