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How Do I Produce Video for My eLearning Courses? A DIY Guide

Most of us agree that video is a wonderful tool for aiding the learning process. Right? It's fun, visual, and appeals to more learning styles than a 'rote-learning-read-this-100-times' approach. It can be used to include more sensorial and realistic experiences into your courses - from selfie videos, expert tips, testimonials, examples and non-example demos. 

So video is useful, widespread, and fun - no downside, right?

Not quite. Video comes at a cost, and not a metaphorical one. Staying in budget is a big concern for most eLearning professionals, and video is renowned for eating up that budget quicker than you can say “it's not that expensive!”.

A viable alternative is to produce your own video, cut costs, and personalize your eLearning program. But, before you put on your director’s cap and grab your iPhone, there are a few things you need to know first. So grab your notepads and buckle your seatbelts, let's get going.

The Small Print: While DIY video is an option, it has to be taken seriously to have the desired effect. This means that if you shoot an eLearning video on your 2008 camera phone, you may have some very awkward meetings with your boss in the immediate future. Video has to be allocated the resources, manpower, thought, and rigor that it deserves. So while doing it yourself can cut costs drastically, make sure you know what you're getting into.

So, without further ado, here are the five main steps you should follow for producing your own video for your eLearning courses:


video-elearning-shift

Step 1: Ask yourself "Why?" 

The biggest mistake we can make is adding video for the sake of it. This leads to needlessly higher costs. And if the video doesn't naturally integrate with the learning program, your learners might not even pay attention. So step one is to ask why you're using video, and what the videos purposes are. Some examples could be: 

  • To demonstrate a physical technique
  • To emphasize a key point
  • To summarize a unit or module
  • To increase emotional impact and engagement on a certain topic

Also read: Why Video is a Must-Have for Your Mobile Learning Strategy

Step 2: Script and Storyboard

Have you heard of 'PPPPP'? It means 'Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.' This is a really good model for planning your DIY eLearning video. Before you start scripting (writing the 'story'), research and plan everything, from lighting to camera angles. Taking these details into account early on will help you in every step from production to editing.

After scripting and getting to grips with the terminology and the general 'story' of your video, it's time to storyboard. This means planning, with a visual representation of the shot (even a drawing) of each scene in the video.

Remember, the best way to appeal to your learners is with the 'story' approach. Humans naturally engage with narratives and pick out the lessons behind them. Try and summarize the content of the video in a narrative format e.g. 'A video that tells you how to....', and try to have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Watch this video: How to Create a Storyboard for Your Video Shoot 

See an example here.

3) Invest in the Right Tools for the Job

The key to succeeding in making your own eLearning video is using the correct tools. Now that doesn't mean a $10,000 camera. Even a smartphone is possible, as some now shoot in full HD.

But cameras are only part of the deal. A suitable microphone, a stand for stability, and some legitimate editing software are prerequisites for success. While the software can be costly, it represents a better investment long term. You can even add a new skill to your bow and learn to use some a new program.

Tips:

  • Invest on a Microphone of a decent quality (This can be found on Amazon for as little as $20). See one here.
  • See more tools for smartphone video production here.
  • Get some more tips here.

Step 4) Location

Nothing distracts learners more and increases cognitive load than inconsistent light, acoustics and quality. We recommend you choose a single location, try and limit shooting to a single day, and plan ahead - make sure you won't be bothered, check for distractions, and try to be consistent with filming procedures. This ensures your learner will be focused on the content and not wondering about why the actor changes clothes halfway through, and why they can hear a construction project in the background.

Step 5) Know Your Timing 

Learners can start to lose interest after just 6 minutes of watching a video. But this doesn’t mean that a video can’t be longer, the key is to make the video relevant. This means that it doesn’t go off-topic, or include unnecessary details.

At each stage of planning, refer to the script and the storyboard. Each scene and each piece of dialogue should be reinforcing the ‘take-home’ message - no diversions or added extras. If you do this and keep your video ‘tight’, then you’ll have a much better chance of really engaging your learners.

Keep in mind as well, that video length varies depending on genre and purpose. Again, this is another reason to plan, plan, plan and have a set of guidelines you can refer back to. For your reference, here are a couple of suggestions for different types of videos:

  • Informative videos: these should run from 5 to 15 minutes, or be structured in a series of shorter clips.
  • Product demonstrations: this can vary depending on how complicated your product is. A good method is to make sure that it’s focused, compelling, and clear. If you can do that in under a minute, then great. If it’s longer, no problem. Just keep it simple and focused!
  • Case Studies. If it’s an interview, customer transaction, or similar, then try to keep it authentic. Obviously, don’t let a call recording run for twenty minutes, but bring it to a natural conclusion. 7 - 10 minutes is fine for most scenarios. 


The key to DIY eLearning video lies in the details. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Equipment, script and storyboard, length, setting, and even camera angles are things that must be considered. Making your own video can be a cost-effective alternative to hiring a professional, but it’s a big commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Also read:  

visual design crash course


References:

Producing Video on a Team of One

Shooting Video with an Iphone

Don’t Waste Your Money When Developing Training Videos

 

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