Animated GIFs in eLearning – The Why and the How

How can you include animated GIFs within eLearning courses? This blog explores this interesting microlearning asset – animated GIF.

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Leveraging Animated GIFs in eLearning – The Why and the How

One of the main reasons microlearning is considered the biggest boons in corporate training, apart from the focused, bite-sized knowledge it offers, is its flexibility to deliver learning in a wide variety of formats – videos, infographics, animations, eBooks, podcasts, and more. Animated GIFs are another microlearning format being used in eLearning courses today.

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, a bitmap format that has multiple frames encoded into a single image file. Basically, it is a format that supports animated and static images simultaneously. They are mostly used to express emotions via social media platforms – akin to emojis. According to statistics on Giphy, one of the top sources for GIFs, a 100 million active users use Giphy daily. But the story of GIFs goes a long way back.

An Interesting Fact 

GIF was invented in the year 1987, even before the invention of the World Wide Web! Since then, a number of GIFs have been created and shared all over the Internet. Get more information on GIFs here.

Ways Animated GIFs Spice Up eLearning

1. Add Humor

To use or not to use humor in eLearning has always been quite debatable. But I say, why not use humor? Adding humor in an eLearning course is known to increase engagement, enthusiasm, and also relieve the tension of learners. Who does not love to have a little bit of a laugh anyways!

However, ensure you know where exactly to use humor in your course – and ensure it doesn’t offend anyone. For example, use a funny GIF prior to the assessment as this would act as a stress buster. Or in case a learner gets an answer wrong twice, you can use this GIF to motivate them in a funny way:

Pro Tip: If you have a character within your course, go ahead and create GIFs of that character.

2. Demonstrate Steps

Suppose you have been training your employees on the steps to use a fire extinguisher using a video-based eLearning course. Well, I say you do not always need a video to show procedural steps. Here’s how GIFs can be used instead. You can create a series of GIFs showcasing the various steps involved. All the steps can be integrated into one single GIF. This is indeed so much better than a large chunk of text too or plain bulleted lists. Additionally, the looping nature of GIFs will also improve learner retention. Here’s an example GIF showing how to perform a root canal.

3. Provide Feedback

Feedback plays a very vital role within an eLearning course. Feedback is given to the learners each time they answer a question in an assessment or on the completion of the assessment itself. Usually feedback is given just in the form of text. Why not use GIFs instead? GIFs possess the capability to elicit emotions within learners. For example:

  • GIFs can also be used when a learner provides a wrong answer, or when he gets it right after a few attempts

Advantages of Using GIFs in eLearning

Are you still wondering “Why should I use GIFs at all?” There are many other microlearning formats I can use instead!” Well, yes you can use other formats like videos and scenarios to explain procedures and other content but GIFs could be ranked among one of the best choices too. Here are a few reasons why:

1. They are Mobile-friendly

Unlike videos or any other digital formats, GIFs are smaller in size. This in turn makes them much more accessible and mobile-friendly. Hence other than incorporating them in courses, you can also provide them as standalone performance support tools. For example, if you created a GIF on how to weigh a product on an analytical balance, send it to them via an email and your learners can quickly check the GIF when needed.

2. Leverage the Power of Repetition

While images are static and videos are not looped, animated GIFs are known for their looping nature. Animated GIFs are designed to loop forever. When a learner watches a GIF over and over again, they are watching the content repeatedly. And we are all aware of the wonders repetition does to learning. It helps in better understanding the content and also leads to effective retention.

For example, if your learner repeatedly watches an animated GIF on the steps to use a fire extinguisher, the content will cement into their minds, helping them effortlessly recall the steps and put them into action at their workplace. Also, you can use GIFs to encapsulate the main points of the course and provide them to the learners.

3. They are Part of Learners’ Everyday Culture

We all know familiarity increases learner engagement. As I had mentioned earlier, animated GIFs are all over the Internet and have become a major medium of communication. Incorporating them in an eLearning course will help learners relate better, leading to an effective learning experience. If you deliver content in formats learners are familiar with, they receive it well and there is an element of curiosity to see how the GIF unfolds.

Final Thoughts

Coming to the execution, if you think developing GIFs is a complicated task, you are way off the mark! Creating animated GIFs is extremely easy – in case you are using Articulate Storyline, all you have to do is create an animation video and convert the video into a GIF using an online GIF converter such as EZGif.

Here is how you can create a GIF using Adobe Photoshop. You can also find many online tools to create GIFs, a few of them being,, and GIF Toaster. So, go ahead and try this microlearning format. In case you would like to explore other microlearning formats, download this free guide.

Microlearning In Your Training Framework: A How-To Guide
Leveraging Animated GIFs in eLearning – The Why and the How
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