8 Ways to use Stock Characters in Elearning

Characters in elearning

Using characters in online learning is a great way to add personality to your online learning. The character could be the narrator, embody a role in your organisation or be the character of your story. Characters can help the learner to relate to the content.

Stock characters

If you’re lucky, you have a budget to shoot some photos for your next elearning project. You might even have a media library with photos of people in different poses, objects and backgrounds in your business. What can you do if that’s not the case?
You can buy cut-out characters online (for example elearningbrothers.com). Most of these websites use a paid subscription model. So what if there is no budget for stock images either? You’re stuck with the stock characters in your elearning authoring tool and need to make the most of it!

Same stock character, 8 ways

I would like to show you different ways how to use the same stock character on a slide. I have chosen a character out of the character library that comes with Articulate Storyline 360. For this purpose I have also used the same free stock photo for the background in all the examples.

1. Background stock photo

Instead of using a white background, start with adding a background photo to give your character a bit of context. This can be a stock photo, although images of your business work better to increase relatability and help the learner absorb the content. Look for a background that suits your topic or story. The top slide is nothing more than a stock character placed in a stock photo of an office environment.
Example: place the manager in a meeting room, a visitor in a reception area and a nurse in a hospital room.

2. Blurred background

On this slide, I have blurred the background, but not the character. It emphasises the character, so it better be important what he’s telling.
Example: Let your narrator stand out with some great tips or instructions.

3. Change perspective

You don’t have to look every character in the face. By showing the character from behind, you place the learner in the character’s position. It makes it easier for the learner to relate to the situation.
Example: This character could be on his way to an interview or a difficult conversation with the manager.

4. Headshot

I’ve cropped the character and put the headshot in another shape. The shapes could function as buttons or as a place for information about this character or role.
Example: Let the learner choose a role that determines their pathway through the course. Or to have the same conversation but from a different position within the business.

5. Polaroid

The benefit of using polaroids is that you can add a caption to your photo and the white frame really stands out from the background.
Example: Polaroids can be used for a ‘who is who’ in an induction module, or to choose your avatar in a gamified course.

6. Speech bubbles

When you are using a narrator to lead your learners through the course, you can choose to put the narrator in a corner and use speech bubbles (and/or audio). It’s less prominent than the a full body narrator who takes up most of the slide.

7. Silhouettes

Sometimes you need a character, but don’t need a facial expression. A silhouette might do the trick. For this example, I’ve used the same stock character for the silhouettes and made our character stand out.
Example: You could use this for a ‘who is who’ and put the other characters in the spotlight, one at the time.

8. Cut-out

The white background, made by using a scribble line, is another way to let your character stand out from the background. It just looks a little bit different.
Example: This type of cut-out would fit well with a cartoon-style course and a drawn character.

Choose your stock character

Stock characters come with different poses and expressions. At first, you need to find a character that your audience can relate to and fits with the company brand or your story. Consider the appropriate gender, culture and clothing style. Then you choose the pose and expression, the size of the character and how you want to let the character stand out or fit in with the other visuals and the copy on your slide. Just have a play!

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