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The Challenges that Can Occur When Using stock photos and Videos In eLearning Modules

Right from the start, I will say the challenge is in the eye of the programmer. Why?

Let’s explore a few different factors that may let us easily decide whether to use stock videos or photos in our eLearning module.

Client Requirements

First and foremost, it is very important to clarify before programming the eLearning module, if the client is okay with us using stock photos for the eLearning project.

Here at Pathways Training and eLearning, we have had clients that don’t mind what we use as a graphical representation of the content that is being displayed onscreen, but we have also had clients that provide their own stock photos and videos, since they want to make the eLearning module a bit closer to the audience that is taking the training.

But as I said, first let’s define WITH the client if they agree with the usage of this type of images or videos, some of them may say they rather use cartoons or faceless 3D characters, to avoid making the eLearning module targeted to a specific audience.

So, if the client wants to include stock photos and/or videos in their eLearning module, it’s worth the time to consider the next few factors.


Sometimes, we will get to a point where we need to use stock photos or videos that include people. I usually recommend against using this type of media (with people) un eLearning modules, to avoid targeting a specific audience, but if it comes down to that, I recommend using media where diversity is visible.

Especially in Canada, a country that is constantly being built by people immigrating from other parts of the world, we must be extremely conscious of this and aim to make everyone feel included and represented when taking our eLearning modules.

Just keep in mind that diversity doesn’t only include different races, but genders, ages, even religion, and all those aspects that can be displayed in a picture or a video.


It is also important to know WHEN to use media in general. Before using it in our eLearning module, let’s ask ourselves some questions like the following:

  • Can media be applied to this piece of content?

  • If so, what kind of image/vide? Stock photo or vector/live action or animation?

  • Is it difficult to recreate what we have in mind?

  • Can it be done in house or does it have to be purchased?

Feel free to add any other questions that you believe will help you identify if graphical representation is relevant for the piece of content you are looking at.


This is another very important aspect to keep in mind. Depending on how your company is billing the client, the budget may or may not be sufficient to add stock photos or videos to the eLearning module. There are lots of websites out there that go from very low cost per file, to very expensive monthly subscriptions. So, before choosing images, define what budget is available for this task and select the repository that better suits your needs.

Here are few sites that might be worth considering:

  • Shutterstock

  • iStock

  • Adobe Stock Photos

  • Stock Photo Secrets

  • Storyblocks

Final Remarks

Remember that usually, graphical assets, if you know how to use them correctly, can signify for your client the difference between a top-notch eLearning module and a basic product home-made.

And finally, don’t be afraid to use abstract shapes for layout backgrounds, title bars and GUI in general, you will see how small elements like these, can make a big difference in the appeal and quality of the eLearing modules you create.

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