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Make Professional Video Tutorials Using Free Tools
Video tutorials are a high-demand request in the training world. So what sets a professionally made tutorial apart from a basic screen share? Why would you benefit from learning how to make video tutorials for your instructional design job?
Let’s get into it! Watch our latest episode of Accelerated Instructional Design to learn:
- The benefits of using video tutorials for training
- Dos and don’ts of video tutorial creation
- Five steps to creating a video tutorial for your portfolio using only free tools
Benefits of Using Video Tutorials as a Training Method
So what are video tutorials? And why is it beneficial to you, as an instructional designer, to add to your skillset?
What are Video Tutorials?
Video tutorials show a walkthrough of the process employees have to complete using software or applications their company has invested in. The point of video tutorials is for the audience to see a process in action before they have to complete it in the real environment.
A video tutorial is typically part of a larger training solution that gives the audience background and practice opportunities.
Video Tutorial Examples
In case you need some inspiration, here are a few examples of video tutorials for a wide range of audiences:
- Check-in a patient at a doctor’s office
- Verify a caller in a bank’s call center
- Share a Google folder
- Use Canva to set up your brand kit
Now, think of your own examples. What process do you do as part of your professional role or even your personal work?
These examples are concise processes, but they all hold importance for their respective audiences. For example, a front desk employee at a doctor’s office needs to be able to check a patient in correctly and quickly. If they can’t complete this process, the patient will be frustrated, and the doctor’s schedule will be impacted.
Why Learn How to Make Video Tutorials?
There are many different paths for instructional designers. You can learn more about those different paths here. So, when deciding which skills to add to your toolkit, why choose video tutorial design and development? Here are three reasons why I think this is an excellent skill for instructional designers.
I mentioned earlier that companies invest in the software/apps they ask their employees to use. They invest significant time in choosing the best tools to meet business needs. Also, they usually spend a lot of money to use those tools. Some companies even sign contracts that guarantee they’ll have to continue using the tools for a certain amount of time.
Therefore, companies are highly motivated to ensure that their tools are used correctly.
All companies have software, applications, or website that their employees need to use as part of their daily workflow. That means the opportunities to create video tutorials as training are plentiful.
Companies that are introducing new tools will need training on every new process for all employees who will be using them.
Even for existing tools, training is necessary for new hires or to correct misuse.
Once you start designing and developing video tutorials, you’ll see it’s pretty easy to do! There are so many tools you can choose when editing and capturing videos. Pick the tools you prefer and stick with them. You can also get started making video tutorials using free tools. This way, you can practice and even create portfolio assets without spending extra money.
Why Choose Video Tutorials as a Training Method?
Once you have video tutorial design and development in your skillset, how do you get your boss or client on board with this training method? Here are a few reasons companies should consider using video tutorials as part of a training solution.
Establish a Standardized Process
Creating video tutorials to train software or app use allows companies to standardize their processes. This means that the companies determine the best use for the software, then everyone in the company follows those same steps.
Regardless of the size of the company or the number of different departments or locations, everyone will be using the tools the same way.
This is important because one alternative to video tutorials is peer-to-peer training. In this case, an employee who knows how to use the software trains new employees. This training method has room for error, as everyone does things a little differently.
Target Training to the Audience
Video tutorial training allows you to focus your training on the skills and processes that are relevant to your audience.
When companies introduce a new tool, there are often some processes that everyone will use. Other processes, however, may only be used by specific departments.
The instructional designer can design training paths that fit individual departments in this case. You might also create different versions of the same video tutorial, each catering to a specific audience.
This is a great alternative to another standard training method. When introducing new software, companies often hire a software rep to present the processes to their employees. This is usually done via webinar, which means every department has to sit through the whole meeting, even though not every process is relevant to each person. Instructional designers know this isn’t a very engaging or effective method!
Easily Make Updates
Once a video tutorial has been created, it’s relatively easy to make updates. This is helpful as software can change, or processes may be altered over time.
Video Tutorial Dos and Don’ts
Now that you understand why video tutorial design and development is a great skill for instructional designers, let’s look at some quick tips for making your video tutorials.
Do: Keep Your Audience in Mind
Instructional designers understand that you have to design any training to fit your learner persona. So how is this different in video tutorial creation?
One aspect specific to tutorial training is that you might need to use technical language to refer to different parts of the software. For example, you may decide whether to call something a checkbox or a radio button, a menu or a ribbon. The background and level of your audience may determine what language you choose in your scripting.
Another thing to consider is if groups of your audience will use the software differently. We have already discussed how video tutorial training allows the instructional designer to create custom paths for different audiences. Again, you’ll want to consider this as you design your video tutorials.
Will you allow your audience to skip basic aspects of the training if they have prior experience? Maybe you’ll offer a test-out option so some users can skip to more advanced uses? These are all great questions to keep in mind.
Do: Navigate Through the Process Yourself
As part of your video tutorial design, plan to schedule a meeting with a subject matter expert. This may be a developer or a sales person for the software/application you’ll be training on. During the session, log in to the software yourself, share your screen and have the SME guide you through.
You might not get access to the software you have to train on. In this case, have the SME walk through the processes. Either way, recording this meeting is crucial so you can watch it later and take notes.
Then, you can follow up with questions for the SME on the functionality. Next, do a separate follow-up with someone who uses or will use the process from the company. You’ll need this stakeholder to explain the business use.
Do: Write a Script
After you have a clear picture of what the process will look like, use your notes and your recorded meetings to write a script.
I recommend following this format when it comes to writing a script for a video tutorial:
- Introduction: In one or two sentences, state the learning objective in learner-friendly language. Then explain what’s in it for the audience. Here’s an example: In this tutorial, we’ll walk through how to share a Google folder so you can get feedback on your challenge work and be entered to win a free seat in the Instructional Design and Tech Accelerator system and certificate program.
- Process: write simple steps that start with an action verb (click, select, etc). I like to vary my language and add filler words to avoid repetition.
- Conclusion: restate the learning objective and explain the learners’ next steps, so the video doesn’t end abruptly. Here’s an example: Now you know how to share a google folder, and you’re ready to create a shared folder for your Spring Challenge work.
Do: Get SME and Stakeholder Approval
Like any script or storyboard, you have to get final approval before you start developing. Specific to video tutorials, you’ll want to ensure that you get feedback from someone familiar with the software AND someone who knows how to use the software specific to the business needs.
It’s important to note here that your subject matter expert, who is likely a developer or someone intimately familiar with the software, may give you feedback that you don’t necessarily have to include in your final product.
Remember, the SME knows everything about the software, not the learning audience and objectives. For that reason, your SME might ask you to include extra information that you know isn’t relevant to your audience or your goals. So take their feedback with a grain of salt!
Don’t: Explain the User Interface Out of Context
Here’s the first thing I suggest you avoid as you design and develop your videos. Stay away from explaining the user interface out of context unless it’s necessary. The user interface (UI) is the layout of the software, app, or website. It’s what the users see on screen.
Instead of spending your opening moments of a tutorial highlighting the search and menu bar, let your learners discover these things through the process you’re training them on.
Remember the Primacy Effect (you can learn more about it here). Your learners are most attentive and receptive in the first minutes of training. Don’t waste this prime learning time explaining what’s on-screen unless your learners will be lost entirely in the environment.
Don’t: Display Sensitive Information
As you begin developing your video, pay close attention to what information is shared on screen. For example, do you have real user profile information showing? You shouldn’t share any real data in your training video.
This means you might have to create a fake profile for training purposes. You can also edit out sensitive information as part of your development process, but this is time-consuming, so be sure it’s included in the scope of your project.
Don’t: Include Onscreen Distractors
Here’s a tip that’s easy to include in your development but makes a massive difference in your final product. It’s especially important if you’ll be recording a walkthrough on your device or in a browser.
Remove or edit anything onscreen that might distract your audience from your instructions. For example, turn off your Slack or Email notifications, remove your favorites bar, and hide or close extra tabs. These might seem like small details, but the final result is a polished, professional-looking video.
Remember that fake data mentioned earlier? Pick a name that could be real, but your audience will just skim over. That means no famous people, characters, or addresses like 123 Test Street.
Don’t: Go Overboard with Editing
For those of you who use Adobe Premiere Pro or Camtasia to edit your videos, be mindful of the effects you include.
Zooms or callouts can be helpful to draw your learner’s attention to an area of the screen, but make sure they don’t get lost in the UI as a result. For example, if you zoom or add a shape on screen, try to remove it before you show any clicks or navigate away from that screen.
5 Steps to Create a Video Tutorial Portfolio Project for Free
Now you’ve got some of my best design and development tips for creating a video tutorial. It’s time to give you five easy steps to creating a video tutorial that you can add to your instructional design portfolio. The best part? I’ll show you how you can do this using only free tools!
1. Choose a Short Process to Demonstrate
The shorter, the better! Pick a topic you’re familiar with, something you use yourself. This will make the navigation and scripting process much more manageable.
2. Do a Final Walkthrough of the Process
Even though this should be a familiar process for you, don’t skip this step! You never know what you’ll notice about the process when you walk through it with this different mindset.
Put on your SME hat and think about the functionality of the software, app, or website you chose. Then take it off, put on your Stakeholder hat, and ask yourself what your audience needs to know about what’s onscreen to do what you want them to do.
3. Write a Script
Now that you have your idea and have walked through the process, you can write your script.
You can follow the script formula described above.
This is important in any tutorial, especially if you’re using free tools. The more you practice walking through the process, the easier it will be to capture a polished recording. You should also take notice of any distractors as you practice. Be sure to remove them before you do your final recording.
5. Create a Polished Recording
Use a free tool like Screencastify, Zoom, Loom, or Google Meet to record your screen as you read your script. We have a walkthrough demonstrating how you can use Zoom or Google Meet to record your screen if needed!
Share the video with a friend you trust to run a quality assurance check before publishing it!
You can use a free, basic video editor to add a title screen and make any cuts from your final video. On Windows 11, you can download Movie Maker for free. If you’re using a Mac, iMovie will offer similar features.
Once you have your final video, you’re ready to add it to your portfolio!
Wrapping It Up
Instructional designers who can make great video tutorials for their audiences have a fantastic skill in their toolkit! I hope you can use this guide to create a polished video tutorial to add to your instructional design portfolio. When you do, share with us in The Hangout, a community for instructional design lovers of all experience levels.
Suppose you need guidance to develop your instructional design skills and create more portfolio assets. In that case, you might be a good fit for The Instructional Design and Tech Accelerator System and certificate program.
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