PodCamp Halifax 2011 slides: Leveraging YouTube

This post is for the benefit of all the Halifax Podcamp 2011 attendees as well as for the rest of the Interweb – the slides from my presentation, Leveraging YouTube: informing and educating with screencasts.

Click here for the link to the actual Slideshare page.  And click here for the link to the Scribd page, which offers the same content on a different platform.

On Monday or Tuesday, I’ll write up a few notes from the presentation.  There were a number of things I didn’t have the chance to hit on, including measuring use (and not letting the numbers get to you) as well as the strong user communities for the different types of software.  If there is one piece of advice to hand out though, it is to keep it simple, always.  Be brief, be on message, and state only one message at a time in all of your screencasts.  Your users will often be looking for information to solve a problem now, so give them what they’re looking for.

Screencasting software links:

Here are links to the Dal Libraries tutorials:

  • Our index – over 100 online learning objects.  Note: some are five or six years old now and show their age
  • Vimeo – I’ve uploaded a “best of” collection to Vimeo.

Finally, here are two of my older posts on screencasting, which have proved to be quite popular:

Cheers,

Michael.

Post Script:  In case you’re looking for the actual Podcamp Halifax website, you can click here for:

Screencasting in libraries: build a relationship and not a movie

This past month, my work producing and managing online learning materials collided head-on with the launch of our university’s new website. The Library’s website (which is the school’s largest site by page number and by usage, so they tell me) improved top to bottom: our home page now features a single-search bar that gives our users quick access to WorldCat, our databases, our course reserves, our traditional catalogue, and more. We encountered some very big hiccups, as any big web change will, but I think that most students will benefit from it.

One of my major tasks during the launch has been to update our tutorials. This has been a very slow process since there is only one of me to face off against over 100 tutorials (let alone dealing with my other duties in the normal work week). I wouldn’t say that I’m disappointed with my pace since I’m moving as fast as one can, but I am frustrated that more couldn’t be done in the short time we have. Instead of updating all the tutorials in one fell swoop, I have to prioritize which objects demand the most attention immediately while leaving others behind for later. I refer this work to my colleagues as triage: it’s messy, it doesn’t look good, and our emergencies and our fatalities are in full view of anyone passing by.

If one good thing has come out of this, though, it has been the development of new tutorials which showcase everything the new site can do. Some of the tutorials have been hit-and-miss, while others have been very successful in classrooms and in the general public. The new tutorials feel more like The Web in 2010, and they definitely put the old tutorials in their place – back in 2005 or so. Check out this collection as an example:

1. Dalhousie Libraries’ “Welcome to the Library” tutorial. It’s informative, but its colours are dark, and its message is very formal:

2. The new “Getting your Research Started with the Dal Libraries Website” tutorial (Oct 2010). This tutorial is fairly long at 3 1/2 minutes in length. However, it is instructional by design and is meant to be shown in a classroom setting, to be followed up by real-life surfing and examples offered by a real-life librarian:

3. The most recent tutorial, “Finding Databases with the Single Search Bar”. This tutorial is under 2 minutes in length and features a face (me!) so that the voice doesn’t become a ghost in the machine. Its tone is intentionally conversational:

The third tutorial is my favorite. This video achieves something we have been talking about quite a bit at Dal Libraries as of late – bringing the actual librarian into the tutorial. We have a large number of tutorials that do a great job encapsulating their message – they often have superb production value and credit must be offered to my predecessors. However, as good a job these tutorials do at capturing the lesson at hand, we’re not certain if the student hangs around from start to end to take in all that’s offered. And if they’re not sticking around, then there’s no point in keeping the tutorials on the Interweb. So right now we’re shortening the message’s length and we’re making the librarian a real living person and not just a voice speaking from the computer. Our argument is that if people will turn to our videos to fill an immediate information need, then we have an obligation to give them exactly what they’re looking for. And if the information need remains unmet at the end of the tutorial, then we must show that there truly are real, living people out there (through our virtual reference service or in-person) who can help them.

Does the third tutorial convey all of what I’m hoping it does? Likely not. But all the same, I’m pretty sure it does a better job than the other two tutorials at showing the user that librarians can be of service to them. And I think this is something other libraries should be doing, too. If, at the end of the day, I can create a short video that helps nurture a relationship between a librarian and a library user, then I’ll come away satisfied.

Some notes:

  1. All three videos were developed with different versions of Camtasia screen-capturing software
  2. We believe the jury is still out on the effectiveness of tutorials in 2010. Our stats show usage, but I’m constantly suspicious of Google Analytics (this is the topic of a future post). Neither do we have consensus regarding our focus groups and usability tests
  3. There is no significance to No. 32

Camtasia vs. Captivate vs. the Organization

[Aug 22/2010: It would be awful if i didn’t mention the great work by TechSmith‘s support people.  They’ve happy to offer help through e-mail and Twitter to help improve my user experience when using Camtasia; Adobe isn’t so quick when it comes to building these relationships.  -ms]

Two of my major responsibilities at work is to create digital instructional materials and to support other librarians who want to create and use tutorials for their own subject-specific duties.  I have a lot of experience using Adobe Captivate to develop online tutorials and lectures, and I’m proficient with TechSmith’s Camtasia, as well.  Since starting in this new position earlier this month, however, I’ve become torn over what might be the best product out there.

Consider the merits of these software packages.  When it comes to Adobe Captivate, we’ve got:

  • A strong screen capturing system that records only screen movement.
    • This produces small, robust files that will not tax your web server.
  • A testing system that can send users to different parts of the tutorial.
    • Viewers become active participants since their answers can send them to the material they need the most.
  • An advanced suite of “extras”.
    • Zoom features, callouts, and link capabilities to different programs have been refined by years of Adobe’s in-house programming experience
  • A strong file management system and workflow.
    • Captivate makes it easy to organize, edit, and weed digital materials not needed in the tutorial.
Camtasia's Interface is user-friendly. Just like a Mac. +1

Camtasia has a similar list of benefits:

  • A strong “click-and-go” screen capture system.
    • Camtasia takes the rocket science out of recording.  Even an untrained monkey could record with Camtasia.
  • A professional-looking Zoom function.
    • Since Camtasia never stops recording, it’s “Zoom-and-Pan” function will not produce washed-out images when you magnify a section of the screen.
  • An affordable price.
    • Camtasia is cheap, dirt cheap.  A new version of Camtasia is less than half the price of a new version of Captivate.  This is a big issue for institutions that require many licenses.

All things being equal, if I were asked to choose between the two programs, I’d go with Adobe Captivate.  First, Adobe Captivate has a more refined suite of callouts, magnifications, and quizzing options, which gives us more opportunities to manipulate our projects.  More important, however, is Captivate’s highly efficient digital capturing techniques and file management system.  Adobe Captivate only records movement on the screen, e.g., entered text, mouse clicks, screen outputs (i.e., clicking on a new screen in a web browser).  This means you could press record, walk away from the computer for five minutes, press stop, and still have a small file because Captivate will not add new data during the time you’re away – it will only have taken one screen capture and then wait for the next thing to happen.  Captivate produces small data files that can be easily edited and will not crash your server. Camtasia, on the other hand, will record everything on your screen (and even burn the cursor into the file!).  Camtasia produces incredibly large files that put a lot of wear and tear on your computer when you are editing and on your servers when you are streaming.

Adobe Captivate has a top-rate workflow and file management system. +100

In a boxing match between Captivate and Camtasia, I’d throw my support to Captivate.  What happens when the organization comes into play, though?  My place of work has several Camtasia licenses and a fewer number of Captivate licenses spread across four different libraries.  Librarians use the package they prefer, but they generally prefer Camtasia.  I think I’d like to push the system to adopt Captivate, but in yet another period of tightened budgets, I’m not sure if it makes complete sense.  When Captivate’s cost is so high, when Camtasia “will do” in most circumstances, and when so many librarians are already proficient with Camtasia, I don’t know yet if promoting what is ideally best for the organization (i.e., using Captivate more often) is actually best for it in practice.

Do you use Camtasia or Captivate to produce online tutorials for your library?  Which one do you use, and is it different from what you prefer?


[header credit]

Measure Twice, Cut Once

I’ve been working this summer on a student/intern contract at the Patrick Power Library at Saint Mary’s University, here in Halifax. I’ve joined the Information Literacy crew as well as the Research and Reference team, and right now I think it’s safe to say, “So far, so good”. I’ve met some good people, learned a few things, and shared a few others. I’m happy, and I think they’re happy, so we’re all smiles.

One project I have been working on extensively is the development of audio and video screencasts for the library. I’ve gotten my hands dirty by working with Adobe Captivate and one of my favourite pieces of GNU GPL software – Audacity. For the record, Audacity is a lean, mean, sound-engineering machine, but I find Captivate incredibly difficult to use. I’m a seasoned tech-geek veteran and can catch on to different pieces of software fairly quick, but all that I quickly learned about Captivate is that its functionality and GUI are finicky. I think the software needs a re-boot, but that’s a thought for some other post.

What I’ve quickly learned about screencasting, however, is that one should aim high but never aim for perfection when working with audio and video. There is no such thing as a perfect-10 when you’re developing screencasts that are primed for smart devices like iPhones or similar LG or RIM products. Although it’s easy to be critical of our own work, we need to stay focused on releasing a finished product in a timely manner. Always remember that most small glitches or hiccups are barely noticeable on small screens or will generally be overlooked in the grand scheme of things. That’s not to say that one should throw production value out the window so much as it is to suggest that it’s okay if the hex color code you though you wanted was one micro-shade lighter than you expected.

When it comes to screencasts, we need think “gestalt”. We need to think “big picture” and be focused on the aim of the product. Most screencasts are small 1-3 minute wayfinding guides, so it won’t be the end of the world if you mumble your way through “open access electronic databases” on every take when laying down your audio.

So whether or not you use Captivate, Camtasia, or even Wink (long live freeware!), try to keep the following ideas in mind. Aim for elegance, but also aim for efficiency:

1. Measure Twice, Cut Once.

We all may know this slogan from our own favourite home design shows, but its message is definitely applicable to screencasting. Before you capture screens, before you record your audio, and before you start toying with images in GIMP, make sure you’ve created a game plan. It doesn’t matter if you make a story board or a script or hash out a linear map of your slides – just make sure you’ve thought about the message you have to deliver as well as how you’re going to deliver it.

2. Kill your babies.

I cribbed this little saying from some journalist-friends. You will almost certainly fall in love with your subject matter and its delivery, especially in your first few attempts at its design. Now, be prepared to chop it into pieces. Your subject matter and the screencast itself will be worthless if you lose the interest of the user, so always think about how you can reduce your content without losing context. Remember: the revisions you make to the screencast will make it stronger and better. Have one point and one point alone, and keep to it.

3. You do not have a professionally trained voice.

Micromanaging audio will waste your day and delay the development of your next subject, so when it comes to audio, just make the cut and be done with it. Making five or six or even seven takes of one paragraph to make sure you sound “just right” is going waste your time. Instead, create a simple production key for each section of audio. First, take one or two practice runs of the section you’re recording just to be sure that the language is simple and that your pronunciation is on track. Then, make two – no more than three takes – of the section which are free of serious glitches. Don’t worry if you think you’ve paused too long between sentences or if your voice tailed off at a comma because in all likelihood you are the only person who will notice these minor infractions. Ultimately, all the takes are going to sound virtually the same to the first-time listener, so take the cut and move on.

Long live the screencast.

Captivate and Screencasting: Measure Twice, Cut Once

I’ve been working this summer on a student/intern contract at the Patrick Power Library at Saint Mary’s University, here in Halifax. I’ve joined the Information Literacy crew as well as the Research and Reference team, and right now I think it’s safe to say, “So far, so good”. I’ve met some good people, learned a few things, and shared a few others. I’m happy, and I think they’re happy, so we’re all smiles.

One project I have been working on extensively is the development of audio and video screencasts for the library. I’ve gotten my hands dirty by working with Adobe Captivate and one of my favourite pieces of GNU GPL software – Audacity. For the record, Audacity is a lean, mean, sound-engineering machine, but I find Captivate incredibly difficult to use. I’m a seasoned tech-geek veteran and can catch on to different pieces of software fairly quick, but all that I quickly learned about Captivate is that its functionality and GUI are finicky. I think the software needs a re-boot, but that’s a thought for some other post.

What I’ve quickly learned about screencasting, however, is that one should aim high but never aim for perfection when working with audio and video. There is no such thing as a perfect-10 when you’re developing screencasts that are primed for smart devices like iPhones or similar LG or RIM products. Although it’s easy to be critical of our own work, we need to stay focused on releasing a finished product in a timely manner. Always remember that most small glitches or hiccups are barely noticeable on small screens or will generally be overlooked in the grand scheme of things. That’s not to say that one should throw production value out the window so much as it is to suggest that it’s okay if the hex color code you though you wanted was one micro-shade lighter than you expected.

When it comes to screencasts, we need think “gestalt”. We need to think “big picture” and be focused on the aim of the product. Most screencasts are small 1-3 minute wayfinding guides, so it won’t be the end of the world if you mumble your way through “open access electronic databases” on every take when laying down your audio.

So whether or not you use Captivate, Camtasia, or even Wink (long live freeware!), try to keep the following ideas in mind. Aim for elegance, but also aim for efficiency:

1. Measure Twice, Cut Once.

We all may know this slogan from our own favourite home design shows, but its message is definitely applicable to screencasting. Before you capture screens, before you record your audio, and before you start toying with images in GIMP, make sure you’ve created a game plan. It doesn’t matter if you make a story board or a script or hash out a linear map of your slides – just make sure you’ve thought about the message you have to deliver as well as how you’re going to deliver it.

2. Kill your babies.

I cribbed this little saying from some journalist-friends. You will almost certainly fall in love with your subject matter and its delivery, especially in your first few attempts at its design. Now, be prepared to chop it into pieces. Your subject matter and the screencast itself will be worthless if you lose the interest of the user, so always think about how you can reduce your content without losing context. Remember: the revisions you make to the screencast will make it stronger and better. Have one point and one point alone, and keep to it.

3. You do not have a professionally trained voice.

Micromanaging audio will waste your day and delay the development of your next subject, so when it comes to audio, just make the cut and be done with it. Making five or six or even seven takes of one paragraph to make sure you sound “just right” is going waste your time. Instead, create a simple production key for each section of audio. First, take one or two practice runs of the section you’re recording just to be sure that the language is simple and that your pronunciation is on track. Then, make two – no more than three takes – of the section which are free of serious glitches. Don’t worry if you think you’ve paused too long between sentences or if your voice tailed off at a comma because in all likelihood you are the only person who will notice these minor infractions. Ultimately, all the takes are going to sound virtually the same to the first-time listener, so take the cut and move on.

Long live the screencast.