How to Use Images Effectively in E-Learning – Any thoughts?

I have gone through a couple of e-learning courses where images are used frivolously. Most of the images used in such courses are given by the client and these images find a place in the e-learning course because the client wants the images to be there.

Most often images are used as decorative pieces in e-learning and therefore they add no value to the course itself.

I somehow feel most of us are really not sure how to use images and text well so that they compliment each other and contribute to the learning experience.

While using images in e-learning Instructional Designers need to spend some time thinking about how best to use images in the e-learning course.

What images convey to learners is of utmost importance in e-learning. Therefore Instructional Designers need to think hard if an image actually needs to be there in a particular slide in an e-learning course and whether using images to teach something makes any difference at all.

Tom Kuhlmann has an interesting post here on how wrong images in e-learning courses can confuse learners. Tom has some nice examples of how images and text can work well together and make learning effective.

Also check the site on Using Images in E-Learning. You can find real interesting information on the use of images in learning here. Thanks to Christy Tucker for finding such an useful site.

Now it’s your turn

  • Do you think images are effective in e-learning?
  • How much creative freedom do you have while using images in the e-learning courses you design?
  • Do clients direct you on what images you must use and where you must place them?
  • What are your pain points when it comes to using images in e-learning?

2 Responses

  1. I think images can be effective in e-learning, but we do need to be careful about how we use them. This is something I’m really trying to work on myself right now, as I think the visual design aspect is not my strength.

    Clark and Mayer argue in eLearning and the Science of Instruction that effective images with text are more effective for learning than text alone. Their review of relevant research showed a median 89% gain in learning when both images and graphics are used.

    I’m really fortunate that I have a great deal of control over what I can use, as long as I can find it or create it myself. I struggle with the time required to find and/or adapt the “perfect” images though, and because I have a very limited understanding of visual design in general I feel like I’m just shooting in the dark sometimes.

    I use a lot of stock photos, but I am trying to use more graphics for explaining concepts too. My stock photos are related to either the content on the page or the overall theme of the course (e.g., one course has a theme of conducting an orchestra, so some images are of instruments rather than directly about the content). That means sometimes my images are just about the visual unity and consistency, or reinforcing the theme. I’m doing a diversity course right now, and some of my images are just of symbols or art from different cultures. The course talks about using similar representations for teachers in their classrooms, so the images I choose are modeling that behavior for them.

    Your post got me thinking, and I did some looking around for sources on how to use images. I found this site, Using Images in E-Learning, which might be of interest to you.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your views Christy. I am sure many will appreciate the information you have given, as I do.


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