Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Online course & MOOC video scripting guidelines #MOOC #edtech

Below are some general guidelines when looking to produce an online course script that can be used to record video content (e.g. MOOC, blended learning,…). The guidelines are divided into two main sections: timing and narrative script. 

A good example of a meaningful, engaging video trailer containing images consistent to what can be expected in the full program can be found in the ‘Through the wormhole’ trailer:

The timing of the video depends on the purpose of its use. Although there some general guidelines referring to preferred timing, you as a teacher must consider the  content of the video in order to consider the timing. But no matter how long (e.g. full simulations of a process) or short (e.g. teaser video, content element) the video is meant to be, a good narrative helps to create an engaging and captivating video (or audio, as a good narrative applies to both audio and visual media).
  • Shortest bit of video: the branding (logo). Keep this to an absolute minimum. Branding should happen in a singular instant.
  • Shortest bit of meaningful info: the course teaser: timing around 2 minutes, see further down this document for specific course teaser pointers.
  • Video content describing one coherent part of the course content (bite size: aim at 5 min, max 6 min). For a non-educational video, attention drops at 2 minutes, learner attention for educational videos drops quickly after 6  minutes (Guo, Kim & Rubin, 2013; Fishman, 2016)   
  • Longest meaningful video content: a full process description at a specific authentic location, explaining a full process demands time. But still, make sure to write a consize, brief script and be really weary of having more than 12 min of video length even for long concepts. Focusing only on what needs to be shared to understand that particular bit of content. (Tip: keep in mind your learners are watching a movie, if a scene in a movie takes too long or does not seem to lead anywhere, their mind starts wondering. If too many scenes are not goal-driven, they turn to another movie).

Overall, the length of a video should be kept to the minimum that is needed to describe or illustrate one coherent learning objective. And you must always consider, what does this video add to the content that is needed to understand that particular bit of content which is one learning objective of the full course.

Narrative script
Before building a script, think back and try to recall any professor or teacher you have had who gave inspiring lessons… and try to figure out why they were inspiring? Being inspiring enhances motivation.

General idea: know what you want to talk about, cut it into consize and meaningful pieces, see how you can build a story with the pieces you have (find a narrative to connect all the pieces together that captures attention).

Main action to keep in mind:
  • is this content relevant to the topic of the course?
  • does this multimedia segment align with the learning objectives/results you want your learners to achieve with this learning segment?
  • is the story of interest to is it explained as briefly yet meaningful as possible (length can vary, but being consize and to the point is necessary to keep the learners’ attention)?
  • if you want to reuse the material, it is important that the content is self-contained, and not referring to other parts (eg. avoid: “as we have seen in a previous video”, this saves time in the editing room).
Why create a narrative script? Because it gives you an overview of what you want to say (or what you want others to say), you can check whether all the elements of a particular subject area are actually covered, and it saves time when recording parts of a course when you are sure all the content is covered (revisions of recorded material can be costly and time consuming).
Remark: if you are writing a script for someone else’s course, make sure the review your script before going into production.

What makes a great lesson?
In many cases an inspiring teacher is both a real passionate expert in her or his area of expertise, and a great story teller. This means the content they provide is relevant, timed in accordance to the content that needs to be delivered in a specific time frame, and it is coherent. The content that is provided needs to be (and look like) high quality material (evidence-based, well structured, and be open to some sort of assessment).

Some pointers writing an engaging script
Get an idea of all the ‘actors’ in your course. Which elements are at the core of your course, how can you make them more interesting? How can you use these actors to build a course? (eg. Energy is the ‘good’ guy, while an earthquake can disrupt the energy equilibrium, in that case the earthquake can be the ‘bad’ guy, and as such become part of a narrative to make a specific part of the course more intriguing.
Start with an immediate hook. Capture the audience attention from the start. Start with a general idea that you know many of the students/professors wonder about (a good example can be seen here, through the wormhole trailer -  ). Integrate moments of reflection: provide very brief cliff hangers (what would you do in case X or Y happened? Offer options to trigger reflection, or offer challenges that learners can relate to in order to get their attention)
Create a learning journey and make it compelling. Provide narrative throughout the course: if the course has elements which flow one to the other, try and find a narrative that feels natural to these steps. Try to find an authentic learning context, related to actual cases in the field, and distill an overarching story from that: “All was well on the island of Eden, the energy that was used was stable and people used that source of energy for transportation, food production and general comfort. Then the unthinkable happened and due to a power breach, the island was cut off from its main energy supply. Unfortunately it was in the middle of winter so priorities needed to be set in order to safeguard the islands citizens…. And from there different case studies with solutions, or different approaches can be shared as content modules. Remark: sometimes this umbrella story that can embed content from all the modules given in the course, only starts to emerge once you see the modules of the course itself.
Keep it poignant. Although a narrative is built, all the content should be brief, consize and relevant. In a classroom you can elaborate, learners do not dare to leave an auditorium, but if a video is elaborating too much or not getting to the point, learners simply move to the next bit of information. Therefore, it is good to constantly ask yourself: which message do I want to put across, what is at the core of this content, and what do I want the learner to get out of this section. If you feel that more information needs to be provided, consider adding it as additional reading.
Use clear structure. A story needs to have a beginning (situating what is to be expected), a middle (where you gradually go deeper into the content, takes more time. Needs sign-posting in between modules for ease of learning), and an end (wrap up with conclusions, recapturing what is said and consequently should be learned).
Provide authentic scenes and situations. Are there elements in the course that can be used as visual extra’s? For instance, do not talk about lab work, but show a lab while explaining something. Are you particularly happy with a new invention, show the invention. Did you create a new model or design, show the design. .

Special video purposes
Teaser script
In case you want to create a course teaser script (short video that can be used for promotional purposes for your course), it is good to keep the following elements in mind:
The teaser should be truthful to the content that can be expected (mention the big lines, or big topics/modules). This means that the topics listed, should be part of the actual course once it starts. It also means that the teaser should be a representation of the other audiovisual media in the course (do not use high-impact simulations in your teaser video, if you are not planning to use them in your actual course).
Trigger interest. Remember that an idea that is not concluded, is an idea you keep in your mind for a longer period of time. So provide some open questions, or open ideas in the teaser… challenges or enigma’s that might trigger curiosity in the potential learners, yet will only be answered in the course.

Plant/laboratory/ad hoc meaningful location
Some locations provide additional meaning to a video. Adding a meaningful location can add to the authenticity of learning by using a real life location to describe particular content. If you talk about a particular part  in the process of a windmill energy park, it becomes more meaningful if you show that part in action while describing it.

Additional ad hoc tools enabling advanced learning options:
Consider using a 360 camera: a 360 camera enables the learner to look at something from all angles (360 degrees). For example: if you are recording a video on the topic of emergency health care in an ambulance, it is of use to provide a full angle perspective of who does what in the ambulance, and which instruments are available and used during the drive to the hospital. This means that a full view of the inside of an ambulance will provide more meaning and will allow the learner to zoom in and out to a point of interest to them, or that you can use a virtual 360 recording to train ambulance drivers (see short example here:  Free MOOC on recording a 360 degrees virtual reality movie:
These recordings integrate an additional tool is to add a virtual reality simulation that can be seen using virtual goggles of any kind to really get a feeling of what that particular plant looks like.

Consider making an augmented simulation based on a meaningful location, which can be manipulated by the learner (e.g. using an augmented simulation of that particular place that is triggered by a QR-code provided inside of a course which the learner can scan with their smartphone). An augmented reality simulation provides a virtual design or model of a specific object. Because it is virtual, you can look at it from different angles offering a fuller (3D) understanding of the object. A straightforward implementation of Augmented Reality for learning can be seen in this integration inside the Roman Forum: or a well known example from Ikea:  . Another example is now looking at collaboration through augmented reality:

Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of mooc videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning@ scale conference (pp. 41-50). ACM.
Fishman, E. (2016). How long should your next video be? Wistia. Retrieved from