What's happening in the world of digital learning?

  • William Webb

Get Animated!

Why bother with animation?

One of the ways to liven up your learning is to introduce animation. There are many advantages to including animation in your learning repertoire:

  • It's a good way to encourage storyboarding - and the best learning draws the student into a journey of discovery. Telling stories brings learning to life.

  • Learning is immediately made fun and engaging (provided it's a good story!)

  • Animation can make a difficult subject more palatable.

  • It can make complex or dry material more memorable and visually stimulating.

Beyond the reach of small businesses

Until recently this was the preserve of organisations with big pockets, or creative types with experience using a variety of animation programmes such as Adobe After Effects or Flash (now 'Adobe Animate'). I would argue there's no point in spending money on complex packages like these if you are a beginner, or spending time trying to learn them if you've never been motivated to do this before. However, there are now many freeware 2D animation packages out there - some are as complex as their commercial rivals, but others like Pencil and Tupi are a good entry into the world of 2D animation.

One of the simplest to use if you're new to this is GoAnimate. It's not free any more, but the subscription isn't going to challenge a small business. I played around on the site and created a very short video with a soundtrack in an hour or so, after watching one of GoAnimate's two minute video tutorials. Admittedly I'm used to using creative apps - I have used a video programme before (Camtasia), and I've created simple animated GIFs with Adobe Photoshop (built up using layers like a flip book animation). Having said that, GA's tools are quite intuitive and you have plenty of choice when customising your video.

Infographic style

Essentially the programme enables you to produce a certain 'infographic' style of animation which looks very professional and will add spice to your online training:

If you don't want this look for your animations and like more creative freedom, read no further! GA also has a whiteboard animation style, with a photographic image of a hand appearing to draw and place images in the video:

Users have hundreds of characters to choose from which can be customised to suit individual needs - colours, hairstyles, clothing etc. Choose from a variety of poses and animations (walking, sitting, eating...):

GA also provides lots of background scenes to use in your animation, as well as widgets for creating various charts, graphs and stats for use in infographics:

There is a library of props for use in a scene - you can find anything from a banana to a fire engine. Each object category has a useful search field - this is a sample of what you get if you search for 'trees':

You can also import your own scenes, backgrounds and props, and choose font styles and callouts/speech bubbles.


One of the ingredients that will give an animation a more professional feel is a good soundtrack. GA allows you to add mood music and choose voices for your characters; many of the voices sound a bit robotic but I found one or two that were more natural in tone. You can import your own soundtrack and narration, but make sure if you do that you use a pro or someone who is a natural story teller, because there's nothing worse or unprofessional than listening to someone mumble their way through a script.

One neat feature is that the characters automatically lipsync to the words you give them - including your own recordings. The choice of sound effects is a bit limited though - a search for 'eating' found only a pig eating! But there are plenty of freely available sound effects online on sites such as Freesound and SoundBible, but make sure you check the legal requirements for their use (some may require attribution).

GA's interface gives you the animation, voice track and music soundtrack on different layers. You can add effects such as transitions from scene to scene (note the two dark squares below which are fades), stretch or shrink time, change the volume etc.:

Less is more

One caveat - go easy on the special effects! Just because you can do lots of clever things, it doesn't mean your animation will be enhanced by them (remember when special effects were over-used in PowerPoint presentations?) Usually less is more. Remember, the main thing to get right is the story - the rest is just cosmetic. Animation is only a tool, it's not the point of the learning.


As already mentioned, if you don't like the infographic look, GoAnimate isn't for you; if you want the extraordinary you won't get that here. If you import any of your own supplimentary images, in order for them to match GA's objects the style would need to be the similar, although you can creatively combine the GA style with photographic objects. Animation geniuses may be frustrated by its limitations, but then this app was never meant for them; even a beginner may find there are some things that can't be done - there will be a limit to the variety of scenes, characters and props, which may mean you have to adapt or abandon a particular approach.

The animation itself is not that sophisticated - for example, if you use GoAnimate's whiteboard drawing of a house and delete all the other objects in the scene, the whiteboard animation doesn't work. This is because the photographic hand and pen only animate when there are multiple objects in a scene i.e. it won't draw the house because it is a single object.

However, I did enjoy playing with GA, and I'm sure most people who will love the chance to take the plunge into the world of animation, having discovered a relatively cheap and quick way to create professional-looking videos which will amuse most if used well.

Lectora and GoAnimate

If you are a Lectora user, GA can be accessed with Lectora Online via GA's website. Then in the tools ribbon in the Create New section you can click the GoAnimate logo and this opens the GA site. Once you have made your video you can click Export to Lectora in the Export section. Your new video can be inserted like any other media in the Insert ribbon under the Add Media section. The video will be located in the Media Library in the Shared Media folder.

Want to add spice to your learning? Why not give us a call to chat through the many creative approaches we can offer you.


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+44 (0)1959 543900



The Old Chapel,

52 Paynesfield Road,



TN16 2BG

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