The power of visuals in e-learning

The power of visuals in e-learning

Posted on Oct 09, 2015

The power of visuals in e-learning



Imagery is powerful. An image can convey much, much more than words ever can, and stick in the mind like nothing else. Few of us will ever forget the image of people jumping from the twin towers, or the moment that the space shuttle Columbia exploded back in 2003.

The falling man by Richard Drew

 Source: The Falling Man by Richard Drew


The role of imagery in e-learning

Equally, imagery is a powerful tool for e-learning – the right image can help to convey your message like nothing else, and can go a long way to engage the learner, and create learning that sticks. In fact the impact upon knowledge retention and engagement can be hugely significant.

The Power of Visuals in eLearning Infographic


Find more education inforgraphics on e-Learning Infographics by clicking here.



Finding the right image can be a painstaking, time-consuming and sometimes frustrating task for e-learning developers – in spite of the thousands of stock images available to us. It’s still possible for us to struggle to find the right image: we probably download over 30 images for every one that we end up using.

Deciding upon and finding the right image can be that much harder when you’re dealing with difficult subject matters. For example, child abuse: the need for sensitive, appropriate yet impactful imagery is a very fine balance. The next challenge is maintaining a theme through over 400 images as we have in our newly launched e-learning course on Child Protection.


Creating the right tone


Child protection posed several challenges in terms of imagery as it contains material on physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse of children, as well as sections on forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child trafficking.

To illustrate the difficulty in finding that right tone, you simply need to search the term ‘child sexual abuse’ on a stock imagery site. Here’s a sample of what comes up:



there’s the written message – dull, too obvious and not something that can be sustained through several hundred slides of e-learning content, or:



the symbolic/trying to be both subtle and profound, or



The totally unconvincing, and trite portrayal (In what way does this image convey child abuse?  This young man has the expression of one who is merely a little put out - presumably at the prospect of bedtime.

 e-learning imagery


Or just simply irrelevant or absurdly inappropriate


e-learning imagery


An image of a child with a coin-sized plaster on one knee doesn’t, in my view go any way to depict the grim reality of child abuse. On the other hand, one wouldn’t choose to go completely graphic and gratuitous either.

The safest and most common route is to take the innocuous one – simply use an assortment of images of children – or an image of assorted children to keep everyone happy. But what do they actually add to the learner’s experience? Does it enhance or convey the key information that you need the learner to absorb?

 e-learning imagery


The solution for the flick online child protection training


Whilst pondering on this important issue and wondering how we could avoid the common pitfalls, we came across the amazing photography of Shirley Baker.


Who is Shirley Baker?


Shirley Baker was a British photographer, born in Salford in 1932, and best known for her street photography of Greater Manchester over almost two decades.  Her work forms a social documentary recording the last days of the slums, the mass demolition and the urban clearance programmes in Manchester and Salford that took place from the early 1960s.

Shirley Baker: flick learning, child protection course

Although there were many photographers in the 1950s and 60s, recording the post-war slump in the north of Britain, Shirley Baker was rare, in that she is thought to be the only woman capturing such scenes.

At the time, photography wasn’t considered a career option for women: Shirley was one of only two female students studying photography at the Manchester College of Technology in the 1950s, and on graduating was unable to pursue a career as a photojournalist at The Guardian, because as a woman she encountered difficulties getting a press card.  

Marrying a doctor in 1957 however, allowed her the time to focus on her passion and so she took to the streets for hours, day in, day out. Shirley Baker never posed her pictures. She simply watched and waited, shooting scenes as she found them; her work largely features children, sometimes with their mothers, but rarely with their fathers.


 Shirley Baker: flick learning, child protection course

Why did we choose to feature her work in our child protection course?


Mostly, because we love her work: in our view, it’s a stunning evocation of childhood captured with great sensitivity and complete authenticity.

The children in her photographs are poor, ragged and some of them, neglected. Young children bear the responsibility of caring for their even younger baby siblings; to our eyes, there’s little or no supervision.  


You won’t see many toys, and yet there’s a huge amount of play – on the streets, in the backstreets and literally amongst the rubble. (These are definitely the days pre health and safety.)

However, they’re not the stuff of children’s charities’ tv ads or fundraising campaigns – they aren’t sentimental or maudlin, but frequently humorous and truly heart-warming, with a strong sense of both liberation and community.  


Shirley Baker: flick learning, child protection course


Sadly, Shirley Baker’s work has really only recently gained recognition, although two collections of her work were published in her lifetime. Following her death last year, the Photographer’s Gallery mounted an exhibition of her work entitled Women, Children and Loitering Men.


An overview of the child protection course

Our level 2 CPD accredited online child protection training course consists of 13 topics covering:

  • what child abuse is
  • neglect
  • physical abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • other forms of abuse
  • child development
  • risks to children
  • disclosures
  • responding to a disclosure
  • taking action
  • recording concerns
  • duties and responsibilities.

To see the full course breakdown, try it or buy it click here.


Want to see the imagery we’ve used in our courses?

Then get in touch with flick today!


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