How to make instructional videos

By Maryam Shafiei, ACT Support Assistant

You have probably heard the mantras, “Show, don’t tell” or “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember”. Visually illustrating a new skill is now a significant element of multi-modal instruction and a frequently used tool in instructional design. You can find training videos everywhere – from how to bake a cake to how to use a computer application or how to use an online service. Users can watch videos/tutorials over again, if needed, and work at their own pace. This post will focus on some strategies for using a computer screen recording application to create instructional videos. If you would like to make videos an important component of your teaching, here are a few tips on how to make them engaging for your students.

The first step in creating videos is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of your video? Try to have a clear, SMART goal for your video.
  • Who is your audience? Ask yourself these questions: Who are they? What do they need to learn? How can this be delivered? What are their skill levels?
  • What is the action you want the learners to take? Think about your message and your goals.

Before recording:
1. Organize your content.

  • Lay out your content in sequential order.  This will help the learners organize incoming information and remember the information you provide.
  • Provide an outline of your content. Introduce the subject and tell your audience what they are going to learn. If your video has different sections, provide a title for each section so your audience will be prepared for what they are about to learn.
  • Break up the content of your video into smaller pieces. It will help the learners to quickly find the part they are looking for.
  • Shorter is better. One of the ways to keep learners engaged is to be mindful of video length. Due to limited attention spans, you will need to keep your video short, 2 to 6 minutes if possible. If you need more time to deliver the content, try to break your video into segments or separate videos.
  • Include interactive components in your videos, such as questions, quizzes and customized examples and exercises. It will keep your audience engaged with the video and will reinforce learned concepts.

2. Use a script. Writing out a script in advance, even if it’s just a bullet point list of steps, will help keep your video concise and focused.

  • Keep the steps simple and short so you read the script while also looking at the monitor.
  • Try to keep your narration informal and spontaneous. Use a conversational tone when writing your script.
  • Read it out loud a few times before recording. Ask someone to read it to you so you can can hear how the script flows.

3. Clean up your computer desktop.  Make sure to hide or minimize any distracting items on your desktop, close unused programs and ensure your email notifications are turned off.

Record your video:

  • Record the full screen. Some instructors like to look right at their learners when they are talking. If you would like to create such a connected bond while teaching or if you need to show your audience something other than your computer screen you can always use a webcam or  a camcorder to record videos and integrate them with your screen video later, but for those who are new to recording video an easy route to take is just to record the full screen using a screen recorder application. This ensures you capture everything on screen, which you can edit later if you want. You can scale and crop your video to smaller dimensions, but making it larger later on will cause it to blur.
  • Use a decent microphone. Good audio is a key element for any type of video sharing. If you are using a laptop, please do not use the built-in microphone which picks up a lot of extra noise. You can simply use an inexpensive USB microphone instead.
  • Slow down. Try not to put too many concepts into one video. If your audience is unfamiliar with your video content, take it slow.
  • Control your mouse. When recording, try not to move the mouse around while you talk. Never wiggle your mouse to emphasize a point.

After you record:

  • Choose an editing application. Review the range of free or inexpensive online editing platforms and have a look at their simple guides to start editing.
  • Use callouts. Add callouts where necessary, like when you want to draw attention to some object on the screen. Depending on the program you are using to edit your video there might be different options for callouts to choose from, including arrows to point directly to something specific in your video, spotlight which darkens everything on the screen except for the area you want to focus on, or a blurcallout to hide certain areas of your recording that you do not want everyone to see like login information. (Please see examples below.) Try to keep the callouts, annotations or animations as simple as possible and avoid adding too many callouts because they will increase your video file size.
    Callout - arrow

    Callout - arrow

    Callout - spotlight

    Callout - spotlight

    Callout - blur

    Callout - blur

  • Add a title to your video. Add a title slide to describe the purpose of the video. Fade it out as you fade in the recording.
  • Control the audio. Check the audio levels through both speakers and headphones and adjust the levels if needed. If you are using music, make sure it is just loud enough to be heard but not so loud that it interferes with the narration.
  • Determine the next step. At the end of the video include a specific call to action. Ask yourself what you want your viewers to do when they have finished the video: watch another video? Take a quiz? Go to your website or email you their questions?
  • Share your video. Finally, share your video and make it easily accessible for your viewers so they will be encouraged to use it. Making content available on an online video hosting site or an LMS is an efficient way of increasing accessibility. Provide your learners with the information on how to access your video.

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