Video Learning Best Practices: Production

  • 4 Min Read

The first in a series of three, this post looks at the ins and outs of easy and effective video production.

Video is a great learning tool. Whether it’s presentations, collaboration, lectures, or soft skills assessment, video can help keep learners engaged and entertained throughout their online courses. This post is the first in a series examining best practices when it comes to video production, instructional design and assessment. First up is video production.

 

Producing video for instructional purposes can seem like a daunting task, but the truth is it can be very easy. You don’t need expensive equipment and software, and the finished product doesn’t need to look like a slick Hollywood film. With video recording capabilities now built in to most laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, the barriers to using video in learning have virtually fallen away.

Whether you’re recording presentations, capturing subject matter expertise, delivering lectures, or even connecting over two-way video conferencing, here are a few steps you can take to produce effective, high-quality videos using only the tools at your disposal.

Location is Everything

Location is one of the biggest determining factors in how well your video will turn out. Where you choose to record will impact both the visual and audio elements of your content.

Lighting

IMG-Good-Lighting
Good lighting
IMG-Bad-Lighting
Bad lighting

The most important thing to know about lighting is the location of your light source. Make sure it’s in front of you so your face is illuminated and clear. If it’s coming from behind, you’ll appear silhouetted. Don’t sit with your back to a window. Instead, sit facing the window, with the camera pointed towards you.

Sound

Like lighting, where you record will have more of an impact on the quality of your audio than what you use to record. Chances are your computer has a built-in microphone that will produce perfectly acceptable sound quality. Choose a room with decent acoustics and no background noise. Avoid large rooms where sound will travel and produce echoes and feedback. If you can find a room with carpeting it will help absorb and prevent echoes.

Your own classroom or cubicle is probably an acceptable place to record, but if you find that the acoustics are awful and relocating to a different room isn’t an option, you can try building your own makeshift recording booth. Try piling boxes, clothes, or even pillows around and behind your computer. The goal is to create a barrier that will dampen or muffle outside sound while keeping your voice directed where it’s supposed to go.

Lights, Camera, Action

Now it’s time to think about the actual production of your video.

Scripted or unscripted?

Before you start recording, you’ll want to consider whether you’re the kind of person who benefits from reading a full script, bulleted speaking points, or just winging it. There’s no “right” answer here. Do what you’re most comfortable with. Aside from location considerations, the biggest thing you can do to ensure your video turns out well is to “be yourself” on camera.

Camera and software

Your built-in webcam is probably good enough for recording decent video. If you don’t have one, external USB webcams are inexpensive. There’s no need to get fancy.

Computers often come with built-in software that allows you to record video files to your computer, which you can upload afterwards. Even better, you might be able to record your video directly using tools in your learning platform.

You’ll also want to consider the style of your video: are you just talking to the camera, or do you need to include visual aids – and if so, does your software make it easy to include PowerPoint® presentation files or screen sharing?

When you’re ready to start recording, make sure that you’re close enough to the built-in mic that your voice is clear and audible.

From there, hit record and go!

Wrapping up

After you’ve finished your recording you’ll need to think about how to publish it to your course or share it across your organization.

Depending on the recording software you used, you might be able to make any necessary edits to your video before recording or publishing directly to your learning platform.  If not, you can export the video as a .MP4 or .MOV file, both of which are common video file formats that should be supported by your learning platform or whatever video platform you choose to use.

Learn how Canada’s National Ballet School is using video to reach new audiences

Accessibility

This is also a good time to think about accessibility. If you used a script for your video, you can upload it as a text-based transcript to generate captions to accommodate learners who are hard of hearing. If not, uploading your slides and speaking notes is a good way to ensure everyone has access to the content while you create the captions for your video.

There are a ton of different ways to use video in learning. The key to making it engaging is not worrying about high production value and perfect cuts, so much as authenticity.

PowerPoint® is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.     

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4 responses to “Video Learning Best Practices: Production

  1. Taylor: You’ve inappropriately downplayed the accessibility requirements (at least in academic institutions in the US). Video needs to be captioned. Having a transcript of the script has not been considered sufficient by either the US Dept of Ed’s Office for Civil Rights, or the US Dept of Justice in the various consent and agreement letters approved to rectify non-compliance findings. The script is a great start to captioning from, but it’s important to understand that just providing a transcript does not meet the standard the agencies are applying.

    1. @Kristin and @Raymond – thanks for the comments, and very good points! To be clear, we meant that uploading a text-based transcript can be a good way to generate captions, not that uploading a text-based transcript should substitute for providing captions. We’ve amended the post to make that more explicit!

  2. While providing a transcript for your video is a great idea and works in a pinch, the video must be captioned in order to be accessible.

  3. Great tips to follow. Another tip for consideration is framing your shot by keeping your eyes in the upper third of the screen. When using a built in webcam, you may often find that you are either cutting off the top of your head or shooting up your nose, neither of which tends to be flattering to the presenter! Try elevating your laptop so that your webcam is eye level, either using a stand or even stacked books wide enough to support the laptop. This will help to properly frame your shot and make it look more natural.

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