Creating Video for Education
Video for education can range from a series of slides with an accompanying audio track to a full mini-production with a budget and production crew. Video is more complex in its development, production and editing than just audio but, due to its popularity on the web, there are more options available for its distribution.
In the development of video for education, like in the production of audio, there are a series of steps that should be followed to make the best media possible for the resources and time allocated. The following is intended to provide an introduction to both the technical aspects that an amateur video producer should consider in order to make better quality videos, and the pedagogical aspects an educational video producer should consider to create videos that enhance learning. In both of these purposes this piece is only a beginning. Where possible links to further learning are provided for both technical and pedagogical subjects. Like many topics that combine technique, theory and art – the best advice is to learn a little, practice a lot, repeat.
The first stage in the process of creating any piece of educational media is to develop an understanding of what is to be produced. This includes identifying the learning objective you wish to support, the media that is most likely to support this, and the principles or strategies in designing this media that is going to be most effective in supporting your learning objective.
Once you are clear about the learning you hope your video will provide you need to establish what genre of video will best support this learning. Is a recorded interview an appropriate method to support this learning? Would images accompanied by carefully scripted description fit the bill? A scene acted out by amateur (or professional) actors? Understanding how you envision this media piece being consumed by your viewers will establish to basic elements that you must then plan to produce.
Once you have decided on video as a format you must choose from a variety of production styles. At first you might consider video to be limited to just motion pictures captured by a video camera along with accompanying audio, but some of the most effective educational video can be produced from still images or screencasts (motion captures of the action on your computer monitor). Often a variety of styles in combination is the best choice for an educational video in that it provides the appropriate complexity for each portion of the video while minimizing the resources of time and effort required.
Start out by creating a storyboard that lays out the sequence of visual images or scenes that must be included in your video. You can add the audio scripts that accompany each visual and then, considering the nature of each visual element, decide on a production style that will work best for each element. Listed below, these production styles can be use on their own or combined to create effective video with minimal resources.
Many educational video segments can be successful using just still images and audio. If this is the case for your segment then doing more than just images plus audio is unlikely to make your segment more effective and runs the risk of confounding its educational value with distracting and irrelevant elements.
Another format to consider is a screencast – a video of the action on your computer screen. In most instances the appropriate use of this style will be obvious – tutorials for a piece of software or tours through a website – but you can also use this style of production to simply create rough animations. If you can create your graphics in a drawing program and manipulate them on the screen in a meaningful way, then you can capture this action as a screencast with much less effort than would be required to develop an animated gif or Flash animation.
Video produced with a video camera is the most complex to design and produce. This style can be made with a web camera integrated into a laptop or attached to a desktop computer or it can be made with a digital video camera. Specific technical settings and processes used for video cameras will vary with each model and cannot be addressed here. You may have to read your manual. Web cameras are usually limited in their function and options and have similarly limited application. They are appropriate for recording one person talking or perhaps two people in conversation. You should test the effectiveness of your web camera for focus and graininess as well as audio levels if you plan to use it for anything more than a head and shoulders shot.
Integrated microphones that accompany web cameras are, more often than not, of low quality. You may not notice this when you are using a voice over internet tool like Skype but it will become an issue in the production of a video you intend to keep for a long time. Microphones integrated into digital video cameras are usually of reasonable quality for close subjects with little background noise but will have difficulty recording the sound for multiple subjects that are more than a few feet from the camera. Remember as well that viewers are more likely to be irritated and distracted by inferior audio than by inferior video. You can improve the audio you provide with your video by using an external microphone attached either to the computer for screencasting or web camera development, or attached to your video camera for other video production.
In the creation of your video there are three common production methods that you may use, alone or in combination. Slideshows, screencasts and traditional video are easy to create and mix with even simple equipment and a mediocre computer. The pedagogical theory behind the development of effective learning graphics can be applied to video, though attention must be paid to the limited time spent with discrete images in this genre. Richard Mayer’s multimedia theory also applies to each of these production methods and in these methods each of Mayer’s principles should be considered. Each of these production methods have unique technical elements that will be addressed here.
Slideshows begin as a set of graphics. Begin with the methods for creating learning graphics set out in Clark and Lyons, but remember the principles set out by Mayer for multimedia learning. Don’t just produce decorative graphics, though they are described in the literature and may have a place in a larger context. In designing your graphics also consider the final screen size and the time available for the student to experience each graphic. Many tools will allow review and pausing but you should design as if each student will view your finished video only once. Screen resolutions for video distributed over the internet are commonly 640 or 320 pixels wide. Most computer screens display at 72 or 96 pixels per inch. You may want to build your graphics at larger resolutions so that you have sufficient quality for distribution in other formats but be sure to test your work at the resolution your video will be seen at.
Screencasts are a simple process for creating video that focuses on the action on your screen. To create a smoothly flowing screencast you need to practice the steps you want to record and note the essential audio elements you want to accompany each step. Consider the pauses you should incorporate to draw viewer attention to specific elements. Your recording of the entire process should progress slower than you would typically navigate on your own. Remember, your viewers are new to this environment and are not immediately recognizing the features you are displaying. If your screencasting tool allows zooming in on specific elements, you should plan where this would be most effective and where viewers will need to see the entire screen for context. As with slideshows, you should consider the screen size that your video will eventually be viewed at. Screencasts are typically about websites or software and much of the functionality of these are indicated with text. The viewer must be able to read text in a screencast in almost all contexts. You can mitigate this problem by minimizing the window you will record to a smaller size that still maintains the layout of the website or tool. Take care to avoid shrinking a window you will record smaller than your final video size as the final product will have lower quality resolution.
Almost all screencasting tools will allow audio to be added as the screen action is recorded. If you are producing a quick screencast to address an emerging problem then this is the most efficient method of completing your screencast in a timely fashion. If you are confident in your ability to add the audio as you record the screen then you will likely use this feature for all your screencasts. If you intend to edit your screencast in Windows Movie Maker or iMovie HD you can add your audio at this stage. Be careful about adding audio both during the screen recording and in the movie editor because the level and quality will not match.
When choosing a screencasting tool you must consider the formats in which it will produce a video file for you. If you plan on uploading the screencast directly to YouTube or a similar service then you can use most screencasting systems as their export formats are likely to match those accepted by YouTube (best results on YouTube are obtained with MP4 format – you should still check for compatibility). If you plan to edit your screencast in Windows Movie Maker or iMovie HD you must find a screencasting tool that provides an export format supported by your movie editor.
Using a video camera offers the greatest opportunity for creativity but also the highest risk that you might collect unneeded footage or neglect important elements so, more than other production styles, video relies upon prior planning and informed production.
As a beginner you should stick to short, simple shots that build the learning you desire. Avoid incorporating camera movements, instead constructing your video from a series of simple pieces. You can learn more about camera movements and how they might best be achieved with a minimum of equipment at:
MediaCollege.com. Camera Shots
Videomaker. Basic Training: The 9 Classic Camera Moves
An element of camera work that is just as important to your final product is lighting. You must consider how you will provide sufficient light on your subject to make the visual impression you are seeking. This can range from working creatively with whatever light you have at hand to learning the basics of video lighting and using multiple sources to illuminate your subject. More information on lighting for video can be found at the links below.
MediaCollege.com. Lighting Tutorials
Wistia. Lighting on the Fly: A minimal and flexible philosophy for lighting your video.
Allan, P. (2015). How to Improve Your Photos and Videos with Affordable Lighting. Lifehacker.
The basic elements of recording sound for video are similar to those that you would consider when adding audio to a slideshow or in recording audio alongside a screencast. One immediate difference here is that, if the audio is coming from the subject on camera, you can’t easily edit or replace this audio with a track you recorded later. One way to ensure you produce the best possible audio when recording video is to use a microphone that is placed for optimal coverage of your subject but connected to your video camera. Most video cameras of a reasonable quality will permit and external microphone to be attached. You should take advantage of this option in all but the best recording situations. The microphone on a video camera is typically satisfactory for close shots of a single subject only. You can find out more about sound for video at the following sites.
MediaCollege.com. Audio Tutorials
Wistia. (n.d.). Recording Audio for Business Videos: Make sure your message is crystal clear
by making your video sound as good as it looks.
To develop your ability to shoot quality video that meets your needs (and to improve your abilitites at slideshows and screencasts) do some research but also take every opportunity to experiment and try out new things.
Once you have the the video clips you want to use for you media you need to assemble them within a project in Windows Movie Maker or iMovie HD. Some tutorials on using these programs can be found below.
Basic Windows Movie Maker Tutorial (if you still have Windows Movie Maker installed)
Basic iMovie HD Tutorial
IMovie HD Tutorial (official tutorials)
Wistia. (n.d.). Editing Basics for Business Video: A guide to basic editing that you can apply in any software.
At this stage you may find the need for additional visuals or audio to complete your movie. You can easily use still images and additional audio recordings to fill in essential elements of your video. Remember the nature of your missing elements here and apply these lessons to the planning of your next video project.
You may also want to insert captions or descriptive text over portions of the the video here. If you will host your video on Youtube I would suggest that you use their captioning system to provide a caption option that can be controlled by the viewer. Otherwise, take care to ensure that your captions or descriptive text does not form a distraction or add to the cognitive load of your media.
Finally you must select the format(s) you will use to export your movie. You should consider the screen size you will want with a particular eye to the size needed to make sense of the content and, if it will be embedded, the space available for it on the page it will reside on. You may wish to export multiple sizes to give your students choice between small and fast download or large and slower to download. If you are embedding always place alternate versions of a video on separate pages or else you may be forcing students to download both versions at once.
The file format(s) you will use to export your video will also be an important decision. The single most useful video format is MP4 (.mp4) which is accepted by Youtube and can be viewed by anyone using a recent version of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or Chrome.
In some cases you may need to adopt a local solution to distributing your video. Using a web server and your own embed code is an advanced option, but one that can be managed with some help (it is not scalable to working with a large number of files though). The adoption of the ‘video’ tag in HTML5 and the recent (early 2015) adoption of the MP4 H264 format by all the major internet browsers makes the use of the MP4 file and the ‘video’ tag the best choice for educators who are hosting their video on their own web server and don’t want to deal with multiple files. This format also plays well in mobile devices using iOS (iPhones and iPads etc.) and Android devices.
You will also need to make decisions about the frame rate (how many frames of the video are shown per second) and settings for the quality of both the video image and sound. For each of these greater quality equals greater file size. Windows Movie Maker and iMovie HD will suggest quality settings and you should experiment by exporting your video at different settings to compare the end result.
The choice of embedding your video (having it play directly within a webpage) or providing a download link (where students download the video to their computer and then watch in a media player) can be impacted by several factors, some of which are described here.
Once you’ve produced your video it’s time to find it a home where your students can access it. You may have reasons to limit access, in which case a restricted distribution on a tool like YouTube may be appropriate or you may want to place it on web space that you control. If computers at your school deny access to sites like YouTube you will need to use web space accessible through your firewall.
Once hosted you should consider the context for the placement of your video. What will students do with the content? If your video needs to be viewed with pre-learning or guiding questions fresh in mind then embed it directly within a page containing these questions. If the video should generate discussion then embed it at the head of the forum or commenting tool. Web 2.0 tools like YouTube offer their own space of additional text or comments by viewers but i most cases it will be better to maintain a cohesive learning environment by embedding your video in the space your students are already using. In addition to the embedded video you should also provide a link for downloading the video for students with slow connection or who need to view the it offline. In cases where you must link to a different file than the embedded file (as would be the case for a video hosted on YouTube) you will also lose accompanying features like captioning.
If you need to link to several videos then embedding them all would result in a long web page that took a long time to load. You can create separate pages to host each embedded video and have these pages link from the central page but this entails more work. In cases like this a series of links that allow the student to download the videos as needed, or that direct the student to the videos on YouTube are a better solution.
Video is more complex than audio for obvious reasons. That said, it provides more opportunity to enrich learning for your students and it is a proven method for utilizing the multimedia effect to support your learning. Your own efforts to try out the equipment and techniques available to you will go a long way to providing you with a growing ability to use this medium in support of your teaching. This guide serves only to provide you with an outline of the steps to follow and a frame of reference within which to start asking your own questions.