The online video revolution that has occurred in the past decade influences many aspects of our lives, and that includes eLearning. Video has a growing presence in eLearning courses, and that’s for good reason. It’s a very effective medium that combines the best aspects of audio, picture, and plain ol’ face-to-face teaching. You can get your learners up close and personal with things that might not be practical in the real world.
Are you teaching something about insects but don’t have the means or the malice to gather everyone together so they can look at a poisonous beetle two inches from their face to count its feelers? Just get a video camera and record the beetle so everyone can see a blown up image of that lil guy.
Are you making a course about lava, but you aren’t comfortable with bringing your learners to the lip of an active volcano to gaze into the bubbling inferno beneath? Just show them video of the red hot molten rock in action. Easy, safe, and uniform.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for your next video course.
Script it Out
If you’ve ever played the board game Risk, you know that it pays to have a strategy. It just won’t pan out well if you go in from the beginning deciding to wing it, because when you wing it, you inevitably try to conquer Asia far too early in the game, forgetting that it has way too many entry points to defend and now you’ve lost India, you fool! None of this would have happened if you planned ahead!
Bringing it back to eLearning videos, you need to have a plan there as well: a script. Unless you’re a professional improviser, it shows when you try to wing it. That’s why it’s important to get your thoughts organized before you sit down in front of a camera. When you don’t have to create the words on the spot, you have more time to pick better words and present more eloquently. Be careful though: you don’t want to just mindlessly read the script with absolutely no feeling like you aren’t even processing the words before you say them. You’re not a middle school class president.
Good Audio Goes a Long Way
Being someone who has dabbled in video myself, bad audio is the bane of my existence. No, I’m not one of those weirdos who insists that music must be listened to in the format it was originally created for; I don’t have Mozart recorded on a wax cylinder. It really doesn’t take much to please me, but when audio doesn’t please me, it really sounds like garbage.
When I first started playing with a camcorder with my high school buddies, I noticed that the cheap built-in mic on the camera produced audio that, putting it frankly, sounded like it was coming out of a cell phone speaker inside a crumpled soda can at the bottom of dirty swimming pool. It wasn’t until I was older, playing with more professional toys, that I realized that you often get what you pay for in terms of recording devices.
Whenever you use audio in a video, make double sure that everyone who will be speaking is properly mic’d, and that the ambient noise doesn’t muddy the track. Pick a recording environment that doesn’t have cars honking and monkeys bashing cymbals—unless of course those are the sounds you need. Do your best to isolate the sounds (speaking is recorded with no ambient noise on one track, sound effects on another, etc.).
Make Use of Video Editors
Edit, edit, edit!
It’s incredibly difficult to make a quality video in one take. It places stress on everyone in front of the camera who are doing their best to sound spontaneous and eloquent at the same time, and it places stress on everyone behind the camera who are trying to handle the equipment in such a way that it captures everything in a crisp, intelligible way.
That’s where editing software comes in. Editing allows you to take the best moments from each take and string them together as a coherent whole. There are also some things you just can’t do properly without editing. For example, lower thirds and overlays, which you can add to an eLearning video as an explanation of what’s on screen, or as a place marker signaling the beginning of a new section of the course.
You might also consider adding subtitles to your production, a process that most video editing programs have made easier throughout the years. While this can be a tremendous boon for both the hearing impaired and those who don’t speak the language of the audio, it’s also helpful to everyone else. I’m an English speaker and not hearing impaired, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been watching a movie in my native tongue where an important line was glossed over because the actor either mumbled or doubled down on a bad fake accent. In cases like those, I was very thankful for closed captioning. That’s not to say you’ll be making eLearning videos with incoherent speech, but you never know when someone might need a little help hearing what you said.
File Size Matters
Since I first owned an iPod, I’ve realized how much more space video files take up when compared to audio. You’re thinking that you’re going to cram your entire movie library onto one device, but it turns out you need to shuffle things around as you want them because just a handful of feature-length movies will crowd it up pretty quick.
This is important when dealing with the video components of your course. You can’t make the file too big, because then it takes up exorbitant amounts of space and a month of Sundays to buffer. You also can’t make it too small because then the video quality is compromised. One solution to this problem is using a video streaming website such as YouTube to host your videos. Many online video websites allow you to embed videos into other programs to play them natively. This allows you to put a YouTube video directly into your course without having to exit the program and boot up your browser.
What are your best tips for making stellar videos? Let us know in the comments!