Using Video in eLearning

With the cost of video cameras and editing software coming down in price, it’s easier than ever to include video in your eLearning projects. Below is some useful information to read if you are thinking about taking your eLearning to the next level.

Pros and Cons of Using Video in e-Learning

Whether or not you choose to use video in your project will depend on many factors, including time, budget, and subject matter. Whichever way you choose to go, there will be advantages and disadvantages.

  • Reduces the reading load
  • Various forms of media can help keep learners interested/engaged
  • Helps visual learners retain information
  • Great way to demonstrate interpersonal and behavioral skills
  • Expensive and time-consuming to script, record and edit videos
  • Low quality video is more distracting and detrimental than useful
  • Uses more bandwidth and takes longer to load

When you should use video

Although the cost of developing video for e-learning has gone down significantly over the years, it is still a time and resource-intensive undertaking. As such, you should only use video when there is a clear instructional purpose behind it. Here are a few examples of when video might be a good idea:

  • To model behavioral or interpersonal skills
  • To demonstrate how to, and how not to do, a specific task
  • To reduce the reading load for learners
  • To emphasize an important concept or point
  • When you need more emotional appeal than photos and text alone can deliver

High-level steps for using video

If you’ve decided you will be going ahead and using video in your project, here are the high-level tasks you will need to accomplish.

  1. Decide which content will be presented through video
  2. Decide if you will Do-It-Yourself or hire a professional videographer
  3. Script and create a shot-by-shot storyboard
  4. Schedule videographer, actors, location, and sound and lighting technician
  5. Record the video
  6. Edit the video using editing software
  7. Compress and render the video
  8. Insert video into e-learning course
  9. Provide learners with software requirements for accessing the video

Key considerations for using video

Below is a list of some of the basic considerations you will want to look at when planning your video project.

  • Scripting and Storyboarding: Has the script been written and vetted? Scriptwriting may seem easy but it can actually be quite difficult and time-intensive to create realistic dialog. Do you have a storyboard for all the shots you need to capture when recording your video? Do you need a close-up shot of a product or of a specific technique? Have it planned out, shot by shot.
  • Video Equipment and Technology: Do you have the equipment needed to shoot videos? (Camera, editing software, microphones, lighting, backdrops, etc.). If you don’t currently have the necessary equipment, will you be purchasing (new or used) or renting the equipment? What are the price differences? If you are hiring a professional, which equipment will he/she bring?
  • Location: Where will you be filming your video? Do you need a sound-proof location? Can you film in a public space? Do you need to book the space, or make arrangements to make sure it’s quiet? Do you need to purchase a back drop for the room?
  • Actors: Will you be using employees or paid actors? If you are using paid actors, do they need to be a certain age, ethnicity, gender, etc. Do you need to schedule them a few weeks in advance? Do you have any backups in case someone doesn’t show up? Do the actors need to be wearing any specific type of clothing (business suits, casual jeans, etc.) and how should their hair and makeup be done?
  • Lighting: Professional looking videos are well lit to avoid shadows, darkness, etc. How will you accomplish this?
  • Sound: You may need a professional sound technician who has wireless microphones and the equipment needed to make sure all the sounds are crisp and clear.
  • Final editing: Do you have the software necessary to make edits to the footage? If not, will you hire a professional to do this? What are the costs and timeframes involved?
  • Logistics: Now that you’ve got your equipment, location, actors and sound and light technicians all sorted out, you need to schedule everyone to be in the same place at the same time for at least a few hours to do the recording!

Managing Video File sizes:

One of the biggest disadvantages to using video in e-learning is the amount of space/bandwidth they use. Even when compressed, video files are not exactly tiny. However, there are a few basic things you can do to manage your video file sizes:

  • Chunk your videos into small segments
  • Compress your videos
  • Limit the width and height of your videos in your courses (of course, don’t make it so small you can’t see the screen clearly!)
  • Host your videos online (YouTube, or similar) and link to them or embed the YouTube videos directly in your course (this might only be a possibility if Internet access is available, and there might also be a security risk to consider)

More hints, tips, & advice:

  • Write a script, and make sure your subject matter expert (SME) reviews and approves it.
  • Consider hiring professional voiceover talent or contact local acting students. If your budget doesn’t allow for this, better start doing your vocal warm-ups!
  • Keep your instructional designer and SME informed of any last minute changes, so you don’t accidentally alter course information.
  • If you don’t have access to a professional studio, use a USB microphone. Digital input gives you higher quality audio.
  • Restrict noise while recording or consider using a studio. It’s difficult to edit out ambient noise or interruptions post-production, so aim for the cleanest take possible right from the start.
  • Remove distractions. If you’re doing this from a home office, make sure any children or pets are in another room. If you’re at work, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office door.
  • Control mouse motion if you are screen recording. A wandering mouse cursor is surprisingly distracting in this type of video.
  • Choose the right file format. The MP4 video file format is accepted by most e-Learning authoring tools and is supported on nearly all modern computers, tablets and smartphones.
  • Keep videos short, no more than few minutes, so get to the point quickly!
  • Use closed captioning for hearing impaired and for clarity
  • Make sure your e-learning authoring software and LMS are video compatible.
  • Consider how easy/difficult the use of video will make it to edit and maintain the course down the line
  • Articulate Storyline automatically converts all videos to .MP4 during the Publish, so even if you embed .FLV or .SWF files into your course, they should play fine on iOS devices.
  • Practice, practice, practice!

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How Does the Video Production Process Work?

Working with you and your subject matter experts, and based on the scope, objectives, and requirements of the project, we identify the project’s deliverables, including the video segments, their length, mode of delivery (e.g., DVD, online video, broadcast), and resolution. Then we produce a video treatment, describing the entire production from the point of view of the learner, including the overall direction of the video, the kind of locations, situations, stories, and images used, and its pacing, look and feel, and tone.

Next comes the storyboard, a rough visual sketch of the shots in each video, and the script, a description of all verbal and visual content and the action. The shot list is then derived from the scripts. It reorders the scripts to reflect the order in which the footage will actually be shot. This helps with planning the shoot based on location, people, or setup, not the order of the story.

The times, locations, cast, any necessary releases, any special talent, props, dress, people, setup and breakdown are described in the shoot schedule. The shoot then takes place and we capture and inventory all raw assets: video (scene, take number, time codes), audio, images, text, graphics.

In post-production we edit the video footage, add titles, graphics, menus and any animations and special effects. We record the voiceovers and add sound effects and music.

We deliver a “rough edit” for you to review, and discuss any changes, and then produce the final cut, package as necessary, and deliver.