If you plan to use any graphics in your course, please read this document.
Using Pictures and Graphs in Online Learning
Image Public Domain: Andreas Praefcke & personal creativity

This guide to using images in your Open Learning course shows:

  1. How essential copyright is.

  2. Where to find copyright-free images.

  3. How to get image editing and curating tools.

  4. How to upload an image to Google to find its origins.

  5. How you can get your pictures and graphics custom made.

1. No Copyright – No Image
The right image in a learning object can have a tremendous educational and aesthetic value. I therefore strongly encourage the use of appropriate diagrams, pictures, graphs, even cartoons throughout your course.


Images, just like journal articles and other publications, have an “author”, a creator, and that creator owns the rights to her or his image. Therefore, you have to treat all images selected for your course as if they were journal articles. In other words, all pictures have to be fully cited so Open Learning's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) can request and hopefully obtain the rights for each and every one of them.

Thus, you Instructional Designer has to list every picture in the Copyright Requisition Form (see below). Your job as the writer is to provide enough information in the body of the course so your ID and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) can:

1. Clearly identify which picture you want.

2. Contact the owner of the copyright.

Ask yourself: Would I be able to contact the copyright holder with the information I am providing?

Completed copyright Requisition form. Please choose images that allow us to contact its copyright holder.

If the rights to a graphic cannot be acquired for whatever reason, the image will have to be replaced or deleted. In other words, you may have been using a particular graph in your classroom teaching for years, but unless we can get the rights to use it at (a reasonable cost) we will not be able to integrate it into the course.

As you can tell, we take copyright very seriously and aim to be impeccable.

However, please do let this deter you from using images and graphs that add value to your course. If you want an image, please do include it and we will do our best to obtain the rights. The laws in Canada have become much more user-friendly over the past few years. Your job is not to know about the intricacies of copyright law. Your job is to design an impactful course. If an image or graphic can contribute towards that, include it.

2. Where to Find Copyright-Free Images

To make it easier on all parties involved there are a few steps you can take when you choose your pictures that can streamline this process significantly.

In general, please avoid images you find on blogs (e.g. WordPress or BlogSpot) because bloggers usually just "borrow" images and do not care to attain the rights.

There are many websites now that offer free images with few if any restrictions. In many cases, you are likely to find a suitable picture on one of the following webpages below:

Free Stock Photos:

  • Creative Commons: The Creative Commons is a great starting place. The CC is all about making creative work easily accessible for sharing, using and remixing. This link allows you to access free images, videos and sounds. Enter a keyword and choose your search engine. http://search.CreativeCommons.org/

  • 1 Million Free Pictures: A blogger makes his image collection available to anyone to use. Images are searchable by category.

  • Compfight: Another website through which to access the Creative Commons. Select the Creative Commons license option on the left. http://CompFight.com/

  • **Fstopppers**: This site provides over 1,500 4K video clips that are available for free for commercial use.

Please Note: Even "free" images have to be attributed to their creators. So please provide enough information so we can give credit where credit is due. We are accountable for all external content.

Unusual Picture Collections:

  • **ArtStor**: Welcome to ArtStor. Imagine 1.5 million images from 150 different art collections from around the world available for free to use and edit. You will find art related to science, arts, architecture, the humanities and social studies. To start a search click the “Enter Here” button in the top right corner.

    This link takes you to the TRU Article Database & Indexes page. Click on “A” and look for ArtStor at the bottom of the pop-up list.

    • **New York Public Library**: This is the New York Public Library. Lots of historic and otherwise unusual pictures.

    • **Museum Box**: Museum Box allows students to select multimedia and put it into a virtual museum box to build a compelling argument. Suitable for any subject. Peer interactions are possible. A fee applies.

    • **The Public Domain Review**: "We bring you curated collections of images, books, audio and film, shining a light on curiosities and wonders from a wide range of online archives. With a leaning toward the surprising, the strange, and the beautiful, we hope to provide an ever-growing cabinet of curiosities for the digital age.

    • Non-sexualized People. Getty Images put together a collection of images that depict women and men in non-sexualized ways. The images show diversity in many ways, shapes and sizes, and cultures. Refreshing. Caution: This is a for-fee collection.
    • Freer Sackler: Explore the Smithsonian museum's 40,000+ works of Asian art that are made available for high-resolution download.
    • Granger Historical Pictures: "For the first time, Granger's vast historical collection is available free of charge to teachers, librarians and students. We offer a one-stop resource for all your image needs, from lectures to handouts, student projects and research. Granger Academic has images for virtually every subject under the sun, from before the Stone Age to the dawn of the Space Age."

Free Clipart:
  • Open Clip Art: Oodles of free graphic art that can be copied and used to illustrate a document. http://openclipart.org/

Stock Photos for a Fee:

Please be price aware. Our copyright department pays on average $10 per image bought on any of these pay sites. That adds up quickly. Generally, we frown upon paying for images. Thus, you have to have a compelling reason why it has to be this picture rather than a similar free one found on one of the sites listed above.

  • Getty Images: Royalty free images can be purchased at a flat rate ($25 and up) and can then be used again and again. Unfortunately, royalty fee does not mean no cost. It means that once purchased you can reuse them. http://www.GettyImages.com/Creative/RoyaltyFree.aspx


3. Photo Editing and Curating Tools

Photo Editing:

Photo Curating:

  • Pinterest: A truly colourful place to find and store visual inspiration. A feast for the eyes, sorted into themes. Pinterest could be used as a giant pin board where the whole class stores images relevant to your course. In order to browse or use Pinterest, users have to sign up. Cumbersome, but well worth it. http://www.pinterest.com/
    Russell Stannard has a teacher training video on Pinterest here:

The largest picture size for Blackboard Learn is 640 pixels in width (800 pixels max).
Larger graphics can be accommodated but will require special set up.

4. How to Upload an Image to Google to Find Its Origins

You may have been using an image for a while, not remembering where it came from.

You can trace it back to its origins by uploading it to Google Images and then let the search engine look for it.

Here are the simple steps:

1. Go to **Google Images** .

2. Click on the camera icon on the right side of the search bar.

3. Click on the second tab “Upload an image”.

4. Click on “Browse” and upload from your computer the image you are searching for.

5. Voilà! Google Images presents you with a list of identical or visually similar images.

5. Get Your Pictures and Graphics Custom Made
Open Learning has its own professional media team skilled at custom making any still or motion picture you may need for your course. Please take a moment to review their impressive portfolio consisting of graphic design, still photography, multimedia, audio, video and webcasting.


A sample of some of the graphs produced by the Open Learning media team for our courses.Click on the picture for more examples of custom made media projects.

=|| A Picture is Worth 1000 Words
|| Using Pictures, Graphs and Other Images in Online Learning =
Image: Wikimedia Commons
This guide to using images in your Open Learning course shows:

1. How essential copyright is.
2. Where to find copyright-free images.
3. How to upload an image to Google to find its origins.
4. How you can get your pictures and graphics custom made.
Image: A sample of custom-made graphics developed at Open Learning for our courses.
The time investment for custom making media can be considerable. Please let us know as early as possible if you are considering this option. The results can be very rewarding.