The creation of quality online learning objects is an important component to the services provided by any academic library to its distance education population. Librarians have responded to this challenge in a number of ways, including online research guides, embedded slide presentations, podcasts, and video tutorials. Video tutorials can pose a challenge to librarians, as their degree programs rarely provide much training in the creation of video creation and editing, and this is evident in the wide range of production quality seen in the learning objects that have been produced. Librarians should not feel limited to a few all-in-one products like Camtasia and Captivate, as a number of free or low-cost products are available that can give greater flexibility and creative control to the learning object creator. Gaining greater familiarity with these tools can empower librarians to think more creatively about delivering multimedia-based instruction and encourage a commitment to improving the production quality of learning objects.
This guide is divided into major sections, each addressing some major aspect of video tutorial creation. These categories include screencasting, audio editing, video editing, media creation, and online assessment. A final section provides a list of learning-object repositories librarians may find helpful for brainstorming and inspiring their multimedia work.
Finally, pricing indicated on this guide is always subject to change and does not factor in any educational discounts or group rates that may be available. Before purchasing software, consider contacting your IT or systems department to see if any spare licenses are available. If a particular license is not available, they may be able to recommend a similar product that largely accomplishes the same thing.
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Screencasting is a core element to many online video tutorial projects, in particular those where the librarian must demonstrate website navigation or model library database or catalog searching. Even when a video tutorial is limited to PowerPoint and audio, screencasting is often the simplest way to present one’s slides. Briefly defined, screencasting is the recording of whatever appears on one’s computer screen. While in the past libraries would purchase expense software for accomplishing this, many low-cost and free programs are now available.
Audio recording and editing are hugely important components to any multimedia tutorial but are often overlooked during the design and planning stages of a project. An otherwise high-quality video that features thin, metallic audio or popping sounds or too much ambient noise is unlikely to succeed or to establish much credibility with one’s audience. With such an outsized impact on the quality of your finished product, audio recording and editing should be given the same careful attention as screencasted content. Tutorial creators are encouraged to commit to use high-quality recording devices and to record in closed areas with low ambient noise levels. If a high-quality microphone is not available, consider using an iPhone or iPad for recording, as the sound quality is surprisingly good. Also consider covering inexpensive microphones with a thin cotton t-shirt or layer of bathroom tissue to further remove ambient noises. Commit to several takes, and avoid excessive “ums.” That said, even moderately damaged audio can often be salvaged using audio editing software. With some effort, users can learn to quickly edit out long pauses, coughs and sneezes, and even remove the worst of the ambient noise in their recordings. Most video editing programs, including Camtasia and Captivate, will feature at least basic audio editing tools; however, these basic tools are likely to be insufficient for effective noise removal, sound stretching, and detailed trimming.
Video tutorial creators may take one of two different approaches to producing videos. First, they may oft for an all-in-one program such as Camtasia or Captivate. These programs will screencast, as well as allow for the importing of still images, cutouts, webcam feed. They will also allow their users to create or import audio files. Users can then drag and drop media content onto a timeline for relatively easy editing. Finally these all-in-one programs will output to a number of different file formats. While these programs can provide users with everything needed to produce a video tutorial, the tools individually can lack the range of options offered by more specialized secondary software. To complicate matters further, all-in-one packages can be very expensive. Licenses are often available, but they will ordinarily cost hundreds of dollars. While power users may avoid Camtasia and Captivate for the limited nature of the tools and opt for other high-price editing software like Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere, budget conscious users should know that free, high-quality video editing software is now an option. With workflows requiring only a few extra steps beyond what is needed to produce videos in Camtasia, these free video editing programs can replicate nearly every feature available in their more expensive counterparts.
Basic video tutorials will typically feature screencasting and audio. For more advanced tutorial creators, a number of free or low-cost software tools are available to polish up screen shots, to create high quality branding elements, and to add visual interest to their work. A comprehensive list of media creation tools would be long; this guide merely covers the most basic tools. As different software can provide very different effects, the overall visual look of one’s tutorial(s) will be greatly influenced by one’s choice of software. Tutorial creators are encouraged to explore, not just these tools, but the hundreds of others available at low cost or free online. When encountering a tutorial with an engaging look, consider contacting the tutorial creators to ask questions. Creators are usually happy to talk about their work and may have helpful advice to offer on software selection and common pitfalls you are likely to encounter. If attempting, for example, an animated sequence for a video tutorial, a more experienced animator might provide an estimate on the amount of time involved in learning the software, or in rendering a particular kind of scene.
For understaffed academic libraries, learning object repositories can be tremendously helpful. Without the resources or time to invest in tutorial creation, online repositories provide a way for librarians to give their users quality instruction on information literacy concepts. Learning objects are generally under a creative commons license and can be shared, though often this requires attribution. Note that there are potential drawbacks to using repository content. In some cases objects have been branded for the library that created them. In other cases materials may prove difficult to host, or when hosted at another university, those links may one day disappear without warning. For librarians committed to creating their own content, repositories can showcase the diverse approaches other schools have taken to teaching information literacy concepts as well as the range of different software employed in presenting those concepts.