6 Ways to Use Visuals in Remote Teaching

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This teaching tip shares different ways to integrate visuals easily into remote teaching. All examples are generously provided and reproduced with permission by faculty member David Sitler, who teaches in the Quality Assurance program.

Attractive and visually dramatic imagery can do more than gain students’ attention in remote teaching and learning. Visuals can help learners to introduce new information, provide examples, support understanding, aid recall, and reinforce important reminders (Burmark, 2002).

General Tips for Making and Using Course Visuals

Here are some of the suggestions from faculty David Sitler to those who want to start or enhance how they use visuals in their course materials.       

  • Think about how you might visualize a lesson with graphics and/or photos related to a subject you teach.
  • Attend a Teaching & Learning workshop or course on basic visuals and terminology.
  • Research possible Creative Commons photo databases, such as Unsplash.
  • Get excited about the visuals you are adding for your students including the added value to their course enjoyment.
  • Learn about how to make your visuals accessible to all students.
  • Think of your use of visuals in your teaching as a continuous improvement (Kaizan) approach. Allow time for your idea to develop by creating beta version A, beta version B, of the visuals that you use, changing and improving them based on student feedback etc.

David created his visuals using selected images from the Unsplash Creative Commons photography database. For each visual, David included attribution information, and wrote detailed alternative text (“alt text”) to support learners with visual impairments.

Ways to Use Visuals

See the sections below for brief descriptions, and examples from Dave’s course materials, on different ways to use visuals for course materials.

Click the accordion button (+) in each section below for examples and more information.

Presentation Title Slide

Visuals can be used as a title image in PowerPoint or other presentation slide for students during synchronous meetings.

Title : Pareto Analysis and Understanding the 20. Photo is of hand holding a black mug with the number 80 over 20.   The second line of the title begins the understanding the critical value of 20. Attribution information reads: "Lava" by Marc Szeglat is licensed under CC-BY-SA
Figure 1: Scatter Plots – Why R2 is Critical

Figure 1 shows a subject title for scatter plot graphing module. The lava illustrates the interaction between lava (x on the scatter plot graph) and ocean water (y on the scatter plot graph). The title also begins a discussion about what is a critical value and how it must be displayed on all scatter plots.

Digital Resource Title Slide

Visuals can be used in a digital resource as an introduction to a new week, module, or topic. Attractive slides can gain learner interest and focus.

Blue and purple rolling storm clouds, with flashes of light behind them. A colourful sky with storm clouds and lightning. Image reads: Statistical Calculator The Energy Behind Your Analysis
Figure 2: Statistical Calculator – The Energy Behind Your Analysis

Figure 2 shows a title slide for a presentation on using statistical calculators, featuring an image of a colourful sky with storm clouds and lightning provides. The image focuses on the effect or power of the calculator for computation, rather than just portray the calculator itself.

Concept Visualization

An image can be a visual representation or reminder of a particular concept or idea covered in class content.

Title : Pareto Analysis and Understanding the 20.     Photo is of a person at a laptop with one hand holding a black mug with the number 80 over 20.   The second line of the title begins the understanding the critical value of 20.  Attribution information reads: 80/20 photo by Austin Distel is licensed under CC-BY-SA
Figure 3: Pareto Analysis – Understanding the 20

Figure 3 is an image that appears within Dave’s course remote materials. The mug has an 80 over 20 on its face, representing the 80/20 rule. The title of the image, “Pareto Analysis: Understanding the 20” emphasizes the focus of the lesson on the critical value of 20 in pareto analysis.

Concept or Process Example

An image can provide a title, visual representation or demonstration, and reminder of a concept, process, or procedure.

Title: Cause and Effect Diagram , Why Six Attributes                Photo is of water droplets impacting surface water and creating waves.  Attribution information reads: "Water droplet" by Marten Brech is licensed under CC-BY-SA.
Figure 4: Cause and Effect Diagram – Why Six Attributes

Figure 4 is an image of a water drop hitting more water. The water graphic illustrates two related concepts, cause (falling water droplets) and effect (waves in the water). The second line in the title, “Why Six Attributes,” provides an introduction to a type of diagram that is used in cause and effect analysis.

Visualizing Thinking Steps

Visuals can provide an alternative means of describing or representing steps in a thinking process. By using visuals, faculty can help students to understand a process with visuals that break down the steps.

Screenshot of an Excel workbook page. Page contains written text and two images side by side.
Written text (Title): Definition of Root Cause Analysis. (Text): In science and engineering, root cause analysis is a method of problem solving used for identifying the root causes of faults or problems. It is widely used in IT operations, telecommunications, industrial process control, accident analysis, medicine, and healthcare industry. (Title): Definition of 5W. (Text): Five whys is an interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationship underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question, "Why?" five times. Each answer forms the basis of the next question.

Image 1: A visual with five numbered boxes that are empty. On the left side of the image, an arrow with text "Why is it happening" points to the first box. To the right of the first box, an arrow points from the first box to the second box with the text "Why is that"? The arrows and text "Why is that" are repeated for all of the subsequent boxes.

The right image is a photo of a Corsair plain taking flight, with an airport in the background. The image says "How does a plane fly?" The attribution information reads "Coursair take off" photo by Daniel Eledut is licensed under CC-BY-SA.
Figure 5: Definition of Root Cause Analysis

Figure 5 is a screenshot of a Microsoft Excel workbook page that defines and gives an example of root cause analysis. Root cause analysis proceeds with the 5 Why’s Process (5W), an interrogative technique that explores cause and effect relationships. In this screenshot, the 5W thinking process and an example for practice (“How does a plane fly?”) are visualized.

Course Reminders

Visuals can be used as gentle reminders of course review or exam dates, as well as other important course information.

A picture with a camera on a tripod, with a digital window showing in focus the background, a church spire which is out of focus. The text on the image says Focus on Success Final exam review August 13 at 3:00pm Attribution information: "Taking photo of Church" by Patrick Selin is licensed under CC-BY-SA
Figure 6: Focus on Success exam review reminder

In Figure 6, the visual explains that the final exam review is on August 13 at 3:00 pm. Shared in an eConestoga Announcement or email message, the visual also helps students to “focus on success” for this final assessment.

For more information on creating and using visuals, see related posts on Finding Images and Visual Thinking Activities for Remote Learning. Read Dave’s Faculty Story, Teaching with PopUp Visuals.


Burmark, L. (2002). Visual literacy: Learn to see, see to learn. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Elan Paulson

Elan Paulson, PhD, has been an educator in Ontario's higher education system since 2004. Before joining Conestoga as a Teaching and Learning Consultant, Elan was on the executive team at eCampusOntario. She previously served as Program Director and as an instructor in professional education programs at Western University's Faculty of Education. With a Master's in Educational Technology, Elan specializes in technology-enabled and collaborative learning to support diverse learners. She has also conducted research on faculty participation in communities of practice for professional learning and self-care.

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