Continuing on the theme of saving eLearning designers time and money, the Gomo team has been sifting through the internet’s many libraries of free and open-source images, videos, sound files, fonts, templates, and software. The result is a list of 23 resources that eLearning designers could consider adding to their bookmarks.
Free image libraries perfect for use in eLearning courses
With thousands of attribution-free stock images available, Pexels is one of the more popular royalty-free stock image sites. The site manages to stand out in a few ways: firstly, its discover tab has a Netflix-style endless scroll of recommendations and collections that help to surface popular and noteworthy content. Secondly, the site promotes community involvement: recognition is given through a leaderboard, and photographers can enter themed challenges, all motivating the creation of more photos.
Unsplash offers two million free images in a range of resolutions and with no attribution required. The site works well as a search engine for specific images, though its approach to collections and topics is a bit unwieldy, making it difficult to explore and stumble across interesting images.
Pixabay offers over 1.8 million free images, with plenty of filters that help you refine your search. As well as the usual categorization via topic, you can easily select photos, vectors or illustrations, in various orientations, sizes, or colors. Notably, Pixabay also offers extensive video and music libraries (which we discuss later).
A relatively small library of 300,000 stock images that’s a bit more hit and miss in terms of quality. Note that the first two rows on every search are related premium images from iStock. Still worth checking if other sources haven’t got what you need.
Focusing on a different area of design, this library of over 500 abstract, tileable patterns is a fantastic resource for background web and eLearning background creation. The site even has a neat preview feature which will swap out the selected pattern with the page background.
For more on choosing the right images for your your eLearning courses, read:‘3 Simple Factors to Help You Make Better Image Choices for Your Courses’
Free video libraries for eLearning projects
In addition to free images, Pixabay has a library of more than 14,000 free videos shot in HD (1080p), with around 4,000 4K (2160p) videos. The platform’s clips of the natural world are particularly nice.
Another large selection of free 4K and HD videos (over 13,000), though with a slightly less user-friendly catalog for creators looking for free footage. By default, the site’s “premium” (i.e. subscription) results are mixed in with their free videos—you’ll have to search for a subject, then change the ‘show all clips’ option to ‘free clips’. Note that the ‘free’ videos use a range of different licenses and may require attribution—always check the ‘licensing and usage’ box before you download.
A moderate-sized collection of free-to-use (not redistribute) video clips useful as B-roll and backgrounds for your projects. The site isn’t especially upfront about the resolution or bitrate of its videos, so be prepared for the occasional disappointment. Watch out too for the premium video options from Shutterstock in every search result (though these are at least clearly marked).
Free music and sound effects for eLearning courses
As well as images and photos, you can find thousands of free music and audio tracks on Pixabay, which can be browsed by genre, mood, and movement.
A smaller library of royalty-free stock music and sound effects. Browse by genre and mood.
Another repeat, Videvo has a small library of free music (59 tracks) and sound effects (440 clips), again mixed in with a lot of subscription-only tracks. As before, change the ‘show all clips’ option to ‘free clips’.
You may also find this blog useful:‘Elearning Authoring Tools: Comparison of 7 Major Authoring Tools’
Icon sets for eLearning
A premium database of over 5 million downloadable icons, Icon Finder offers around 300,000 free icons. Just change the ‘All prices’ selection in the upper left of your search results to ‘Free’ to search for available designs.
A library of 3 million downloadable icons, the Noun Project’s designs are free to use only under a creative commons license requiring attribution in your work.
Fonts for eLearning (and other) projects
Google’s library of over 1,000 free fonts has become the de-facto source of typefaces in digital design. From families such as Roboto, Open Sans, Montserrat, and Source Sans Pro that you simply can’t avoid if you spend any time connected to the internet, to more obscure chunky, condensed and script fonts, you’ll be able to find something appropriate for your project.
A smaller library of 17 curated fonts to download. Fonts are listed with a helpful glyph library and the site features a newsletter and podcast if you really want to dig into the art of typography.
An older font site aggregating a wide range of free fonts from around the internet (including several you can find on the sites above). The site includes a handy font identifier that attempts to analyze images of text to find similar or matching fonts.
Free eLearning templates
Alongside our guide to using storyboards to build better courses, we created an editable storyboard template for you to replicate and download. This free template will help you easily keep track of learning objectives, assets, and key visuals.
Choose a sector and style, add a company name and slogan, and easily generate a logo. While unlikely to yield results that will have big corporates overhauling their entire identity, it’s a handy tool for generating fictional business logos for your learning scenarios.
On the subject of brands and templates, check out our blog post:‘6 Ways of Using Your Brand to Build an Eye-Catching eLearning Style Template’
Free and open-source software for learning course design
Canva (Image & video editing)
A browser-based art and design program that’s useful for quickly making appealing social media graphics, Canva’s free version can export designs to common image and video formats and is therefore useful as a general-purpose image composer. Add royalty-free stock photos, shapes, text, music, backgrounds, or your own uploaded files—arrange and layer as needed.
Piktochart Image editing)
Similar to Canva, though with a little more emphasis on infographic creation in its templates and a few more restrictions in its free version—including a Piktochart watermark.
GNU Image Manipulation Program (Image editing)
For designers looking for more versatile image software, GIMP aims to be a free, open-source Photoshop equivalent offering a wide range of drawing and editing tools, extensive color and layer management, filters, and expandability via scripts. Can be quite intimidating and has quirks to learn, but powerful nonetheless.
Photopea (Image editing)
Browser-based Photoshop alternative with a few advantages over GIMP (e.g. better export of Photoshop file formats) and a good chunk of the same tools. A bit more limited than GIMP (for example, lacking the ability to build scripts), slightly more accessible as a result, though ad-supported in its free incarnation.
Audacity (Audio editing)
Another go-to piece of free and open-source software, Audacity offers multi-track audio and batch processing and is perfect for anyone dabbling in smaller audio editing tasks. Audacity allows you to record, import, mix, and combine audio. Its main limitation is its linear undo/redo implementation: if you make a mistake on a certain element of the file, be prepared to lose all changes made since that change was made.
Shotcut (Video editing)
What GIMP and Audacity are to image and audio, Shotcut is to video: a powerful, open-source editor that (especially like GIMP) has a steep learning curve. Nonetheless, it’s worth learning if you have video footage you would like to manipulate for your courses.
LibreOffice (Office suite)
A successor to the OpenOffice project, LibreOffice is a free and open-source office suite containing word processor (Writer), spreadsheet (Calc), presentation (Impress), and database (Base) programs.
Google Workspace (Office suite)
Formerly known as G Suite, Workspace is Google’s browser-based office-suite for businesses. However, you can access core apps such as Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets from any personal Gmail account free of charge, and are given 15GB of storage to work with.
Microsoft 365 (Office suite)
Microsoft’s equivalent to Google Workspace offers free web-only versions of Word, Powerpoint and Excel with 5GB of storage.