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Best Practices for Using Video in E-Learning

Are you thinking about adding video to your e-learning course? Let me share a few best practices in case you want to know a little bit more about your options.

There are many reasons to use video in your training: it’s a quick way to deliver content, sound, and motion to engage learners. It can be used to generate excitement, or it can be a good way to show a complicated process or system. Whatever the reason, there are several options to consider.

E-Learning Authoring Tools

The first option might be not to use any video. Why do I say that? Well, if you’re looking for simple animation, motion, sound, or some combination of all of these, most e-learning authoring tools, such as Storyline 360 and Captivate, have features built in that allow you to design and build animated objects on a timeline. Items can fade, blur, spin, grow, shrink, move, and more. This movement can be combined with narration and also include user interactivity (e.g., button presses, slider controls, drag-and-drop, etc.). And what you end up with looks a lot like a video. Using these built-in functions is often the quickest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to bring movement to your learning.

Browser-Based Tools

One of the quickest and most affordable options when it comes to creating videos is to use an online browser-based video platform, such as Vyond, VideoScribe, or Doodly. You might recognize these videos as ‘Whiteboard Animations that were all the rage a while back. These tools are designed to allow you to quickly put together an animation by dragging premade items and illustrations on to a stage; adding some sound, music, or narration; and then exporting the final product to your desktop (as a video file) where it can be shared with the world.

The advantage of using these tools is that they can be a quick way to create an overall easy-to-use experience. They include prebuilt characters, backgrounds, objects, and other elements so there’s no need to spend time creating or drawing these items yourself.

The disadvantage is they offer limited customization and usually look cartoony — given the certain art styles they use. They come with a monthly subscription fee or one-time purchase price.

Premier and After Effects

When it comes time to develop something more customized, most people turn to a dedicated program, such as Premier or Adobe After Effects.

Premier is a linear editing system used to edit real video (recorded on a video camera or your phone, etc.) and offers a complete package to build and deliver a final video in all of the popular formats. There are different video formats, frame rates, resolutions, and other technical aspects of the actual video itself, not to mention the cameras and recording tools to take into consideration. For this blog, I’m going to keep it simple. Most e-learning will use some sort of optimized video that’s 1920 x 1080, or 1280 x 720, and usually 24 or 29.9 frames per second.

Adobe After Effects is generally considered the go-to program when it comes to creating engaging animations, motion graphics, compositing, and more robust video/animation solutions. This is a dedicated video software solution and allows you to import raw footage, illustrations, other video clips, sound, music, photos, narration, and just about anything else you would need to create something amazing. It goes without saying that using a tool like this requires more skill and experience than the web-based video tools I mentioned above.

Steps to Create a Video

Next, let’s cover — at a very high level — the general workflow needed to create a video.

  • First, you need to work with a scriptwriter to create a script that establishes the flow, text, and graphical concepts.
  • Next, gather any required assets ( e.g., photos, images, technical drawings, screenshots of existing software, etc.) and bring them into the video editing tool (e.g., After Effects).
  • Then, add the narration or audio track (if applicable) and edit and combine these items until you’re satisfied with the end result.
  • Once finished, you’ll need to export the video (this step is called “rendering”). Know that a video can take a while to render, especially on slower computers. The final video will be saved in a format, such as .mp4, and can now be inserted it into an e-learning course (or shared  on the web, placed on a company intranet, etc.). One thing to note is that regardless of the style of the video, whether it be 3D, animated, illustrations, hand-drawn, live footage, stop-motion, etc., they’ll all be exported in a video file format.

So, there you have it — a brief glimpse of the considerations for creating and using video in your learning solutions. Lights… camera… action! Let the video production begin.

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