Every picture tells a story …

Images are often an overlooked aspect of your teaching content. You may not include any, you might quickly search for a few things you can add last minute, or you may have a folder of trusty old images you use all the time. With some planning and forethought, they can become a very valuable asset to your FLO site.

How do we process images?

Humans are naturally drawn to images over text. Pictures transcend language and cultural barriers, making them a perfect tool for our multicultural climate. Overall, we tend to recall pictures faster than words (most likely because our brains can process images and colours faster than text). A great image will draw you into the content you’re working through, making it much more memorable.

Social media uses images extensively, bombarding people with a constant stream of visual stimulation. It’s a popular environment, showcasing how images can be great tools for explaining difficult concepts, grabbing attention or invoking emotional responses.

What types of images are available?

  • Infographics: These are an ideal vehicle for complex information or figures. You could make one to assist your students with an important theory or ask your students to produce one to demonstrate their ability to convey information, which may be a vital skill for their chosen profession.
  • Drawings/sketches: These are great for capturing concepts or initial ideas, especially from designers. A sketch of a design that captures the attention of your audience and draws them into the finer details can be priceless. This style could also be used to enhance your teaching or as an assignment task to test your students’ ability to communicate visually.
  • Photographs: These are the most common type of image. You should choose something that resonates with your audience, something that aligns with your story and supports the message you’re teaching. Don’t just pick random pictures and dot them around aimlessly. Consider whether it will help your students understand the content or be a distraction and detract from the message you want them to walk away with.

What should you look for in an image?

Start by thinking about your learning objectives:

  • What’s the purpose of the image? What story are you trying to tell?
  • Is it to explain a point or concept or is it to invoke an emotion to generate questions and discussion?
  • Is it to support information you’re giving to your students or the basis for an activity your students will complete?

Then, think about the origin of the image. Try to generate originals if possible, rather than rely on stock images. This will allow you to tailor the image content to your exact needs as you’ll have control over the subject and the environment. Imagine the power of an image showing a study space your students can physically visit, or a professional environment or task your students encounter on placement. These will allow your students to easily envision themselves in these settings.

If that’s not possible and you need to use stock images, take some inspiration from marketing experts and follow these tips:

  • Choose images matching the subject or profession of your topic to ensure they are meaningful to your audience.
  • Include a human element. That could be hands or feet, it doesn’t have to be a full person or a group every time. Preferably have them doing a task rather than posing for the camera as this helps the reader’s visualisation.
  • Use an image that captures the feelings you want your reader to experience. Create a connection using their emotions.

Are you allowed to use images from the Internet?

A vital step in the process is to check if you have permission to use your chosen image. Images from the Internet are still protected by copyright and you need to source ones that are licensed for reuse or allow you to make alterations. The Library has lots of expertise in this area and you can submit a ‘Copyright for my teaching material’ request in Service One if you have any questions about material for your site.

Unless you’re using your own images, where you can be sure of permission, it’s advisable to check the license agreement for all images. Alternatively, you could begin your search from a service that offers freely usable images (please be careful as some sites offer a mixture of freely available and paid images).

The following sites could be a good place to begin:

Using copyright-friendly images and attributing them to the author also sets a good example to our students.

What else should you consider?

Once you’ve chosen your copyright compliant image, there are a few more checks before you’re ready to add it to your FLO site:

  • Is your image of a high quality and crystal clear? Never use something that’s blurry. It should always look professional.
  • Have you checked the image size (pixels and height / width)? You can do this using a graphics editor and reduce the size if necessary. You don’t need an image that’s 80 cm wide and 3 GB to get your point across. That just increases the download time and potentially annoys your readers, especially if they’re viewing on their phone / watch or a slow Internet connection.
  • If you resize your image, always maintain the aspect ratio. If you distort the shape of your image it will no longer be of a high quality.
  • Consider cropping your image (if you’re allowed to make changes) to focus on a specific aspect or remove any unnecessary background. This can have a greater impact for your readers.
  • Maintain consistency across the images used within your site – consider colours, styles, orientation etc. to maintain a professional look and feel. Everything needs to work together harmoniously.
  • Consider the number of images you use – don’t use too many. Your site will look cluttered and you’ll detract from the messages you’re trying to convey.

Should you review your images?

Absolutely! This is a great thing to do each time your FLO site is rolled. Review your images at the same time as your other teaching content. This will ensure any updates to your material are also reflected in your images. You need to keep them current to ensure they are conveying the messages you intend. When designing a new topic, factor in the selection of appropriate images. Don’t leave it until the last minute. You want to avoid rushing and random selections.

If you haven’t worked with images previously, there are some helpful instructions in the eLearning Gateway. If you would like advice regarding your image selection, contact your local eLearning support team.

Jackie Cornell
Learning Designer – CILT

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Ed tech

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