Producing an Online Training Course
Anyone Can Teach… but…
When I started producing my first online training course several months back, I knew that I would face challenges. I was unsure that I could be creative with my course. I was unsure if I could speak clearly sitting down at a microphone. Above all, I was unsure if my course storyline would keep a viewer engaged for several hours. Today, I am happy to say that I have completed my first on-line training course through Pluralsight. The intention of this post is to tell you how I overcame the challenges of creating an online training course. I believe that a quality online training video is a valuable resource and that anyone can create their own given some time and the right tools.
Write Your Story
We all love a good story and with Apache CXF, it wasn’t hard to come up with a strong storyline. Why is the story important? It seems obvious, but without a good story, viewers of your course will not stay engaged. They need to care about the topic and its your job to give them enough for them decide whether or not they should care. To sharpen my storytelling skills, I did a little research. By far, one of the books that influenced me the most was “Beyond Bullet Points”, written by Cliff Atkinson. It was more than just another book on how to make a better Powerpoint presentation. Some of the key topics it delved into included storyboarding, using graphics and plot development.
You Are Only As Good As Your Tools (or YAOAGAYT…?)
Recording is an investment, not just of your time but also of your hard earned pay. In the end, quality matters to your viewers, so the investment will usually pay off. Here is the rundown of my setup:
- I’m a big fan of the R0DE Podcaster. With the microphone, boom arm and shock mount, you are looking at spending around $349.00 on Amazon. If this is out of your price range, blue microphones get pretty solid reviews, such as the Blue Snowball. Note that these are USB microphones. If you go to a music store like Guitar Center, don’t be surprised when they try to upsell you. Personally, I tried the non-USB route and was horribly challenged by the interface and software.
- For ~$100, you can buy a decent sound shield. It helps a lot to absorb echos if you are in a small room. That said, I don’t use it anymore as I found it didn’t help that much.
- You need to have a decently powerful workstation for recording. I’m running an HP with Windows 8.1 64-bit, 8GB RAM, 3.50 GHz AMD and a 2TB drive. I picked it up at Best Buy for under $400.
- I’ve thought about using a laptop, but other authors have had complaints about their processing abilities with recording.
- Camtasia Studio works pretty well at both recording and editing the audio/video. It runs at about $299. I picked up the maintenance plan on it for about $80 more, but I’ve found its pretty useless. I’ve reported the bugs I’ve found and have yet to see any of them fixed.
- Powerpoint for about $100 or so.
- I’ve found Evernote to work perfectly fine for storing my scripts. That said, Microsoft’s OneNote might be another option for you.
- Don’t laugh, but food is as necessary, if not more, than all of the other stuff combined. Why? Because it affects your ability to speak! The keys? No dairy. Drink hot tea or water. I try to avoid salty food on the day of recoding. I keep a huge jar of unsalted peanuts near me as its a food that reduces the amount of saliva produced. You can find similar benefits from pineapples.
- Take a lot of breaks. Its very important to try something like recording for an hour then resting for an hour. After an hour of recording, your mind wanders, your voice falters and your quality goes down. Take breaks!
The Recording Process
Here is how I recorded my course.
- I created a “golden template” Camtasia Studio project file. This had all my settings and a small sample clip for my “test audio”. Why? Every time I recorded, I matched up against my test audio to assure I wasn’t changing my tone of voice drastically.
- I used two monitors. The first was my recording monitor set at 1024×769. I would either display my Powerpoint presentation or my Eclipse IDE. The second monitor would tile my script, the recording UI and other windows of necessity.
- During the Powerpoints, I used a lot of smartart. I tried to keep a consistency to my slides and used only the appear and disappear animations.
- During the demos, I found myself copying and pasting code from my script file into the IDE editor. This reduced some of the long pauses that would occur while I typed.
- I made sure to NOT speak and move the cursor/type at the same time. If you do speak while you type, I found it hard to re-record when necessary.
- I would record small segments of audio and video, then review them right away.
- Mistakes happen. Don’t re-record a major section of the training video if you make a mistake. Just explain that an error occurred and “now is the perfect time to try and fix it.” Viewers will understand.
- I found Camtasia’s click removal and noise removal settings to be vital for audio editing. I set click removal to anywhere from 35-50 depending on the background noise.
- I recorded at 15 fps. My audio was set at PCM, 14.100 KHz, 16 bit, stereo.
The Finished Product
If you would be interested in seeing the final product, please click the Pluralsight link below to view the course:
I look forward to your honest feedback and happy coding!