Course Images Matter (Skulls, Skin, and Bodily Systems)

Online courses benefit from images for a number of reasons, but the succinct list might be:

  1. They add another sensory element to learning that is occurring through a screen. Engagement in an online course has to occur at multiple levels and provoke thought in various ways. Text is one specific process; video is another. Adding images where appropriate provides learners with another form of stimulus within a learning platform that, compared to a traditional class, may be without as many sources of stimuli.
  2. It signifies change or continuation. The images and banner deployed in a course let a student who has logged in immediately see that things are either a) the same or b) different, thus visually representing whether the learning unit has changed.
  3. Images are memory anchors for many learners. Folks will often recall image associated with a concept earlier and more easily than they recall the content itself, but joining the two can be a bridge between simple recall and a more complex recall function. Providing those symbols of the unit or content may help students recollect associations.

I recently created a series of topic images for an online biology course that will be based on Carmen. The image sizes are specific to the display within the learning platform.

Nervous System

The professor provided the list of topics, and I pulled images from a variety of free, open content collections. Some images came from older medical books that have entered the public domain. Others used modern photographs and lab samples.


While many of the concepts lent themselves to very concrete, literal representation, others were more undefined and accommodating of abstraction.

Human Evolution - yellow text


Human Impacts on Environment 2

Lastly, my favorite concept may have been this one:

Environmental Impacts on the Human Body 2

If you’d like to know more about creating course images, feel free to email me, Tara Koger, at You can also follow me on Twitter via @TaraOSUTech.


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