illustrated hero image of a sequence of three characters with glasses descending on to their faces

Aside from—you know—the ability to access any information you need in seconds, GIFs are the best thing about the internet. In this post, we’ll talk about what GIFs are, when to use them in your e-learning, where to find them, and how to create your own. You’ll learn everything you need to know about GIFs. (Except for how to pronounce it. We’re staying out of that debate!)

What are GIFs?

Basically, GIFs are image files that include animation. GIF stands for Graphic Interface Format. And, unlike JPEGs and PNGs, GIF files support animated images.

Early GIFs were super basic. They were composed of just a couple of alternating frames, for example:

a vintage animated GIF depicting a folding sign that says "under construction"

In the 30 years that GIFs have been around, the art form has evolved. Now it’s super easy to find high-quality clips from TV shows and movies, quick clips of cats doing funny things, fun custom artwork, and much more! 

an animated GIF of two older women in front of a green screen displaying a roller coaster ride

How can I use GIFs in my e-learning courses?

GIFs are also great for your e-learning projects. They offer an easy way to delight your learners with some unexpected movement. And you don’t have to embed a full video or build an animation into your course.

Making your learners laugh or expressing an emotion with a GIF can make your e-learning more relatable and more fun. Plus, they’re handy for demonstrating a process or system. Instead of having learners click from one slide to the next to see how a process works, you can use a GIF to give learners that helpful context.

GIFs look particularly at home in Rise courses, which are web-based. Check out this example on hurricane preparedness and this one on cardiology observations to see what we mean.

Where can I find GIFs?

GIFs are abundant online. Some popular places to find great ones include:

  • GIPHY, the most popular search engine for GIFs, allows you to browse for images by category or search to find exactly what you need.
  • Educational GIFs, though it hasn’t been updated recently, has a ton of GIFs on processes, history, how-tos, and more.
  • Imgur is a place for people to share images. A lot of these images are GIFs, and a lot of the GIFs are great.
  • Social media sites such as Twitter are great places to find GIFs.

How do I make my own GIFs?

There are a couple of ways to make an animated GIF, depending on how involved you want to get.

The old-school way provides you with the most control over the process. Here’s a tutorial that shows you how to put together a GIF from several static panels in Photoshop.

There are also several widgets that can help you make GIFs quickly and easily. You build them from video snippets using GIPHY’s own GIF Maker App. You can create a GIF from images on GIFMaker.org. Or you can make and style your own reaction GIFs on sites like And I Was Like and GifCam.

Get your GIF on!

You now have all the knowledge and tools you need to find and use GIFs in your projects. If you have any other questions about when and how to use GIFs in your e-learning (or if you’re just looking for the perfect one for your project), let us know in the comments. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

23 Comments
Xavier Godbout
Ashley Terwilliger
Andrew Crotty

For anyone who has Whatsapp you can turn any of your phone video's into a GIF. When in a conversation, select the attach button and chose any video from you Gallery. Once you select a video you should see a GIF button at the top to press and you can even trim it to perfect your loop. Getting to the GIFs on your phone is a bit of a pain as the sent GIF's don't appear in your Gallery. I find it easier to send the GIFs to someone I know and retrieve them that way, but you can find them on your phone by navigating to where Whatsapp saves the sent gifs. For my phone (Android 6.0.1) I went to Settings and then Internal Storage > Explore > Whatsapp > Media > Whatsapp Animated Gifs > Sent. From there just email them to your work or other computer! That sounds like a lot of faff but reall... Expand

Suresh  Sharma