Introductions. Librarians are heroes. In all seriousness: I’m an instructional technologies librarian at Dalhousie University. This means that I work with a lot of gadgets and software to improve student learning outcomes. One of my major duties is to build and manage an inventory of over 100 online tutorials. These tutorials range from 90-second soundbites to 10 minutes in length, and they are built for different users and to convey different types of information.
A clickthrough to one of our more recent tutorials. Go to vimeo.com/dallibraries for details. Note how these productions are screencasts – videos pulled from browser and PPT windows. Then we overlay small “callouts”, such as pointers, arrows, etc, to emphasize what we want to emphasize.
What it takes: Time and practice and practice and time. I can’t stress this enough, guys. If you want to something to look half-way decent, then you need to be prepared to spend a couple hours on it. Be prepared to “storyboard” everything. Start with your message- what’s the point that you’re trying to say? Then write a script. Then chop it down in half. Cut out every needless word. That’s when you can think about how you can visualize these paragraphsAs for the computer issue. A PC is fine here. A mac is awesome, but don’t feel obliged to to throw the baby out with the bath water.
What you need in terms of tech.A good microphone. I have two types – a direction mic @ $80, and a headset mic @ $40 (roughly). This is essential. Software. Go with Jing.com until you know you want to go further. Then try either Camtasia or Adobe Captivate (they are similar products but made for a slightly different goal, keep in mind.) Both Camtasia and Captivate can be purchased with volume and organizational discounts, and both offer demo versions. Try them out and see what you like. FWIW, I’ve used both. For straight-up screencasting, Camtasia is your best bet. If you want to add quiz functions at all, or any sort of interaction, then you may want to consider Captivate. (That’s a whole different ball game, though.)Image editing. Search for GIMP. It is open source, mature software, and it is FREE. It is not malware It is not spam. And it is not a virus. Get this and you’re golden.Audio – Search for Audacity. Like GIMP, this is the bee’s knees. I suggest you do all of your sound editing with this programme.The rules.Know your user. Know your user’s needs. Remember that you’re building these tutorials for some one else. Be sure you have a sense of their learning styles and learning needs. What is your user’s information needs? Identify that and focus on it and nothing else.Stay on message. This repeats No.1, but repetition is a good thing in screencasts. Give the user what they’re looking for and nothing else. If you have more than one thing to say, then you have too much to say in that screencast. It’s that simple.No pixie dust. I’m serious here. Keep it clean and elegant. Your user will be watching this on a monitor or even a smartphone or tablet. Make it easy for them to stay focused on only one thing.Keep it short. 30seconds to 2 minutes, tops. And aim for 30 seconds. Video is great for conveying short learning messages but after that it becomes iffy. This is especially so when you’re using the Internet where people are not used to linear projections of info. With the net, we can click hyperlinks all the time to shift from one point to another. But with video, our users are forced to watching things from start to finish; for many people, the first instinct will be to reject the video because it doesn’t work with their normal viewing habits. QED, keep it short for their sakes.
Image: A quick snapshot of my workspace. Two monitors, a headphone and a direction mic. And speakers in the upper right.
A screenshot of Camtasia. In the top left are the files I can add to my project – movies, images, audio clips, etc. In the bottom is the film reel: the first long black line are video clips, and underneath that are “callouts” like the arrows you see on the screen, and then the audio track. And of course, in the top right is the output – this is what will be rendered when I produce the project.
Some parting thoughts:What I didn’t cover fully – how to put this stuff on the web. When it’s time to produce things, save them to YouTube – it’s an option in Camtasia as well as in Captivate. Or, save as a .MOV file and upload to Vimeo.What I didn’t cover at all – success rates. The jury is almost always out on how well video and work. I won’t say much here since it will depend on your audience, its needs, your content, and it’s quality. Dal Libraries’ tutorials are fairly successful, we believe (and know from our stats measurements), but we are also of the opinion that a lot more can be done with instructional tech that will take us well beyond making movies like Quentin T. is doing here. But that may be a talk for next year?
This would look so much better in 1080p. Leveraging YouTube: informing and educating with screencasts michaelsteeleworthy instructional technologies librarian | dalhousie university firstname.lastname@example.org | thezeds.com
791.4375 L935i librarian / dalhousie university / instructional technologies / research & reference / video production / social media / tech in the classroom / info literacy / satchels email@example.com | thezeds.com