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Animated GIFs in eLearning – The Why and the How

Microlearning has become the go-to format in corporate training, and it doesn’t need a modern-day Sherlock Holmes to figure out why. 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, GIFs, and more. In this blog, I’ll be discussing a very engaging and interesting format of microlearning, the GIF.

Explore microlearning formats and benefits here!

Meet the GIF

The acronym GIF is short for Graphics Interchange Format, a bitmap format that has multiple frames encoded into a single image file. Basically, the format supports animated and static images simultaneously. GIFs are mostly used to express emotions on social media platforms – much like emojis.

The GIF (pronounced jif) was first introduced in 1987, even before the World Wide Web! Later that year, an enhanced version was released that allowed the creation of compressed animations with the help of timed delays. Since then, a wide variety of GIFs have been created and shared all over the Internet.

The popularity of GIFs in today’s world can be seen in GIPHY, an online GIF database and search engine founded in 2013. GIFY has over 100 million daily active users, serving more than 1 billion GIFs daily.

Why Use Animated GIFs in eLearning?

A good GIF is fun and connects with your learners. GIFs can be used in eLearning to:

1. Add Humor

To use or not to use humor – that’s been a very hot topic of debate in eLearning circles. But I say, why not? Adding humor in an eLearning course is known to increase engagement, enthusiasm, and also help lighten the learner’s mood. Who does not like to have a little bit of a laugh anyway?


However, take care to use humor in the right places and in the right dose in your course – and ensure it doesn’t offend anyone. For example, using a funny GIF just before the assessment would act as a stress buster. Or maybe you can use an amusing GIF to motivate the learner to do better when they get an answer wrong.

Pro Tip

If you are using a character or avatar in the course, go ahead and use GIFs of that character wherever appropriate.

2. Demonstrate Steps

Say you have been using an eLearning course to train your employees on how to use a fire extinguisher. A better option would be to go for a video-based eLearning course or spice up the eLearning with a series of GIFs demonstrating the different steps in using a fire extinguisher. All the steps can be integrated into a single GIF. This is much more engaging than large chunks of text or plain bulleted lists. Plus, the looping nature of the GIFs will help improve retention.

3. Provide Feedback

Feedback plays a vital role in eLearning courses. It is given each time the learner answers a question in formative assessments to reinforce learning. The usual practice is to provide feedback in the form of text. Why not use GIFs instead? GIFs possess the capability to elicit emotions within learners.

For example, GIFs such as the one at can be used when the learner answers correctly.

GIFs can also be used when a learner gives 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 when there are so many other microlearning formats I can use instead!” Well, yes you can use other formats like videos and scenarios to explain procedures and provide information. But GIFs could be ranked as one of the best choices too. Here are a few reasons why:

1. GIFs are Mobile-friendly

Unlike videos or other digital formats, GIFs are small in size. This in turn makes them much more accessible and mobile-friendly. In addition to incorporating them in courses, you can also provide them as standalone performance support tools. For example, a GIF on how to weigh a product on an analytical balance can be created and mailed to your learners to be referred by them when needed.

2. They Leverage the Power of Repetition

While images are static and videos are not looped, animated GIFs are known for their looping nature – in fact, they are designed to loop forever. When learners watch a GIF play over and over again, they are watching the same content repeatedly. And we all know what repetition does to learning – improves comprehension and 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 get imprinted in their brains, helping them to effortlessly recall the steps and put them into action at their workplace in case of a fire. Also, you can use GIFs to encapsulate the main points of the course and provide them to the learners.

3. GIFs are Part of the Everyday Culture of Today’s Learners

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 to the content better, leading to an effective learning experience. Content that is delivered in formats learners are familiar with will be received better. There will also be an element of curiosity to see how the GIF unfolds.

But it is important to remember that a GIF doesn’t add anything if it:

  • Has very low resolution
  • Includes a lot of unnecessary detail
  • Contains text that is not readable 

Final Thoughts

Coming to creating GIFs, if you think that is a complicated task, you are way off the mark! Creating animated GIFs has become very easy – if you are using Articulate Storyline, all you need to do is create an animation video and convert it 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 –,, and GIF Toaster, to name just a few. So, go ahead and try this microlearning format. If you would like to explore other microlearning formats, here is a free guide that might help.

Microlearning In Your Training Framework: A How-To Guide

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