A practical guide to creating learning videos: part 1

Practical guidesVideo is very much the medium of the moment. Not only do we spend many hours each day watching it on our TVs, it has become an integral part of the online experience. An ever-increasing proportion of the population does not only consume video, it creates and shares it with a world-wide internet audience. Whereas once video cameras cost many hundreds, if not tens of thousands of pounds, they are now integrated for no additional cost in computers, stills cameras and mobile phones. And where once video editing could only be carried out by skilled engineers in elaborate editing suites, it can now be accomplished, often with equivalent production values, with free or low cost software on PCs and even mobile devices.

Video production then and now
Gone are the days when, to shoot a video, you depended on the services of a full crew and expensive equipment

Video editing then and now
The same applies to the post-production process. What once required an edit suite can now be accomplished with a smart phone app

In a learning context, video provides a compelling means for conveying content, particularly real-life action and interactions with people. Amazingly, it can also be quicker and easier to produce than slide shows or textual content. Sometimes you just have to point the camera, press record, shoot what you see and then upload to a website. Obviously it won’t always be that easy, but you should start with the attitude that `”I’ll assume I can do it myself, until proven otherwise.”

Media elements

In its purest form, a video is a recording, in moving pictures and sound, of real-life action as captured by a video camera. In actual practice video goes way beyond live action, and is capable of integrating just about every other media element, including still images, text, 2D and 3D animation. At the heart of video, however, will always be moving images of some form and an audio accompaniment, whether ambient sound, voice, music or some combination.

Interactive capability

As a general rule, video is not interactive, other than in an exploratory or navigational sense. And for the purposes of this Practical Guide we will be assuming no interactivity. Having said that, it is possible to build interactivity into video, whether that’s on a DVD, a digital TV system or online; it’s also possible to incorporate video material into what are essentially interactive media, such as scenarios and tutorials.

Interactive video
Although not the focus of this guide, video can be used interactively using DVD, digital TV or online. It can also be used as an ingredient in an interactive scenario.


In its purely linear form, video can be useful for the simple exposition of learning content, such as lectures, documentaries, panel discussions and interviews. It can also function within a more learner-centred context, as  a means for providing how-to information on demand, a facility that has been demonstrated with enormous success on YouTube.
As mentioned above, video also has a role to play within the more structured strategies of instruction and guided discovery, as a component within, say, interactive tutorials and scenarios. It is ideal for setting the scene for a case study or demonstrating a skill. It can also be effectively used as a catalyst for discussion in a forum or in a classroom.
Video is a rich medium in every sense. It is highly engaging and can portray real actions, behaviours and events more faithfully than any other medium. However, this comes at a price. Video is also data rich, and consumes vast amounts of bandwidth. On a CD or DVD this causes no problems, but your IT department will certainly want to know if you are going to be distributing video on a large scale over your company network.

So how do I get started?

Enough of the theory. You’re probably keen to get started. You’ll have to wait a week or two but in the subsequent parts of this Practical Guide, we’ll be looking at the absolute basics of:

  • pre-production: planning, scripting and choosing your camera
  • production: shooting a skills demonstration, a piece to camera, an interview, a lecture/presentation, an acted sequence, an animation – and when to admit defeat and bring in the experts
  • post-production: editing; adding titles, music and graphics; exporting / sharing

Coming in part 2: pre-production