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Simon Jones' Design Narrative: Screencasting

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Simon Jones
27 March 2013

Narrator

I was given the task to provide an overview of the new software features for a cloud-based Human Resources system for customers based throughout Europe. 
 

Situation

Because the customers were geographically dispersed, and working different time patterns, we decided to create short screencasts rather than 'live' online training. The people involved were the subject matter experts (programmers who created the functionality), the technical author ( responsible for writing the bulletin and creating the links to the video), and the review team.
 

Task

What were you trying to achieve? What was your measure of success?
We wanted customers to engage with the content and gain a clear idea of the new features and how to use these. Each screencast had learning outcomes presented on an opening slide followed by a walkthrough of the new functionality. 

Actions

The following is an outline of the steps taken to create the screencasts:
  1. Arrange meetings with each of the relevant SMEs to understand the new features. 
  2. Break the content down in to 'bite-sized chunks' suitable for 3-4 minute video. This was a challenge and the scope of each screencast had to be agreed with the SMEs. 
  3. Create a training script plotting the steps and narrative in the video.
  4. Training script checked by review team. 
  5. Create screencasts using Camtasia and upload first recordings to a password protected area of Vimeo for review. Video quality was initially an issue and was improved by configuring Camtasia to produce high definition to meet the requirements of the Vimeo site. 
  6. SMEs review the first recordings. Identifying the review team, the purpose of the videos, and the criteria by which the screencasts were to be checked was a challenge and something that needed clarification. We had to be clear on deadlines for making amendments to avoid 'last minute' change requests. 
  7. Videos amended or re-recorded with opening/closing slides, adding callouts and transitions, etc. Finding the right balance of features to use in the video was important. It's very easy to 'overuse' something like the Zoom tool to the point where it becomes distracting. 
  8. SMEs final review 
  9. Links to the videos sent to the technical author to be incorporated in to the release bulletin. The terminology that I used during the screencasts had to match that in the bulletin release for consistency purposes. 
  10. Release bulletin sent to customers one week ahead of the new features deadline for installation. 

Results

Vimeo has features to help you understand about how many people are accessing your videos and allows people to leave comments. Occasionally we had comments, generally through the support desk, to say that the videos were well received. It's difficult to monitor how the videos were used and whether they had the desired outcome. 

Reflections

It's easy to underestimate the amount of time involved in producing a three minute screencast - especially when you are new to Camtasia. I recommend creating a script to avoid mistakes -http://www.techsmith.com/ has a good example of this. On reflection we should have planned strategies for checking learning outcomes and whether the objectives were met. Perhaps something could have been built in to the design, or in the choice of tools used, to provide us with this information. 

Extra content

This design http://www.flickr.com/photos/70437756@N08/8646735499/  maps a section of a training course showing students how to create custom organisation charts. The box styles that they create are used for human resource management purposes and can include employee information such as name, position title, age and length of service. 
 
What isn’t represented? 
  • What isn't represented in my design are the individual steps that the trainer needs to complete for each worked example. These could be added as the properties of each activity but ideally they should be printed out for reference purposes during the course. 
 
How much does the design match to your own experience of working through the activity? 
  • I think it's difficult to map the interaction that occurs between the trainer, the learner and the technology. I think that the steps match my experience of the course but it's problematic in any learning design to anticipate the level of support and training needs of a variety of learners. Having said that information about the level of trainer support required during certain activities or the anticipated difficulties that learners may encounter could be added as notes to Compendium. 
 
Is there a difference between representation of an activity as a design and as something a student actually works through?
 
  • I think that my design assumes that there are certain steps that students accomplish with a defined outcome. Students may need to take their own path through the content to draw conclusions. It's also common that delegates do not always agree with the defined path and training can also end up as being 'free-flow' depending on the learners needs. It's difficult to anticipate what expectations learners may have and how this will manifest in the training room, although I think it's important to have some structure to start from. 

Simon Jones
05:57 on 14 April 2013

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