Making Screencasts – one of the most useful things you can do in learning

When the team worked at BP on a video sharing platform called The Hub, we were surprised to find that some of the most watched content were the ‘How to Use Skype’ videos.

They were questionable in terms of quality but that didn’t matter. People were happy to put up with the poor resolution and dodgy graphics because they just wanted to know how to get the stupid software to work.

This is probably a bad example because the guy talks too much, but you get the idea.

One of the most useful things you can do in learning is to create Screencast videos which help people use the rubbish software – you will have seen a lot of these on YouTube already. The process requires patience and perseverance but your audience will thank you for it.

The point overall before I get to the practical, is that most L&D is spent making slides that no-one will remember, or managing a horrible project spreadsheet. Stop doing this and listen to what your audience finds challenging, then deliver them support at point of need. Move from courses to resources.

Step 1

Identify all the tasks that need to be done by the majority of the audience

You don’t need to make a Screencast for everything, only things that people do regularly and struggle with. By way of example for me, it’s the PA expenses system, and the thing people most struggle with, is itemising their receipts.

Step 2

Decide what’s for information, and what’s actually needed for people to do the thing, they want to do.

The temptation is to break into a monologue and to explain all the intricate details of a particular process. Don’t do this. Just tell the viewer what they need to do, only add why if it can be delivered in one short sentence. Anything that is for information, for example the end to end process isn’t a Screencast video, it’s a guide.

Step 3

Script the Screencasts if needed.

Ideally you’ll have someone who knows the software inside-out who can just naturally talk through the steps while recording the video. This is probably a pipe-dream because people with the required knowledge often can’t get the hang of the Screencast technology, or are nervous of it. The alternative, and what I had to do, was sit with the software ‘owner’ and ask them to talk me through step-by-step. This is the ‘script’.

Step 4

Find a software to do your Screencast.

Don’t bother asking the IT department. They’ll suck the air through their teeth and say, “we don’t have anything like that, but if you fill out this form we can get you something in 4 months”. I use Screencastomatic: it’s cheap, cloud-based and idiot proof. There are other tools like Camtasia that are more likely to be on your companies software list.

Step 5

Buy a cheap lapel mic.

You can find lapel mics on Amazon for around £12. They plug directly into your phone and can give you quality sound. You will also need to find a quiet room to record yourself – or another person – talking through the Screencast.

Step 6

Download a voice recorder app.

I have an Android phone and use the creatively titled ‘Voice Recorder’. Again this is super simple to use. Once you’ve recorded your sound you’ll need to email yourself with the mp3 file. This won’t be a problem because sound files are small.

So, you’ve got your software process and scripts, you’ve got your Screencast tool, mic and voice recorder, it’s time to start making videos! You can do this in any order but I prefer to record the steps on screen first, and then record the script afterwards.

Things to remember when recording the video.

1. Move the mouse slowly so people can follow it.
2. Don’t be afraid to pause the video if you have to consult your notes (Alt P on Screencastomatic).
3. Ideally use the machine you’ll be editing on, if you can’t be prepared with a USB stick to transfer the files onto the editing laptop.

Things to remember when recording sound.

1. Find a quiet room.
2. Attached the lapel mic to your shirt around your chest area.
3. Speak slowly and clearly.
4. Don’t stop the video if you make a mistake, just say the line again, you can edit the sound later.
5. Email yourself the sound file when you’re done so you can download it onto your laptop for editing.

Step 7

Editing your video and sound.

Now you have your sound and video files, it’s time to put the two together and add text. I have a background in film so I use Adobe Premiere Pro, but you can do just as good a job with a free software like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.

The process if fairly straight forward, but will take practice.

1. Drag your video and associated sound clip onto the timeline.
2. Chop out any mistakes you made when recording sound.
3. Match the video with the part in the audio where you are explaining the step.
4. Add subtitles so people don’t need the sound to use the video.
5. Top and tail the videos with an image and title.
6. Export the Screencast.
7. Put the Screencast somewhere people can find it.

The answer to point 7 is not Sharepoint, your Learning and Development page or otherwise. It’s an easy to use platform which gives people easy access, at point-of-need, on mobile or desktop. There are plenty of good tools out there, we have our own too.

I’m happy to answer any questions you have below and also hear about your Screencast adventures. I hope this guide helps.

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