File formats for eLearning courses
Choosing the proper image formats is crucial when you’re planning your e-learning workflow. Let’s start by talking about the 2 basic sorts of images, raster, and vector. Raster images are pixel-based and typically edited in Adobe Photoshop or an identical program. They are supported pixels, the small squares you see once you concentrate on them. Vector images, on the opposite hand, aren’t pixel-based. They’re supported mathematical curves, and that they are often sized up or down without loss of quality. Let me show you what I mean. I’ve opened an infographic I’ve created in Adobe Illustrator. I used drawing tools to create all of these different shapes, and I can use a particular tool to go in here and show you that each of these shapes is based on paths with points. So the idea here is that I can draw these shapes with mathematical curves and resize them to any size. So, I’m getting to grab my bear and size him up to point out to you that he is not losing any quality once I do this. So again, I can size these up and down because they’re based on mathematical curves and not on pixels. Everything that ends up on the web ends up raster anyway, but the vector images, when saved properly, translate well to raster. Let’s talk about the most common file formats for raster images in e-learning. I only use three, JPEG, GIF, and PNG. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. First, you should know that images have one of two types of compression applied, lossy and lossless compression. Lossy compression simply means when you save in this format you lose some quality, and a lossless compression format means when you save it no quality is compromised. JPEGs display photographs beautifully, but they have no transparency options, and GIFs offer transparency, but very limited color choices. So PNG is often my choice for most images and vector art I’m saving as a raster for my projects. I save them as higher-quality PNG files, so I can resize them a bit if needed. So let me show you what I’m talking about. Here’s the image I was showing previously in Illustrator. Let me show you how I would save this as a PNG file. I’m going to file, export, and choosing export. Here I have a few different options that I can pick from, and there’s my PNG file if I want, too. When I click export, I have the option here of saving it in higher quality which is what I typically do with my vector files. Here I’ve chosen 300, and this is key, I can choose transparency here. So for example, if I was saving that bear, and I wanted to use that in a course without anything behind it, if I apply transparency to just the bear, I would be able to get him out by himself. Often in e-learning, screenshots are used for software simulations. Remember, screenshots are just simply raster images. Decreasing the size of an image too much can decrease the quality, as well. If you notice the quality is not what you expected in the final output, look at the percentage you’ve reduced it to. I try not to go below 75 to 80%. If I need to go smaller than that, I resize it in the original application. Here, I’ll use Photoshop. Let me show you how that works. So here’s a screenshot I’ve opened in Adobe Photoshop. I’m going to go up under the image drop-down menu, and I’m going to go to image size. Here, you can see at the top, the image is just under seven megabytes, and the original size is just under 15 inches. I can go to this drop-down menu, and I can change this to a different increment of measure. I’m going to change this one to pixels, and then if I resize the image, I’m going to take this down to 1,000, you can see that the size of the image was reduced, as well. It’s no longer just under seven meg, it’s now under two. That’s an easy way for you to go in and resize your images in Adobe Photoshop. Here are the standard audio formats most e-learning applications accept. WAV is a good quality format to start with, but they will be larger files. And here are a few basic video formats for e-learning projects. I use AVI and MP4 mostly, for my work. And finally, when you’re reading to start publishing your e-learning modules, you have several options for which format you use. Think about your target audience, the company’s LMS system, and other limitations, when deciding on an output format. Flash is still a popular option for desktop computers, but not for mobile. The SWF format works well with LMS systems, and most e-learning applications allow SWF output. HTML5 is far more versatile and works well with mobile devices and desktops. You have little control over how the content will appear on every device, but it’s perfect for delivery to many types of devices. And the third option is to deliver the content via a custom mobile app. There are limitations to this, so do your research to find out which is the best format for you.