The Stock Market: Can stock images enhance your project designs?

We’ve all seen it – e-learning courses and corporate communications with cheesy stock photos. When has a group of coworkers ever group high-fived across a conference table? A lone woman laughed maniacally while eating a salad? A group engaged in an enthusiastically coordinated thumbs-up aimed at the viewer? Never. The answer is never. So why do these photos end up in consideration for projects? There is a better way!

That’s not to say that stock photos shouldn’t ever be used in e-learning. There is a reason there are so many companies offering expansive photo libraries. Well-chosen images and diagrams can provide a big boost your designs. An image can:

  • Enhance a lesson and make it more engaging
  • Illustrate a point or process
  • Provide an association to help convert a lesson to long-term memory

If you’re including stock images as eye-candy in a course, consider the following:

Does this page really need a photo? Does the photo enhance the training? Sometimes a photo or diagram is a perfect choice. It may allow you to ‘show’ the learner instead of ‘tell’ the learner. But, if you’re adding a stock photo just to break up text, consider other ways to present the content.

For example, we turned an online driver training lesson about the meaning of different road signs into a challenge activity for learners. Instead of giving the learner a list of road sign photos with corresponding text, we showed them stock images of the shapes of commons signs and had them match those to their meanings. This is a great example of using stock photos to enhance content and engage the learner.

Do all of the stock photos in this project have an overall theme, color scheme, or look and feel? If you’re adding multiple photos to a lesson, make sure they have a cohesive look. Switching back and forth between black and white and color photos, different filters, or models can be distracting.

Is there a better way to use stock photos of models? Instead of traditional ‘snapshot’ photos, consider giving your course a custom look with ‘people cutout photos’ and backgrounds for scenario-based learning. Resources like eLearning Brothers and eLearningArt have fantastic libraries of stock photo models in a variety of poses and facial expressions. You can combine these photos with different backgrounds to create custom-looking scenarios and branching activities.

There you have it! Sometimes stock photos are a great, cost-effective tool to enhance e-learning projects. Just remember – keep it cohesive, simplistic, and skip the cheese.

Let us know if you agree. Connect with us on Twitter: @oe_learning.

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