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How to Find Free Assets for Your Learning Content

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How to Find Free Assets for Your Learning Content

Please note:  This article lists several paid and free content providers. Although Accord LMS has used the services of some of these vendors, we do not have any further relationship with any of these organizations.  All information is provided solely for the convenience of our readers and should not be considered an endorsement of any kind.

Accord will shortly be releasing the Accord LMS version 2021.02. This will be our most comprehensive software update in some time.  Part of the next release is an optional new Learner Template intended to provide a more visually appealing Learner Experience.  We consider it a best practice to provide an attractive or informative image for each Learning Path, Course, or Folder in your Catalog.  



Making it Easy

Version 2021.02 will include a new folder image cropping tool.  With this tool, administrators can essentially drag any image from their hard drive and drop it in the folder properties.  This image can then be scaled and cropped to the exact right dimensions to provide a neat and consistent learner view of their Learning Path, Courses, and Folders.  We love this tool because admins won’t need to worry about the exact aspect ratio (23:17 for our thumbnails), size, or cropping using a graphic editor.  Just drag the image from your desktop, zoom and position it, and press the crop button. Simple.



Intellectual Property Considerations

This article focuses on ways to get assets (images, sounds, and videos) for your learning projects.  Before we start talking about where to get the assets, please make sure that you understand any licensing considerations.  Our 2016 article, Using YouTube Videos for Learner Engagement, provides a nice overview of the Creative Commons Licenses which you are likely to encounter.  In addition to the various CC licenses, you may encounter site specific licenses so be sure to read carefully.  For example, Looperman offers free audio loops, but they have additional audio assets which are not free.  Be sure that you know what you are downloading to avoid violating the creator’s rights.


Royalty Free:  In the photography and illustration industries, Royalty Free refers to a copyright license where the user has the right to use the picture without many restrictions based on a one-time payment to the licensor. The user can then use the image in several projects without having to purchase any additional licenses.

Royalty Free Images

There are many great sources for Royalty Free images.  It is important to understand that Royalty Free isn’t “free”.  Royalty Free simply means that you purchase the rights to use an asset, such as an image, and within the scope of your license you can use it as much as you want.  Once you’ve purchased your license, you do not need to make royalty payments when the image is used in one or more projects, or viewed a certain number of times.  Be sure to review the license.  In many cases there may be a difference in price for the same image(s) depending on how you will use it.  

Most Royalty Free content providers offer a variety of packages.  These might include annual subscriptions based on the number of images that you expect to use, packages containing a finite number of image downloads, or individual image purchases.  One advantage of having a royalty free subscription is that there tends to be a higher number of easily searchable quality images.  This can save time curating a list of images that will meet your needs.  Most content producers have access to a large library of royalty free content.


Some popular Sources for Royalty Free content include:

  • Istockphoto
  • GettyImages
  • ShutterStock

There are countless other sources which can be found by searching the internet for 'royalty-free images' or whatever online asset you’re looking for.

What about occasional content producers who may not need a full library, or lack the budget for ad-hoc images as new courses are created?  Great news!  There are plenty of free sources to explore.


Is free really free?

Free really is generally free, but these sites still need to make money.  There are several revenue models associated with these free products.  In some cases the creators use the 'cup of coffee' revenue model.  In this case they rely on small donations (buy me a cup of coffee) to reward their efforts.  In other cases they receive ad revenue.  Sometimes sites reward the creator based on the popularity of their offering while the site itself makes money from links to external paid media.  For instance 'Pixabay' offers a wide range of free images, but they also sponsor paid images from Shutterstock.  


Some popular Sources for free content include: 

  • Unsplash.com - photographs
  • pixabay - Photos, illustrations, vector graphics, videos, music
  • pexels - Photos, Videos
  • Freerangestock - Photos, illustrations
  • Looperman - Free audio loops (be sure to check the terms because acapella songs and full tracks are not free)
  • freesound.org - Audio Clips 
  • freemusicarchive.org


Custom Libraries and Templates

Some content authoring tools provide libraries of characters and props enabling the author to choose from a diverse group of character photographs or graphics in a variety of positions, actions, and settings.  You might want to consider using these assets to create your thumbnail image for the course.

If you’re interested in maintaining a consistent branding across your Learning Paths and Courses, you might consider creating a transparent template which includes elements which will be consistent across all courses.  For example you could color code different course libraries for easy visual identification.  The template and image should be scaled to 227 x 170 px.  This will require a little preparation before loading the image but provides one way to visually brand a series of courses.



In conclusion

In the next 6 – 8 weeks the team at Accord expects to provide a new set of tools that will make it easy to create a visually appealing learner interface.  At its most simple, it is literally a drag and drop process.  All you need are the appropriate images for your course thumbnails.  This article offers several ways that anyone can pull from a wide range of affordable and often free images to help make your LMS Learner View more attractive.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your sales team or Accord LMS customer support.

If you have any additional digital asset resources to share with us, please send the ones you love to rick.bruce@accordlms.com and we'll see if we get enough for a follow-up article.  Thanks!

| Categories: eLearning, Feature Focus, New Features

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