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Get Up To Speed with OER

This is a self-paced tutorial for faculty and staff to learn about Open Educational Resources - what they are, how to find and evaluate them, how to adapt and create them, and how to handle the copyright and technical implications.

Creating Image OERs

Creating Image OER

Creating good images, from a graphic design and an instructional design point of view, is still a challenge. A well designed image will communicate in one screen what pages and pages of text cannot.

Diagrams, maps, charts, graphs, etc. are especially useful for illustrating:

  • processes
  • relationships
  • any visual information.

Photographs and realistic drawings of people, places, events, and artifacts can also be important supplements to your textual or verbal explanations and narratives. 

Plans, layouts, blueprints, maps, and many other primary sources are visual in nature. Of course high quality images of art and architecture are visual in nature. Many of these will be under copyright, and you will need to get permission specifically to use them in an OER that you are creating.

Images can stand alone, or they can be arranged:

  • thematically
  • in a web that shows their relationships
  • on a timeline
  • on a map

Tools for Creating Image OER

Smartphones come with a camera that is perfectly adequate for most picture taking purposes. You'll only need something fancier if you want to take pictures at the telescopic or microscopic scale.

You'll need an image editor application to crop, apply filters, add arrows and text, and otherwise edit your photographs. You can also create images from scratch in your image editor.​

Here are some free image editors available on the web:

Accessibility for Image OER

Many low vision users zoom in on images to look at them, so make sure that your images are as large and high definition as possible. Use HTML to adjust the size at which they display on the screen instead of shrinking the images themselves. 

All information that is presented visually must also be presented verbally or in text, for the use of blind and low vision users. (Some sighted people prefer to take in information that way as well.) 

Creating descriptive text can be challenging for sighted content creators who don't have experience processing information that way.

Some tips:

  • Numerical information that you present in a chart can be presented in a table below
  • Processes can be narrated
  • Images and diagrams can be described

Dos and Don'ts:

  • Every single image should have an alt tag. If you don't think it's worth an alt tag, delete the image, because it's not conveying important content. 
  • Use an alt tag, not a caption. This helps the screen reader find and identify it. 
  • Don't put "image of..." in the alt tag. The screen reader announces that it is an image. 
  • Be as brief as possible, but remember that screen reader users often turn the speed way up, so don't be afraid to be complete.
  • Don't be redundant. If the information is presented in your main text content, don't include it again in the alt tag.
  • If the image conveys text, that text must be in the alt tag.
  • "Blue" and "left side" may not be useful information to a person who can't see what you're looking at. Focus on the function and meaning, not just the appearance. 

Copyright for Image OER

If you are creating your own images, or using images that are found under a compatible Creative Commons license, then you do not need to worry about copyright.

If you want to use an image that is still under copyright in your OER, you will need to get permission from the copyright owner and probably pay royalties.

Old art and photographs may be in the public domain, but depending on where you found them, you may still need to get permission and pay royalties. For example, ARTSTOR is a database that is full of old content that is no longer under copyright, but ARTSTOR's license restricts the use of their copies of those originals. ARTSTOR is not giving you access to the Mona Lisa; only their digital reproduction of the Mona Lisa. It takes resources and skill to create the reproduction and provide access, so they claim ownership over it. The same is true for many (but not all!) images that are found on museum, educational, and stock image web sites. You will have to read the terms and conditions and work on a case by case basis.