Sayonara, Stock Photos: Developing Immersive Healthcare Simulations with Custom Photography

Concurrent Session 8

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

In this session, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine will demonstrate how they designed an immersive simulation assessment in Storyline using custom photography. Attendees will gain a deep understanding of each step of the process: storyboarding, hiring talent, acquiring proper equipment, editing tools, budgeting, and creation of the first-person perspective.

Sponsored By


Ashley Law is an Instructional Technologist with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Office of Online Education. She has considerable experience developing custom graphics and multimedia for educational initiatives. For the development of the modules containing custom graphics, Ashley led the design process, serving as creator, designer, animator, and editor.
Megan Thorne is an Instructional Designer with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Office of Online Education. She has extensive experience in training design and development in both academic and corporate environments.

Extended Abstract

Online training will sometimes require large amounts of specific imagery to accurately depict scenarios your learners will face. Standard stock photo libraries generally lack diversity of people, places, and things, and often don’t have the context-specific photos needed for your training. The most effective training taps into the emotions of the learner and tells a story; it’s challenging to create narratives that resonate solely using stock photos.

This session will cover two primary topics: custom photography and first-person perspective simulation design. We’ll walk the attendees through the journey that led us to the decision to invest in custom photography and the positive impact it had on the quality of our project.  We’ll demonstrate how, with minimal equipment and little prior experience, any team, large or small, can create a high-quality custom photo library to use in their current and future projects. We’ll establish how this process also enables the design team to customize the experience for the learners in their organization through the use of branded items and local or specific environments; investing in custom photography also allows one to take photos of people and props with low representation in stock photo libraries.


We’ll illustrate how we used a combination of lenses to construct different viewpoints for different learning needs. Specifically, we used a wide-angle lens for photos in our immersive simulation assessment to create a first-person perspective for the learner. We supported that perspective with personalized elements throughout the module. Using this method, we humanized highly clinical subject matter and made it more learner-centered. The overall goal of our project was to train people to interact with other people. Our goal, then, was to create a realistic online representation to simulate the interactions learners would likely encounter in their role. We wanted to accurately reflect the broad spectrum of program participants; using custom photography allowed us to capture a range of ages, races, emotions, backgrounds, home environments, etc. to properly reflect real life. We also wanted to be inclusive of the different types of learners navigating through the training, which we accomplished by designing a first-person perspective final assessment.

We’ll cover all details of the workflow including the timeline, costs, and technology involved to ensure our attendees walk away with confidence they can employ this process for their own work.

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Discuss the benefits of investing in a custom photography solution for online education
  2. Understand the process behind planning, shooting, editing, and incorporating custom photos into a project
  3. Consider incorporating custom photography and immersive simulations into their own projects   
  4. Identify what equipment and software you will need to create a photo library

We expect this session to be very interactive. We’ll use a combination of strategies to engage the audience. Our PowerPoint presentation will consist almost entirely of photo examples of the good, bad, and ugly stock photography options we were working with going into our project, followed by examples of the professional photos we were able to take and use on our own. We’ll demonstrate the immersive simulation we designed with the custom photos and provide a link for the audience to access this on their own, during and after the session. We’ll elicit real-time feedback from the audience using a polling app to address questions as they come up. We’ll also ask questions throughout to tailor our presentation to the audience’s interests.


Chih-Yuan Sun, J. (2014). Influence of polling technologies on student engagement: An analysis of student motivation, academic performance, and brainwave data. Computers & Education(72), p. 80-89.

Lynch, K., Downer, T., & Hitchen-Holmes, D. (2010). Learning in the first person: An initial investigation. Paper presented at the ascilite Sydney, Australia.

Tyng, C. M., Amin, H. U., Saad, M. N. M., & Malik, A. S. (2017). The influences of emotion on learning and memory. Frontiers in Psychology(8), p. 1454. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01454.