9 Tips to Use Images in your eLearning Programs


Images have amazing convincing powers. But the wrong image can totally offset an otherwise smooth-running eLearning course. How can you be sure if your images have been well-received? In this article, we bring forward some useful tips to select the apt image for your eLearning programs.

There is a wealth of information in every picture. As eLearning professionals, we use figurative speech, imagery and storytelling to hook and engage the learner. And we all know, nothing captures the mind and imagination of an eLearner faster than an image.

The key is to use the correct image for the situation. This can be tricky, given the wealth of images we have at our disposal. Sometimes, it is too tempting to share more than one image in a situation, simply because we cannot decide which one is the best! But what is the best fit image in a situation of an eLearning course?

Read through these tips to make sure that the images you use in your eLearning courses support your online content, engage your learners, and convey the intended message.

Copyright Warnings

Respect copyright laws. That’s the single most important check when selecting any picture for your course. Remember, if in doubt, leave it out. You are better off without an excellent image if it would get you (and your company) in a copyright lawsuit! If the pictures you use are not from an authorized source, stay away from them. Read the copyright policies of each image.

Nowadays, most of the images have an attribution from Creative Commons. Follow the attribution sign to see where it leads, what it says and how to use the image appropriately in your context. Failure to obey the policies and guidelines of the marketplace may lead to legal conflicts.

Respect the original works of artists and graphic designers. Contact them if you cannot find attributing procedures and ask for their permission to use their work. Most artists are happy to let you share their work for free, provided you backlink to their websites or cite them in your references section. Do your copyright homework and avoid any unwanted surprises. Only use authorized images in eLearning! 

The Relevance Factor

The best way to begin your image hunt is to keep the learning objectives of your eLearning course written in front of you.

Try writing down image descriptions of what you may need for a particular learning goal. This exercise will clear your mind and prepare you to look for the desired image; it will also prevent the overwhelming feeling we get when there are too many images to choose from. Once you begin searching, narrow down your selections based on your prior descriptions. This will enable you to select the most relevant images.

When creating content for local learners, make sure you learn about their culture, language and background. Also, look for images that depict the local publics, climate or even businesses and retail stores. This creates an instant connection between the content and the learner.

Choose Images that Replace Text

A poor image choice will confuse, distract, annoy or even insult the intelligence of your audience. Remember, image choices reflect your credibility as an eLearning developer.

Your goal is not to fill up the empty spaces with images in your eLearning course. Rather, it is to select images that demonstrate the text. In other words, your image choices should help learners grasp the learning materials in a way that it is easy to understand and hard to forget!

Ideally, even learners who don’t read the content should be able to easily get the idea by looking at the supporting images. If you feel that the image is not giving the right message then you are better off without it. Just as one simple question: “What message does this image give to the learner?”

Emotions in Images

eLearning courses are popular for the excitement they evoke. Visuals that affect people’s emotions create a better sense of satisfaction and learning experience.

Making your learners feel through the image is the goal here. If the image makes them laugh, they are intrigued and want to know what’s next. If it makes them upset, they want to know the solution and even try to relate to it personally.

To ensure that you choose the right “emotionally charged” picture, but avoid being over the top, melodramatic or, in some cases, even offensive, use your audience analysis information: What are the learners’ aspirations and life goals? What do they expect from this course? The more you gain knowledge about your learners, the more “affecting” images you will be able to select.

Consistent Images

An eLearning course is required to have a uniform look and feel. This means that your selected visuals need to conform to the style of your course. For example, avoid mixing together clip art, vector images and photos. Be consistent with your image format.  Random formats would confuse your learner and obstruct the learning process.

Size Matters

The higher the resolution of your image, the better its quality. The lower the resolution, the poorer its quality.  High resolution means that the picture is clear, sharp, and all its details become visible.  But a very high resolution image will take a long time to download, making learners irritated. Use the correct size that offers a sharp image without compromising the download time.

Image Location

The location of your images on the screen really determines their appeal factor. An image situated in the bottom right corner is bound to go unnoticed! An image in the center can prove to be annoying. Place the most important image on the top left corner and place the relevant content at its immediate proximity. 

Quality Matters

Be very very selective about the images you choose for your eLearning programs. Remember to choose a high quality good fit over a poor quality excellent fit image in relation to the content. High quality images tend to draw the learner into the scenario and provide an immersive learning experience. Graphics and images that are poor in quality undermine your capabilities as an instructor and eLearning designer! Images are not fillers that you can splash anywhere. If not relevant, leave it out. Also, if you have demonstrated something similar in the previous slides, leave it out!

A Word on Photographs

Some technical subjects are best taught using real world photographs in which learners can see the work in progress, in the right sequence.  Another great way to use photographs is to integrate them in flowcharts. Learners can view the photographs in the right sequence and apply their learning in the work context.

eLearning courses are seldom complete without images. Selecting images that draw in your learner emotionally, don’t take too long to download, are of high quality, are descriptive and relevant to your text and above all, are copyrighted should be your ultimate goal in this oft-overlooked or rushed task.

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