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Video production can be done in many ways – from Hollywood movies to selfie videos. In the following we have collected some of the basics for you.

Camera

For professional quality video production, you need a Full-HD Camera with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Also make sure to have enough memory sticks and spare batteries. 
Recommended cameras: Canon EOS, Nikon D, Sony HDR.

Video Format

  • High Quality HD videos
    • 16:9 Format
    • H.264 codec or similar
    • we recommend 1920 x 1080 (1080p or 1080i), or at least 1280 x 720 p
    • supported file format: mp4, m4v, flv, avi, mpg, mov, etc.

Sound

In learning video production, capturing quality audio is key. Arguably, this is the single most important technical aspect of creating a good learning video. Here are some guidelines.

  • Using an external microphone is imperative!
  • Before recording, check to make sure the volume is correctly adjusted.
  • Make sample recordings and have someone else give you feedback about the sound quality.
  • If you are recording outside, you should use a microphone that you can attach to your jacket.

Recommended settings for recording: 48kHz and 24 bit

Lighting

We advise using the standard 3 point lighting in video production. If you prefer to use natural light, keep in mind that the sun moves and your picture therefore changes.

Video Production

3 point lighting: back light, key light, fill light

For more details see:

Three Point Lighting Explained

3 Point Lighting Tutorial (Youtube)

 

General Tips for Presenting

You should be aware that your voice and body language do not seem the same online as in your classroom.

  • Prepare your message – Write a script. What is it that you really want to say for this particular video? Narrow it down and be sure you know what is most important. Memorise and practice your script (see scripting). You do not have to write out every single word you want to say. If you are more comfortable working with bullet points, feel free to work like this, but try to remember your first and last sentence of a scene, so that a cut feels natural.
  • Relax and smile – An inhale and exhale followed with a soft smile works wonders (NOT one that’s ear to ear). Be sure you’re breathing regularly in the course of taping. Do not hold your breath. Also, blink on occasion. It’s a natural lubricant for your eyes and will help you stay “bright eyed” – you will look less “robotic”.
  • Body language – A little movement is fine; too much movement makes you appear nervous. Use your hands, because hands can enhance decisive statements and support nuance in your speaking dynamics, but don’t overuse them. If you’re standing during your taping, watch the typical rocking back and forth. Try to stand comfortably with your feet about six inches apart, your weight equally distributed and your shoulders relaxed. Don’t stand on the balls of your feet, as you run the risk of losing your balance. When sitting, lean just slightly forward, shoulders down, and then sit as tall as you can but without stiffness.
  • Look directly into the camera – Imagine a person where the camera is and imagine a conversation. Tilt your head slightly and position the camera a little above your eye level.
  • For tablet capture – Imagine you are sitting next to your student, explaining the material.
  • Take some time – Don’t start talking as soon as you push the recording button: give it 2-3 seconds. This will make the post-production easier.
  • It’s a process – Record yourself in front of the camera multiple times, take a look at the content you have produced, and try to identify what works and what doesn’t.

Based on:

Wendy Scharfmann

edX101 – How to Make an edX Course

Commandments of Quality Video Production

There are a few commandments of good filmmaking. Here is a very basic list:

  • Know what you are going to shoot! – Have a plan (storyboard) of what you are going to say and show.
  • The object moves, not the camera! – Try to hold the camera still, as handheld filming usually looks unprofessional. The best way to steady the camera is by using a tripod.
  • Be thrifty with the zoom! – Only use zoom where necessary, otherwise it looks nervous. Zooming can be useful to point out something really important or show details. Remember to try out the zoom of each scene in order not to over- or under-zoom: if you zoom, be on point!
  • Each scene needs some extra meat! – Remember to give each scene three extra seconds before you start the actual scene and after you finish it. In doing so, you make sure to have better cuts in post-production.
  • Every scene needs light! – Never shoot against the light. If you shoot indoors, take care of good lighting.
  • Know who’s talking! – When shooting, ensure absolute silence during the recording. Noises from people not in the picture can be especially annoying.

 

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Effective Learning Videos

As I explained in previous posts, a good course is a lot more than just effective learning videos. But that’s not to say that high-quality content (such as effective learning videos) is not important. In principle, the course content can be delivered through a great variety of formats such as:

  • Video lessons
  • Audio lessons
  • Texts
  • Images
  • Diagrams
  • Infographics etc.

Because video is the format about which we receive the most questions, and which typically consumes most of a course’s budget, we will focus on it in this post.

Unit Video With A Video as a Main Resource e.g. iversity – Visual Thinking for Business

Unit Video With A Video as a Main Resource e.g. iversity – Visual Thinking for Business

First of all: good online courses are not just lectures on tape! They offer much more for both sides, in terms of possibilities for the instructor as well as in terms of the result for learners. Effective learning videos differ from traditional lectures in many ways. Creating a video is completely different from preparing a lecture. The difference is similar to that of performing a play and filming a movie.

Giving a lecture is a one-time event. It takes place in a specific location (a classroom or a lecture hall) at a specific time each week. Once you have given the lecture, it is over and done with, and you will never see it again.

In contrast, you can produce effective learning videos in random order, over a long period of time, and in multiple locations. You are no longer tied to the lecture hall or a blackboard. You can curate multiple instructors. And if you take a field trip, you can bring all of your learners along with you.

There is also a difference in scale. When delivering a lecture to 400 students, a lecturer is inclined to address the entire room all at once. When delivering a video lecture, you are creating a one-on-one relationship with the learner. You are teaching several thousand people, but one at a time. The instructor is everyone’s private tutor.

Finally, you can edit a video in post-production. Once you give a lecture, you can’t change it any more. But when you make a video, you can edit out small mistakes, awkward silences, and stitch different pieces together. Also, you can add animations and visual metaphors to facilitate comprehension and retention.

Six Different Types of Effective Learning Videos

There are a few different types of capturing video material for video lectures:

  • Story-based Instruction
  • Documentary Style
  • Studio Production
  • Improvised / Low-budget
  • Tablet Capture
  • Animation

The best and most compelling online courses combine different video production techniques. Methodological diversity brings about refreshing variation. Keep in mind that not every style works for everyone. Even the most engaging classroom lecturer can come off as wooden and staged when faced with only a camera. On the other hand, it’s not always within budget to create visually appealing animations. Remember: in online learning, budget doesn’t equal effectiveness. It is important to play to your strengths and to keep your audience in mind!

Let’s look at the different options in a bit more detail:

Story-based Instruction

Creating a story around the course content places the learner in a fictional context. Working through the learning material becomes not just a cognitive challenge, but an emotional experience. This approach is particularly well-suited to building the intrinsic motivation necessary to engage with a course when learners are very busy and have no immediate extrinsic motivation to complete it (e.g. an exam).

Story-based Instruction e.g. Agile Management on iversity

Story-based Instruction e.g. Agile Management on iversity

Pro & Cons

+ High emotional engagement sparks learners’ curiosity

+ The narrative underlines the importance and relevance of the topic at hand

– Writing a full script for a compelling story is a lot of work

– Working with different actors is a complex and expensive undertaking

Difficult to shoot additional material later

 

Documentary Style

In some situations, it can be very powerful to film on-site – either inside or outside – much like is being done in documentary filmmaking. The setting of a scene sets a certain kind of tone.

Outside

Effective Learning Videos: Outside e.g. "Social Innovation" on iversity

Outside e.g. “Social Innovation” on iversity

Inside

Effective Learning Videos: Inside e.g. "Predictive Analytics" on iversity

Inside e.g. “Predictive Analytics” on iversity

Pro & Cons

+ It can be very authentic to explain something right there “where the magic happens”

+ Visiting multiple experts in different locations offers learners multiple perspectives on an issue – something that simply could not be done easily in an on-site seminar

– Expensive (travel, permits etc.)

– Requires sophisticated cameras, lighting, and an experienced crew

– Difficult to shoot additional material later

 

Studio Production

Studio production gives you a lot more control over your shots. Furthermore, you work in a professional environment, so your video generally looks a lot more polished. This mode works particularly well if you work with one instructor who is an excellent public speaker, and knows how to draw learners in through intonation, body language, and gestures.

Studio with green-screen and post-production

Effective Learning Videos: Studio with green-screen and post-production e.g. “Visual Thinking” on iversity 

Studio with green-screen and post-production e.g. “Visual Thinking” on iversity

Writing on plexiglass

Effective Learning Videos: Writing on Plexiglass e.g. Prof. Frank Slomka on Youtube

Writing on plexiglass e.g. Prof. Frank Slomka on Youtube

Drawing on real paper

Effective Learning Videos: Drawing on real paper e.g. “Visual Thinking” on iversity 

Drawing on real paper e.g. “Visual Thinking” on iversity

Pro & Cons

+ Premium look and feel

+ Many possibilities to modify the footage in post-production

+ Controlled environment with professional staff

– Potentially sterile 

– Relatively expensive

– Difficult to shoot additional material later

 

Improvised / Low-budget

This is in many ways the very opposite of the other approaches, which require detailed planning and often significant resources. In a sense, this is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach to the production of effective learning videos. The fact that it is cheap, however, does not mean that it cannot be effective. This mode of instruction is particularly suitable if you need to produce content ad-hoc or on a shoestring budget.

Text annotation on wallpaper

Effective Learning Videos: Text annotation on wallpaper e.g. literary analysis on Youtube

Text annotation on wallpaper e.g. literary analysis on Youtube

Socratic Dialogue in front of whiteboard

Effective Learning Videos: Socratic Dialogue in front of flipboard e.g. SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday 

Socratic Dialogue in front of flipboard e.g. SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday

Selfie-video

Effective Learning Videos: Selfie-video e.g. Corporate Digital Learning on iversity 

Selfie-video e.g. “Corporate Digital Learning” on iversity

Skype-interview

Effective Learning Videos: Skype-interview e.g. “Social Innovation” on iversity

Skype-interview e.g. “Social Innovation” on iversity

Pro & Cons

+ Fast and easy to produce

+ Low production cost

+ Easy to shoot additional material later

+ Highly authentic

– Potentially issues with quality (lighting, sound etc.)

 

Tablet-Capture

A popular way of presenting material in order to create effective learning videos is by using a tablet capture device. All you need is a computer, a tablet, a head-mounted microphone, a mouse and a keyboard. A tablet can be used not only for writing on a blank page, but also for annotation, drawing or sketching on a powerpoint slide, a picture or even a video. This way of presenting is particularly suitable if the material needs to be explained in great detail.

Tablet capture colour on black

Effective Learning Videos: Tablet capture colour on black e.g. Khan Academy

Tablet capture colour on black e.g. Khan Academy

Tablet capture black on fake paper

Effective Learning Videos: Tablet capture black on fake paper e.g. Jörn Loviscach’s Maths videos on Youtube 

Tablet capture black on fake paper e.g. Jörn Loviscach’s Maths videos on Youtube

Tablet capture with superimposed fake hand

Effective Learning Videos: Tablet capture with superimposed fake hand e.g. "How to Build a Start-Up" on Udacity

Tablet capture with superimposed fake hand e.g. “How to Build a Start-Up” on Udacity

Pro & Cons

+ Easy, fast, and excellent for conveying complex concepts (e.g. maths)

+ Has a ‘one-on-one’ feel where the instructor becomes the learner’s personal tutor

+ Because the speaker is not visible, these videos can be heavily and easily edited, so you can start and stop multiple times

+ Relatively easy to shoot additional material later

– Direct engagement of learners only via voice

– Many people’s handwriting is difficult to read

 

Animations

Animation is probably the most challenging video format from a production perspective. Two things are a must: exceptional creativity as well as artistic and technical skills. On the plus side, however, everything is possible in animation! High quality animated video can therefore help to really condense a lecture by combining the audio and visual tracks to maximum effect, e.g. in a trailer.

Pre-drawn cut-outs

Effective Learning Videos: Pre-drawn cut-outs e.g. simpleshow 

Pre-drawn cut-outs e.g. simpleshow

Timelapse comic illustration

Effective Learning Videos: Timelapse comic illustration e.g. RSA Animate 

Timelapse comic illustration e.g. RSA Animate

Digital animation

Effective Learning Videos: Digital animation e.g. Sofatutor 

Digital animation e.g. Sofatutor

Kinetic text

Effective Learning Videos: Kinetic text e.g. IDEO for Hackfwd

Kinetic text e.g. IDEO for Hackfwd

Pro & Cons

+ If done well, animated videos can be very engaging, dense and compelling

+ Helps to break down complex concepts using a combination of text and visuals

+ Because the speaker is not visible, these videos can be heavily and easily edited

– Very time-consuming and expensive

– Requires a lot of technical and artistic skills

To sum up: there are numerous different approaches to creating effective learning videos, all of which can be successful depending on the context. When choosing an approach, course designers have to balance a number of different factors: experience of the instructor, budget, timeline, target audience… Also, as explained at the beginning of this post, a healthy mix of different styles will often go a long way.

 

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I am often asked: “So, how are you different?” For a long time, I didn’t find that question easy to answer. There are, of course, many online learning platforms out there, each offering different courses. But from the outside it is difficult to tell them apart. So my answer would usually evolve into a short briefing on the education technology market, which, to be honest, few people care to hear. Today, my response to that question is simple: “We focus on what we call greyscale learning.”

This means that our effective instructional design places a strong emphasis on topics where there is no simple right or wrong answer. Learning on iversity is not about reproducing the “correct” response. It’s not about 0 or 1, yes or no. It’s about the many shades of grey in between. It’s about the “I would do it like this, because…” and “I would do it like that, because…”. Our courses are designed to create an open and explorative social learning environment. A safe space for people to come together in order to negotiate truth, stating not just their position, but also the facts and arguments that let them arrive at a particular conclusion.

Greyscale learning: The spectrum of learning features many shades of grey

What does this mean in practice? Our courses go beyond teaching you the basics. We want you to learn more than what you need to learn in order to be able to answer multiple-choice questions (although you may well encounter them as part of a course). Greyscale learning makes you look at an issue from multiple perspectives. It makes you realise that there is not just one correct solution. There may be an almost infinite number of solutions. And whether or not something is “correct” very often depends on the context. It’s about collectively contemplating the true meaning of “doing the right things, right.”

What Professional Learning Can Learn From the Humanities

To people who studied humanities or certain social sciences, all of this will not only seem familiar, but in fact appears to be the essence of teaching and learning in higher education. Now, I would like to argue (and have done so before in a publication on the university in the 21st century) that this approach to learning applies not only to theoretical learning in the humanities. I am convinced that it also lies at the core of eminently practical professional learning. Take programming education as an example. To many people, this seems about as far removed as can be imagined from the discursive uncertainty of a seminar in the humanities. But, beyond the basics, the two have more in common than one may think.

Greyscale Learning: Reality Comes in Many Shades of Grey

Of course, it is important to learn basic syntax. And as far as this is concerned, there clearly are answers that are either right or wrong. But as you move into architecture or usability, the picture becomes a lot more blurry. Do you want to optimise for security, ease of use, or speed? Different priorities lead to different setups, which will yield different results. As soon as you face trade-offs between different priorities, an optimal solution will often not exist. People will argue about the ideal solution. They will argue one way or another, citing certain specifics of the case or problem to solve. Suddenly, context matters, and it becomes clear that there will not be one correct answer, but many alternative solutions – each with its own merits and shortcomings.

What this example illustrates is that even for a discipline that is quintessentially all about 1s and 0s, unambiguous clarity soon yields to messy complexity as we move from theoretical basics to practical application. This is not just one odd case. It is true of all domains of knowledge.

Ultimately succeeding in business is not about solving theoretical exercises, but about finding workable solutions to complex practical problems. Therefore, I believe that greyscale learning – which does not stop at the former, but focuses on the latter –  is the future of professional education.

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Today I want to take a closer look at the mode of instruction in traditional professional development and compare it to effective online learning and blended formats. Elearning was all too often seen as a cheap alternative to classroom instruction. The in-person seminar is supposedly the gold standard of teaching and learning. However, there is little evidence to justify this view. Given all the innovation we are seeing in information and communication technology as well as the many advantages flexible online learning has to offer, I would like to argue that it is simply implausible to assume that this age old format cannot be eclipsed. We are only beginning to glimpse the power of flexible online learning that makes use of new opportunities, blending them with established formats where appropriate.

Flexible Online Learning defined: Traditional Professional Development vs. Effective Professional Development

The most common mode of instruction in traditional professional development was the block seminar. Ten to twenty people in a room with one or two instructors for a day or two. While there may be some preparatory reading, almost all of the learning had to take place in this short period of time. Learners had little time to digest the input, reflect on it, or discuss it with each other. Learning was synchronous. Everyone had to come at the same time to the same place: the classroom.

The Case for Flexible Online Learning

Flexible online learning, on the other hand, allows for a much more effective professional development experience. Learners work through online material at their own pace. Whenever there is room in their calendar and no matter where they are. Courses consist of a great variety of different learning formats in the form of assignments and multimedia content  (video, text, etc). This form of learning follows that recommendations of neuroscientific research on learning. Because it gives learners plenty of time to digest, engage with each other, practice, or do their own research. This is not to say that coming together in a group cannot serve as a powerful tool for learning. But we should see it as just that: a tool in the toolbox rather than the be all and end all of teaching and learning.

Given all the advantages of flexible online learning and the logical implausibility of the assumption that there is no room for improvement, I strongly believe that the burden of proof lies with those who seek to maintain the status quo. For everyone else, experimenting with new formats is the order of the day. Life punishes those who delay. Make sure you and your organisation do not find yourselves on the wrong side of history.

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