One of our absolute favorite ways to produce content for training courses is through the use of screencasting. There are so many benefits to using this medium for delivering web-based instructional content. You don’t need an expensive camera or complex video editing software, making it an efficient and cost-effective way of producing recordings. Furthermore, some content is quite simply better delivered this way, such as tutorials on software.
Ben and I have recorded dozens of hours of videos using screencasts and if you’re thinking of using WP Courseware to deliver your content through screencasting, we wanted to share a few of our top tips on getting the most from your recordings and providing the best learning experience for your course participants.
Mind map your presentation
It’s so simple to get started with screencasting that it’s easy to simply open up a PowerPoint or Keynote document, switch on your screen capture software, and start producing content without a clear idea of how the lesson should unfold. We recommend creating a mind map of your overall lesson theme with a tool like MindMeister, then break it down into new nodes covering each major point in the presentation. From each major topic, you can create sub-nodes that briefly outline your speaking points for each. This will give you an outline to base your presentation on, no matter whether you’re using presentation slides or demonstrating a software walk-through.
Invest in sound quality
I can’t count the number of screencast-based courses I’ve watched with either poor quality audio or distracting background noise. With the prices for high-quality USB microphones as low as they are and basic audio editing software bundled into both Windows and Mac operating systems, it’s completely within reach to create great sounding audio for your screencasts. I currently use a Blue Yeti Pro USB microphone along with Screenflow for Mac, which includes solid tools for editing the audio of my screen recordings. The Yeti Pro is on the high end for USB microphones, but there are some fantastic options for under $100, including one of my favorites, the Audio-Technica ATR2100 (currently around $45 on Amazon). Additionally, if you’re using Windows, Camtasia is a great alternative to the Mac-only Screenflow.
Break things up
I’ve found that recording one segment of a screencast at a time, while more time-consuming to put together, greatly reduces the number of mistakes and rambling. Try recoding a few minutes of content at a time and then take a break to collect your thoughts on the content coming up next. Additionally, if your screencasting software crashes (which isn’t uncommon when working with very large document files), you’ll have more opportunities to save your recordings along the way.
Use mouse zoom and callout effects
While they can take a bit of getting used to, the built-in features within most screen recording software packages are great for keeping your content as focused as possible. Using features such as mouse pointer zooming will allow you to add detail to your screencasts that will help your course participants follow along. Visually, it can be difficult to track an instructors mouse during recorded screencasts, but with zooms and/or callouts, you can show your students precisely what you’re doing.
Add a little visual flair to your screencasts
I’m a big fan of breaking longer screencasts up into “chapters” in order to make them a little easier to get through for viewers. However, segmenting screencast videos has another benefit; you have the opportunity to add some pretty attractive transition effects and graphics. These can go a long way in making your presentation look more professional. Another one of my favorite additions is a short “logo reveal” video at the beginning. These are available for $10 from IntroMaker.net and not only make the opening of your screencast more fun, they also add a distinctive branding element.
If you’re considering using screencasting to deliver your course content in WP Courseware, or are already doing so, we hope that this handful of tips is useful for producing content that wows your course participants.
NEW UPDATES SCHEDULED FOR NOVEMBER RELEASE
As some of you may already know, we have some very exciting updates scheduled for release later in November. We feel that these will be great additions to WP Courseware and will help to make it an even better solution for delivering training courses in WordPress. If you’re an exisiting WP Courseware license holder, these updates will be available at no extra cost. You’ll simply see that an update is available in your plugin administration panel. However, if you don’t currently own WP Courseware, this is a great time to go ahead and purchase either a single-site or multi-site license to ensure that you get these great new features without the price increase.