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Distance Learning | School of Professional Studies | Northwestern University

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How to Write a Script

Writing scripts is an important but sometimes overlooked step in creating audio and video recordings. It makes editing easier and can make you sound better: if you do multiple takes, the technologist or designer editing the recording can use the script to take all your best takes and string them together into one seamless, flawless recording. It can also minimize stumbling, misspeaking, and hesitation by giving you the opportunity to practice what you’re going to say before anyone hits record. It also helps keep recordings focused on key concepts and learning objectives. And it makes creating captions and transcripts for accessibility much easier. While there are many ways to write a script, the following steps provide a typical workflow for online instructors.

Create an Outline

An outline can be in chapter or section format, or may even consist of a set of bullet points you wish to cover in your script. For example, if you are writing a script for a video introduction to a weekly lesson, you might start with a brief introduction of the topic, including how it relates to previous lessons (if at all), then outlining the lesson learning objectives, readings, and other materials you will be using, including any activities including discussions and assignments. Lastly, you can finish with a brief summary and even a unique way of “signing off”. So your script outline may look like this:

  • Introduction to this week’s topic (Insects from the Jurassic)
  • You will learn how to:
    • Identify the main insects in the Jurassic
    • Describe what they ate
    • Discuss their importance in the food chain
    • Please read chapter two from the course text and watch the video “Insects that bugged dinosaurs”
    • This week we will discuss the importance of insects in the discussion board
    • Make sure you do the Insects from the Jurassic quiz
    • Conclusion (summary and “sign off”)

Write a Sentence or Two that Covers Each of Your Bullet Points

By the time you have written a sentence or two covering the main points in your presentation, you will probably have your script nearly complete. Keep in mind that online lectures should last between 2 to 7 minutes in length, so sticking to your outline (main points) and being succinct are of prime importance.

NOTE: If you find that you have too many points or the script runs longer than 7 minutes, you should think about creating separate scripts for separate topics, thereby “chunking” your content into smaller and more digestible content for your students.

Rehearse your Script and Check for Timing

Try reading through your script and timing it to make sure that it:

  • has no spelling or grammatical errors,
  • gets the main points across,
  • is readable and flows naturally,
  • and is not too long!

It may be helpful to read your script to another person, preferably not an expert in your field, to see if the script is understandable, interesting, and makes sense.

A Few Final Thoughts

If you are used to teaching on-ground classes, scripting your lectures may be the most unnatural­ step in developing your content for an online course. While scripting may feel unnecessary to some experienced educators, it may be the most crucial step in the course development process.

For most instructors, delivering a lecture in class is very natural, even routine. After all, you’re the expert. You probably have a general idea of what you’ll say when you get to class, and you’ve probably said it all before. Students may yell out their questions, or raise a hand, and you can deviate a little from your agenda, but the asynchronous online environment is not as forgiving. In a recording, students will see your face or hear your voice for the first time, and your lecture may likely be the most memorable thing about your course. Make sure that it’s a good memory by creating a script.