Our process for creating elearning videos

I will be talking at the Technical Communications UK 2014 conference (TCUK14) next month about creating videos for technical communication and elearning videos.

elearning video screen captureIt covers how to embed video in a course. The delegates see, in each recorded module, a video of the trainer on the right of the screen, with the slides, application walkthroughs or images on the left of the screen.

This format is more engaging for delegates than a disembodied voice talking over a slide or image.

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How we record videos for our online training courses

We’re just starting to record the video inserts for a new online training course we’re developing. As I’ll presenting at the TCUK 2014 conference on on this topic, I thought I’d take a few photos in case they come in handy during my TCUK presentation.

We record the presenter actually presenting the slides, as this results in a more natural presentation style. The presenter sees the slides on the laptop, and we use the laptop’s camera for recording the video.

our studio set up

Previously, we’ve recorded to a white background, but for this course, we’re going to be using a green screen. We record the audio using a USB microphone and a digital voice recorder. This means we have two audio recordings of the presentation.

The presenter sees a copy of the slides on the laptop screen, which he can progress through using a remote control. He also sees the script via a teleprompter on a tablet.

What the presenter sees

The green screen (we use chroma-key to remove the background) is giving us more consistent results than having a white background.

It’s a comparatively low budget setup, and it seems to work.

Updated copywriting training course coming soon

We’ve temporarily withdrawn our online copywriting skills training course, but don’t worry: an updated version of the course will be coming out soon.

The new course, developed by Dr Alan Rae, includes new content on telling your story in writing, as well as digital copywriting. Dr Rae is a Fellow, and former Regional Chair, of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Written communication is the foundation of Internet-based marketing – however it’s quite different from conventional copywriting. That’s because you have to allow for people having different reading styles online. You also have to address the issues of Google search and spam filtering when you are writing web pages or email content.

The new course is all about how to write digital copy. It comes in three short 20 minute modules. It updates the original single module with material on digital copywriting, and includes information from various research projects into what makes digital media attractive to a prospective customer.

It is ideal for Technical Authors and other technical writers who are also tasked with writing marketing copy, as well as those who simply need to improve their copywriting skills.

The new course will release December 2012/January 2013.

The course is also available as an on-site, classroom course. Contact us for details of this option.

Popcorn Maker – “freeing Web videos from the little black box”

Mozilla has released Version 1 of Popcorn Maker, a free HTML5 Web application that enables you to create videos that interact with images, text, maps and other media.

This means you are able to add live content to a video. For example, if you have a video telling a user how to purchase an item, you could include details on the specific item they want to purchase, within the video.

Popcorn Maker

Version 1 of Popcorn Maker offers basic functionality. More advanced functionality (such as synchronising a text transcript with a video) is also available via a JavaScript framework.

Mozilla is promoting this as a tool for video makers, but it offers new capabilities to those involved in corporate training, support and user assistance.

In the upcoming weeks, Cherryleaf be advising our clients how they can use the technology in their training videos and screencasts.

See also: Screencast, eLearning and animated tutorial development services

Searching for key words and phrases in training videos – Adventures in media synchronization

One of the limitations of video-based information has been the difficulties for users in finding a particular piece of information in a video. Usually, they have to watch the whole video, or “peck and hunt” to get to the moment containing the information they were searching for.

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, HTML5, an emerging Web standard, enables Technical Authors and courseware developers to synchronize different media. One application of this is enabling users to search a text for a key word and then start a video or audio at that point. Here is an example.

Searching for key word or phrase in a video - example

In addition to making it easier for users to search videos for the information they need, it will also mean the pages will be more likely to appear in the search engine rankings. In other words, there will be an SEO benefit as well.

Synchronizing text and video within Web pages will become a lot easier in November 2012, when we are likely to see the the introduction of authoring tools containing this functionality (at the moment you need to be familiar with HTML and JavaScript).

We believe this is an exciting development in the field of user assistance.

Combining text and video in eLearning – Adventures in media synchronization

As we mentioned in previous posts, HTML5 enables Technical Authors and courseware developers to synchronize different media. One of the key areas where this can be applied is in eLearning, where users are now able to toggle between text-based content and video tutorials.

As a consequence, Technical Communicators will need to decide which form of text to provide with the video.

Should it be:

  • a transcript, faithfully documenting every word that was said in the video?;
  • an edited, but still conversational, version?; or
  • text written in the minimalist writing style we normally see in User Guides and Help files?

Let’s look at the case for and against providing an exact copy of what was said in the recording.

The case against a transcript

The manner in which we speak and the way we write are often significantly different. Hugh Lupton, from The Company of Storytellers, once said:

It’s a very different journey from the eye to the mind as from the ear to the mind.

In oracy, the artifices of the speech are very important. These are what Marie Shedlock called “the mechanical devices by which we endeavor to attract and hold the attention of the audience.” They are the gestures, the pauses, the repeated phrases that a good presenter will use.

For example, in this performance by Daniel Morden and Hugh Lupton, Daniel repeats “not for you” as a way of keeping the audience engaged (from 0:13):

If we make a transcript, we retain these artifices in the written word. Instead of improving the comprehension, when published in written form, they can make it harder for the user to understand. For example, if the user searches for a key word or phrase, the repetition of those key phrases by the speaker is going to make it harder for the user to find the right instance.

The case for a transcript

  1. Unlike the storytelling examples above, eLearning is rarely delivered in audio form only. In most cases, the presenter and the audience has a shared visual image to view. This helps ensure there is shared understanding.
  2. A transcript gives a true representation of what the presenter said.
  3. If a user remembers a key phrase or word in the presentation, then they may want to search for that moment to replay it. If the text has been edited, or is significantly different, then that phrase may have been omitted.

Which approach should you take?

We suspect over time that the text provided in synchronized elearning courses will follow the minimalist style that works in User guides and Online Help, where the subject matter is technical in nature. A more conversational tone may work where the material is non-technical (e.g. easy to use consumer goods), providing an overview, or where there isn’t the time to do anything more than provide a transcript.

As they say, time will tell.

What do you think?

Embedding live data into training videos – Adventures in media synchronization

One of the topics Ellis covered in his presentation at Technical Communication UK 12 conference was how media synchronization is likely to affect online training, online Help and other forms of user assistance.

HTML5, an emerging Web standard, will enable Technical Authors and courseware developers to synchronize different media, such as live data and video recordings.

To illustrate this, we have created a “quick and dirty” demonstration that integrates a live feed of tweets containing the phrase “online help” with a video. Please note, you will need a HTML5 compatible browser to view this video.

live tweets embedded into a videoOne key area where this technology is likely to be used is where you are looking to use video to guide users through a specific task. For example, if you had a video explaining how to bid for an item on an auction site, you could include, dynamically, details on the product into the video itself. If a different user watched the video, then the product details appearing would change to the one they were interested in.

live data embedded into a video example

At the moment, HTML5 is still an emerging standard. However, it is likely to be an important development in the field of eLearning and technical communication.