5 Questions You Should Ask When Choosing A Graphic For Your eLearning
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5 Things To Consider Before Choosing A Graphic For Your eLearning Course

A few years ago, when I started out in the industry, in my first storyboard, I remember adding images to almost every content slide only because it served as a break from an otherwise drab text screen. The images were related to the content and did not look out of place. I was mighty pleased with myself at having put in an ‘engaging’ factor in the course, in the hopes that the learners will be happy to see a wonderful picture tucked away in the corner. I’m sure it’s not a surprise that the review didn’t go as I had expected, and all the images had to be redone.

It’s been a long time since then, and I’m revisiting that memory today to give you 5 questions you should ask when choosing a graphic for your eLearning. When I say graphics here, I am referring to any visual elements such as icons, photographs, illustrations, layouts, or even videos that are plugged in, depending on your visual strategy. So, let's move on to the questions:

1. Is This Graphic Relevant?

As a beginner, I didn’t realize the importance of ‘relevance’ during my first storyboard. Most beginners (and clients) tend to add graphics because they ‘look good’, ‘brighten up a screen’, or ‘is a good break from the text’. This might lead to the images being a distraction from the actual content, leading to an ineffective learning experience.

But graphics used in a course shouldn’t just be cosmetic. They should be relevant to the content. The graphic could be supplementary or complementary. For example, if I am teaching a course about oil drilling, it will help if I add a graphic of an oil well. What would work better is if the graphic was animated to show the movement of an oil driller and explain how it bores the Earth to extract oil.

2. Is It Adding Any Value To My Course?

More than often, we forget that while graphics can support the content, they can also drive the content in terms of the value it adds. There are certain topics which can be explained better using graphics instead of just text, voiceover, and an image. Continuing from the oil drilling example, if we had to explain to the learner the parts of a pumpjack, simply an image of a pumpjack wouldn’t do, it would be relevant but without adding any value.

A better use of graphics would be to use a 3d version of the pump, a hotspot interactivity, and a brief explanation of each part of the pumpjack. In this case, graphics will drive the content and add value to the instruction.

3. Would It Connect With My Learners At An Emotional Level?

Imagine you are taking an eLearning about ‘Safety Precautions when working on an Oil Rig’. So far in the eLearning, you have seen images of the rig at sunset and another one of the bird’s eye view of the rig. Are they all on the rig? Yes. Are they helping you connect with the need for safety precautions? I doubt it.

Maybe a few images of people working on the rig, someone breaching safety regulations, and someone administering help would have been more helpful. Seeing images of people would help connect with the learners emotionally, something akin to the human connection perhaps.

4. Is It Consistent With The Overall Graphics Strategy Of The Course?

We usually use either photographs or illustrations in our visual approach. However, using a mix of photographs and illustrations in the course is a big no-no. Not only does it look like a few random graphics have been pulled in together, it also adds a shabby look to the course. Maintaining consistency in terms of the visual approach, and in turn, graphics ensure a professional look and feel to eLearning.

Ensure that no graphic used in the eLearning course seems out of place. Just like we ensure that the content flows seamlessly, graphics should also flow in the same way, providing a rich graphical experience.

For example, let’s imagine that your course includes a wrapper scenario, which forms a story across the course, and your visual strategy is photo-based. In such a case, ensure to use photographs using the same characters and the same settings. It will look odd if the same characters have different physical features across the module. These photographs should be in a continuation and from the same set.

Even when using illustrated characters from stock websites, use characters with the same visual style. The course will look unprofessional if the characters have varied visual styles.

This is easier to implement when it comes to customized illustrations.

5. Does It Adhere To The Graphics Standards?

After putting in so much thought and effort into finding the most relevant image, you find that the image plugged in the course does not fit the graphic standards of the course, appears blurry, or has a watermark all over it. Wouldn’t that be disappointing?

Well, there’s a simple way of addressing these things; branding, resolution, and copyright.

Clients sometimes have certain guidelines on the types of graphics that are to be used, based on their internal guidelines or content sensitivity. For example, in a course related to 'Safety Precautions when working on an Oil Rig', a client may not want you to use images that show serious injuries or rig-specific information. Some clients also have guidelines on the shapes that the graphics can be in.

Clients prefer the graphics to reflect their organizational philosophy. It is important to use images that resonate with the client’s business outlook and represent their philosophy through their course. A clever way to incorporate this would be by going through the client website and noting the graphical used on it. It could tell us a lot about the image the client wants to project.

Ensure that you have a high-resolution graphic. Graphics which are blurred, or have a watermark, negatively impacts the look and feel of the training. Using high-resolution graphics will add sharpness as well as a well-rounded look to your graphics.

It should come as no surprise that procuring copyright usage is a must. Subscribe to stock image websites and download graphics legally.