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Is Visual Literacy important in Engineering Education?

Visual Literacy is something that we use in everyday life, but we may not have thought about it in depth before. So, what exactly is visual literacy?

We are surrounded by visuals including written text, art, films, digital images, and computer applications. We process this information through visual literacy. It helps us decipher the information we receive by creating visual images of things and it helps us make sense of it.

Visual Literacy is defined as the ability to understand, use, and create with images effectively. Visuals can be connected to learning styles to enhance learning (connection and action) and differentiates between visuals for learning and performance.

Did you know Steve Jobs wanted to see applicants’ drawing portfolios before he employed them? He said being visually literate is “having a vision and being able to articulate it so people around you can understand it and getting a consensus on a common vision”.

So how can visual literacy help in engineering education?
Visual literacy can assist students in expressing their ideas and can help them brainstorm with other students and teachers. Visual thinking is of importance to engineers as it allows them to solve technical problems and ideas visually. When students think visually, they are able to mentally represent shapes and to express them by graphic tools such as sketches or mind maps.

This is where the VLEE project is essential. The project aims to strengthen the visual literacy of engineers across participating countries and further afield by introducing innovative visual literacy training into our vocational teaching.

We are currently developing a set of resources which will improve the provision of visual literacy for engineering training in our VET system, these are

  • a Competence Framework (IO1) is a concerted effort to structure and communicate the engineering-specific components of visual literacy in a way that speaks the language of educators, addressing the specific gaps in their knowledge
  • a Toolkit (IO2) is aimed directly at teachers and trainers who wish to increase the quality of their teaching using digital visual media tools, but are unsure which tools to use and how to use them.
  • an Online Course (IO3) complements classroom work, providing teachers a practical resource to help consolidate student’s skill.

To find out more about these and the VLEE project partners, visit:




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