From simulating the exponential spread of the COVID-19 virus to understanding biases in machine learning algorithms, explorable explanations are used in teaching about complex concepts and mechanisms. By combining visual metaphors, animations, storytelling, and interactivity, they offer a medium for "thinking the unthinkable." In this graduate-level course, you will learn how to design effective explorable explanations (and more broadly interactive simulations) for learning. You will delve into concepts from instructional design, cognitive psychology, and information visualization to create explorable explanations about complex ideas. You will examine different types of explorable explanations, such as interactive infographics, simulations, and games, and learn how to design these types of learning content using web-based tools. You will also develop the skills necessary to offer design feedback and critique and evaluate explorable explanations. The course is targeted toward students interested in designing computer-based interactive learning content as well as those interested in multimedia learning research. The material will be covered through lectures, readings, design critiques, design assignments, and a final project.


By the end of this course, you will be confident in producing explorable explanations for teaching complex concepts. Specifically, you will be able to:

  • Understand the key design elements and design principles for creating explorable explanations.
  • Apply concepts from visualization, instructional design, and cognitive psychology to represent learning content as interactive explanations.
  • Create explorable explanations by following an iterative prototyping process.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of explorable explanations based on aesthetics, engagement, and learning goals.