Webcams are not just for video chat. Learning professionals can use them to create inexpensive video content for training. Here are some tips for making your webcam videos a better learning experience.
As we mentioned last month, eLearning videos do not always need to be professionally produced. An alternative approach is webcam recording—using your PC’s built-in capability to record a lesson, a role-play scenario, or anything else you can present face-to-face.Using these rules of thumb will improve your chances of creating engaging content.
1. The Camera Matters
Almost all laptops have a built-in webcam. That said, they can be disappointing in terms of quality. The good news is that HD webcams are relatively inexpensive—many available for under $50. If you plan to use a webcam frequently for courseware creation, a good one is worth the investment. A standalone webcam is also essential if you also record from your desktop PC, if it comes without one.
2. Arrange the Room
By definition, webcam recording does not require a full-blown studio set. However, you should take a moment to consider the background of your shot. Remove or rearrange the things behind you, to minimize visual clutter. It doesn’t have to be perfect or flattering (as this screenshot proves) but it should let your students see you—without distractions.
3. Check Lighting & Sound
Even a great HD webcam cannot produce great video if the room is too dark, or if there is glare from windows or other light sources. Experiment with lighting in the room until you get a well-balanced, natural effect. Also, if your built-in microphone isn’t cutting it, invest in a better one. Your students will thank you.
4. Make Eye Contact!
Anyone who’s used video on a Skype call is familiar with looking at callers’ foreheads and not directly into their eyes. They usually appear to be looking at your chest or abdomen, because the webcam is located at the top of the monitor. Nothing can deflate the value of an eLearning video like an instructor who seems to be avoiding eye contact.
This can be a tough one. Often, you’ll be reading from on-screen notes or a script, which takes your eyes off the camera and its green light. However, there is a DIY fix:
If you use on-screen notes, make them in PowerPoint. Keep each text segment short, and position the text at the top of the screen. When you’re ready to shoot, go to Slide Show mode and advance the slides with the right arrow cursor key. Your text will be just below the camera.
By using PowerPoint as a teleprompter, you can keep looking at the camera, glancing down only occasionally—to refresh your memory and keep on message.
It should go without saying that practice makes perfect. Even the best instructor is unlikely to get it all right in one take. You’ll get better over time, but give yourself the luxury of multiple takes.
5. Use Short Segments
Even with lots of rehearsals and multiple takes. The chance of getting the whole lesson right in one pass is slim. Instead of trying to do it all in a single take, divide the piece into logical segments, and shoot each one separately. Once you’ve done that, you can combine them with:
- A high-end video editing application like Premiere or Final Cut Pro—if you already own it, that is. If not, you can use…
- A less expensive program, like Photoshop CC (which now does video!) or Apple iMovie. Both will let you intermix other media, like audio+text clips from PowerPoint.
- However, you don’t even need an editing program, since you can use Viddler’s seamless playlist feature to combine video and audio segments into one continuous viewing experience.
6. Keep It Brief
The rule of thumb for eLearning video is: “shorter is better.” Keep your total run length (all segments combined) under 20 minutes—preferably even shorter. It’s better to have many short videos than one long one.
7. Automate and Interact
Creating good webcam footage is a great start, but it can bog down your content creation process if there are too many manual steps involved in getting it to your audience. Use a good eLearning video service, like Viddler, to keep file uploading and management simple. A good service will automatically encode and securely deliver your videos to your audience, whenever they choose.
It’s also important to pick a technology that lets you add interactivity to video content, including the ability to add expert notes, links, comments, and asynchronous discussions at the video timeline level.
You have three guesses to figure out who provides that eLearning capability.