Best practices

8 Video Tips to enhance your e-learning courses


A picture is worth a thousand words, the saying goes. Imagine then what a full blown, 24 frames per second, video is worth. Whatever your niche, from internal courses for your enterprise’s employees to music tuition, if properly used, video can be a very effective weapon in your arsenal. In this post we’ll have a look at how e-learning educators can effectively create and utilize video to enhance their courses (8 video tips).

1. Hire a professional

You might have mastered writing e-learning material, but video is an art in itself.

Do you really know how to setup and use cameras, lenses, lights, audio-recorders, mikes, tripods, and all the other gizmos that are necessary for a professional result? And these are just the beginning ― after the capture there comes color correction, sound mixing, editing, subtitling and general post production. And don’t get me started on frame rates, color profiles, codecs and compression settings.

Had too much already? Consider hiring a pro. With increased competition in the industry it doesn’t even have to be expensive. Ask at your local camera stores – a lot of them also do video jobs, and even those that don’t can still point you in the right direction.

2. Do it yourself

If the list of equipment and production tasks in the first tip didn’t put you off, or if you have previous experience in the field, it might be perfectly possible to do it yourself.

After all, with the democratization of video equipment and tools that modern technology has brought us, even untrained teens are able to produce their own material for YouTube and such.

Check enthusiast video sites like nofilmschool and philipbloom for tutorials and equipment reviews and recommendations. Search Google for royalty free music you can use in your videos. Start with a basic video editor like Premiere Elements or iMovie. Watch amateur YouTube and Vimeo productions for inspiration. If you put the effort, you’ll get the results.

3. It all starts with the script

Whether you consider hiring a professional to shoot your videos or want to have a go at doing it yourself, you should have a concrete idea of what you want.

Start with a script. Describe what each of your clips is about, and give a short description of each scene. Proceed to write any narrative or dialog. If you hired somebody to do the filming you can collaborate with them on the visual aspects on the film too (just don’t tell them how to do their job).

4. Be creative

It doesn’t matter (much) if you can’t afford to hire a video professional, or if your budget is small. A little creativity can go a long way to achieving a quality result.

Amateur filmmakers often build their own rigs from common everyday materials. Your phone could serve as a cheap video camera and a stick and some duct tape you can have your own “boom pole” in minutes. And lots of high impact informational videos have been created using the “drawing on a blackboard” technique, which requires almost no animation budget.

5. Keep it short and simple

Also known as the KISS principle. People are easily bored. Students doubly so.

Don’t let your clips meander for hours, and don’t try to use video to explain very detailed and complicated content. Some things are fine to demonstrate with a video, others take several pages of mathematical formulas or detailed illustrations to explain.

The production and cinematography of your video doesn’t have to be complex either. You might have tons of ideas, but sometimes a simple video of a professor giving a lecture can be more than enough, as long as he can communicate his knowledge well.

6. Respect the format

Video is not a glorified Powerpoint presentation. Don’t treat it as such. Same as written content has rules (syntax and grammar for starters), video has its own rules.

If you already have written material for your courses, there’s no point in replicating it verbatim in your videos. Pick the more essential parts, to have the videos re-enforce the gist of your course. Or add supplemental insights that are unrelated to what already exists in written form.

Try to use video to show things that cannot be easily explained otherwise, especially subjects that can benefit heavily from the visual element (e.g. videos for a guitar course could showcase the finger placement for the various chords).

7. Video is not just about video

You don’t have to restrict your video content to the filming of lectures, interviews, how-tos and so on. You can use graphics, such as plots and graphs, illustrations, and even animation in your videos.

For a lot of topics you can find ready-made graphics and animations on video-stock selling websites, that could be easily incorporated into your production. And you can create basic animations and graphics yourself, in tools like Adobe After Effects, Apple Motion, etc.

If you have the skills, you can even create interactive video content, with the use of tools like Adobe Flash or even plain old HTML5.

8. Fit your videos in with your content

Place your videos in the appropriate place within the rest of your content. You could, for example, place a video that introduces a subject matter in the beginning of the course, or have a video that demonstrates a particular example at the end of the chapter were that topic was covered.

Don’t just have videos serve as supplemental material. You can integrate them better with your courses by having them play a role in the student’s progress, e.g by basing a quiz or an exercise on their content.

That’s it for today. Of course video is a huge topic in itself, and we might return with some more in-depth posts on the subject. Until then, these high level guidelines will serve you well as a starting point in leveraging video for your e-learning content.

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