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Visuals for Video

This How-To Guide will help you develop a shared language that can be used when working with learning designers and instructional technologists to create media for your course. Some of the terms and examples in this guide apply to specific technologies used at Northwestern University. By the end of this guide you will have identified the tools and defined the actions and vocabulary terms needed to draft a storyboard or concept sketch than can be used to create multimedia learning objects for your course. From there, you’ll work with your learning designer and instructional technologist to turn a rough sketch or concept into a complete learning artifact for your online course.

Building a Storyboard from a Script

When creating any multimedia learning object, you’ll begin with a script. How you create a script may vary, but you may consider following the How to Write a Script guide. Work with your learning designer to create a script breakdown to help delegate roles to each person involved in the media production process, to create schedule of production events, and to budget resources. A storyboard should be a document that is quick to create and easy to make changes to, it is not the final artwork for your media. However, complex sequences may benefit from more sophisticated forms of previsualization using character blocking, interface mockup, and camera simulation tools. Additionally, creating a separate set of documents to contain artwork and style guides will help keep the focus on storytelling.

What’s On Camera?

After you’ve completed your script,  Ask your learning designer and instructional technologist to help identify appropriate visuals for the video.. A consistent use of visuals within a screencast is important. To determine what visuals you might use in your media, ask yourself what students need to see to help them learn this material. Most likely, the answer to that question will include at least one of the three following items.

  1. Yourself on camera using your voice and body language to communicate
    • If you are recording the welcome video for your course, chances are your students will want to see you on screen. While different than traditional interpersonal communication, telepresence is an important part of computer mediated communication and helps develop a relationship to your students, makes them feel more connected to the online community within each course or program, and adds an element of your personal style and credibility to the content being presented.
    • Gesturing and gesticulation are common non­verbal cues during communication, (check out this interactive article from the New York Times analyzing body language during presidential campaign speeches) so if explaining your content requires you to be able to use your limbs or body as a visual aid, make sure you have the appropriate amount of space to include that in the camera’s field of view.
    • When creating anything with a camera, it is important to have a basic knowledge of the physics of light and optics as well as the ability to recognize some of the main components of photographic composition. Learn more about lighting by reading How-To Guide: Lighting. One key concept to keep in mind when recording with your webcam is to try to find an evenly lit space and keep your camera at eye level. This will prevent your image from being too dark or too bright and will make sure your facial expressions are visible to viewers.
  2. Physical or digital visual aids
    • A visual aid can be physical props or other items that you show to students on camera, or digital graphics that you create or find to help visually explain concepts. No matter how you use them, visual aids can greatly enhance student learning by creating visual associations, simulating 3D physical spaces, or translating textual information into something multidimensional.
  3. Engagement prompts
    • Most screencasting tools have built in ways for students to interact with your video lecture. Engagement prompts allow students to think about the content during the video and respond to it. These tools can also help you measure their viewing habits and check their comprehension of the material. On longer lectures, breaking up the content into shorter segments with engagement prompts in between can help add variety and stimulate student attention. However, too many interactive components could overwhelm or confuse students and detract from the focus of the lecture. Find the right balance, depending on your audience and the content of your lecture, through iteration, experimentation, and consultation with your design team.
    • Engagement prompts can be built into the video, delivered through features of the Canvas LMS, or added on using tools like Thinglink or Camtasia. Depending on your skill level and the time constraints of your course development, you can choose to use some simple tools on your own or collaborate with a technologist or designer to create more advanced content.

Additional Resources

The Northwestern Digital Learning Resource Hub For Instructors has guides for making recordings using resources such as Panopto and the Lightboard in the Self-Service Studio which are all available to Northwestern faculty, staff, and students. TechSmith, a screen recording and screen capture software developer, has guides that apply to many other desktop recording and media production tools.

The visual aesthetics of your video lecture or screencast are an important part of the presentation of information to students. Effective visual aids are essential when screencasting. For more information about effective visuals and media production techniques, read the How-To Guides about Accessible Images, Accessible Audio and Video, High Quality Audio, Lighting, and Image Best Practices to learn more about the components of producing media for online courses.