In 2015, having video in your online course is almost an imperative—video can demonstrate and illuminate concepts that are more difficult to express in text, and its mass appeal is apparent with both young and mobile learners. But if you use this tool, you have to do it right—learners associate the quality of instructional tools with the quality of the content.
Here are five tips for creating course videos that will make even a low-budget project look professional.
1. Keep it short.
The internet has done some wonderful things for learning, but one of the inevitable downsides is that it’s whittled away at our attention spans. Some say that people will watch 5 minutes of a video before growing bored, while others fear it’s closer to 2 minutes. Bear in mind that these are the viewing patterns of a typical American surfing the internet—learners enrolled in a course may be more (or less) motivated to sit through longer videos.
So how long should your video be? As short as possible. Figure out what you need to convey and the most efficient way possible of doing so.
2. Improve the audio.
Audio is often overlooked when shooting low-budget instructional videos. There’s a sense that the camera has a microphone, so that’ll do the trick—right?
Wrong. Built-in camera microphones cast a wide net over the entire room, meaning you’ll end up drowning out your speaker with the hum of the air conditioner or planes flying by the window. Plus, you have to keep the camera close to your subject—really, really close. These distractions are frustrating for learners and can cost you your audience.
You’d be surprised at how little you have to pay for an external microphone. Even $20 can drastically improve your production (and educational) value. These mics can plug into the camera directly, or even into your cell, making your iPhone an on-the-go sound recorder.
3. Watch your lighting.
Audio is the first thing newbie videographers overlook, and lighting is the second. Just as the hum of an air conditioner can distract and irritate viewers, a dark shadow across the instructor’s face can make even the most patient learner unplug.
The cheapest way to light up a scene is to use natural light—shoot interviewees as they face a window or, if you can, shoot footage outside. But even if Mother Nature isn’t agreeable or your office doesn’t have windows, you can rig up a DIY light kit for less than $100.
4. Make it accessible.
Once your video is shot, edited, and uploaded to your LMS—you’re done, right? Wrong. Across the globe, there are 285 million people living with visual impairments and 360 million people who have disabling hearing loss. Chances aren’t so slim that one of those people might end up in your course, so you’ll want to make sure they’re able to absorb the content as effectively as their peers.
Always make sure you have a transcript and captioning available for your learners, and include narrative descriptions of the action in a transcript that can be read aloud by screen readers. There are also ways you can incorporate accessibility as you create the video: use large fonts for on-screen titles, avoid flashing lights, and use an accessible media player that integrates with screen readers and works in all platforms and browsers.
5. Be creative.
Learners often have the expectation that course videos are going to be dry, long, and boring. Surprise them! Add music, satire, and bright titles to keep learners motivated and following along. If you need inspiration, look to the skies: Airlines have transformed the reputation of in-flight safety videos by incorporating humor into the mix.
For more on different learning strategies, check out these blog posts: