Thursday, March 6, 2008

Getting video's to work in an eLearning course

When it comes to video and multimedia, the biggest hurdle is the end-user's computer/connection. You may find that if you use the latest
Codecs and Windows Media Player 11 generation, many of your students won't get to see the video. Similarly if you make the video 1600x1200 pixels, the students will give up before the multimedia has a chance to download. While there are no absolute numbers, here are a few recommendations:

1. Most end-users have Flash installed on their computer. Other media players (like Windows Media Player) are not as consistently installed. So, if you can convert the videos to flash, you'll get a better success rate. Keeping the size around 300 pixels gives a good compromise between view-ability and download speed. (These fall under plug-in/embed).
2. I recommend that every video be justified. That is, is it necessary to present the material as a video? or would it be sufficient to present a series of snapshots? A video is presented at the author/producer's pace. Self-paced training is most effective when the student can control the pace of delivery. If the video is a welcome message from the president of the company, does this add any value to the course? I limit video usage to showing assembly procedures or body gestures that can't be shown cleanly any other way. There is a high cost both in production and delivery time for videos, so they need to be thought through well.
3. Java applets are good if you are getting learner interaction. Otherwise, their cost is difficult to justify.
4. In terms of a camera, I don't have experience with them. Since you'll be reducing the size to something that can be delivered quickly over the web, however, the down-sizing will remove any advantage that one camera has over another. You may want to get a video capture card so that you can record at high quality, and then edit the video on your computer to reduce the size.
5. The main software I recommend is a format converter that can take the output of your camera and convert it to Flash or WMV (if you know all your users will be using Internet Explorer on MS-Windows) format. I would definitely try a bunch of different editing packages before purchasing one.

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