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How to plan a video tutorial initiative

29th May 2013
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Matt Pierce provides advice on how best to work video into your L&D strategy.

Training managers and learning and development professionals are usually not the first team members to be consulted when a new piece of technology or software is purchased by their company. This, however, doesn’t stop them coming under pressure to ensure their company’s training efforts keep up with new, and increasingly sophisticated, technologies. If an employee isn’t fully trained on a new technology, they won’t be able to fully use it.

One method of training new and existing employees is through the use of short video tutorials known as screencasts. We have discussed screencasts in the past on TrainingZone, and they are generally defined as a short recording of the activity on a computer’s screen, such as mouse clicks and keyboard inputs, with an accompanying voice commentary that guides users through the onscreen action. These recordings are edited into a short video tutorial to create learning content. Such videos can be used for various training requirements, from a formal tutorial series on how to use bespoke company software to short presentations for informal learning purposes.

Consider your audience

The first thing a trainer needs to consider when planning a video tutorial initiative is the audience; who are they, what do they need to learn, and how can this be delivered? One person’s ideal training tutorial could be another person’s nightmare. Different learners will have different skillsets, which is why it is often better to group people and create different tutorials for those with different skill levels.

Assessing how long a training video should be is also an important factor. A lengthy tutorial will be acceptable for those who will be able to take time out to watch it. For those with busy schedules, a series of shorter videos that the trainee will be able to dip in and out of training at a time that suits them may be more suitable. Creating short videos, also referred to as ‘chunking’ allows a trainee to quickly find the part of training that is suitable for them, should they need to know how carry out a specific activity.

The tools maketh the training

Current video screencast tools include a large range of sophisticated features that can help bring the video to life and make it more engaging for the trainee. Features such as hotspots, which include links to additional content, can help with engagement, especially if the link directs trainees to a website or resource the screencast covers. Additionally, the use of a webcam to visualise the trainer is a great way to help make the training more engaging.

"As with any training initiative, trainers should always plan a trial run of training in order to receive 'real-life' feedback on what works well and what could be improved."

However, overloading a video with special effects can ultimately distract the trainee from what they are trying to learn. It is important for trainers to know when and where to embrace these new tools. Use of a webcam is a good example. Incorporating real-time video into the tutorial using a webcam can put a face to the trainer narrating the video and will make the training feel more personal. However, this  may not be needed throughout the video as the viewer will need to focus on the onscreen activity.

If at first you don’t succeed...

As with any training initiative, trainers should always plan a trial run of training in order to receive 'real-life' feedback on what works well and what could be improved. Some screencasting tools include features that enable training managers to pinpoint exactly where and what the trainee understood throughout the video, for example by inserting a quiz during or at the end of a video. Interactive features such as these can help test the trainees’ knowledge of particularly complex parts of the video, thereby improving the impact of learning.  

This information, combined with verbal feedback, can provide a powerful tool to ensure the training is as effective as it can be. Trainers shouldn’t be discouraged if they get things wrong the first time. By reviewing feedback and amending videos accordingly, the tutorials are likely to be more effective and engaging in the long run.

Sharing is caring

Making it easy for employees to access screencasts will assist in encouraging trainees to use them. Making content available on an online video hosting site or a company’s LMS is an efficient way of increasing accessibility. Once complete, the web links to videos can be distributed via a company’s intranet or via email. Employees can then view them in their own time as an informal learning resource. New employees can also be provided with the links during their induction process to view and review in their own time; provided a deadline is given to ensure the induction process is completed. If the use of an online hosting site is not appropriate, for example for privacy reasons, videos can be hosted on a company’s server or even made available for download to a mobile device. 

Providing access to screencasts creates an on-demand resource ideal for informal learning. Employees are able to view the screencasts in their own time and prioritise training around other work commitments. This also reduces the strain on trainer managers as they can direct employees to the videos when required, rather than walking them through the specific functions.

By considering these points, and thoroughly planning a video tutorial, trainers will be able to provide resources that are as engaging and as effective as it possible. Ultimately, this will help deliver a trained work force that can keep pace with the skill demands that their jobs require.

Matt Pierce is customer engagement manager at TechSmith Corporation. For more information please visit www.techsmith.com. He can be found tweeting on @piercemr

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