Creating short videos that support learning


If you are here to learn how to upload the free e-books from project Gutenberg onto your Amazon Kindle then click here  or scroll down

I continue to be impressed with the use of short videos as a method for teaching people how to do things.  I suspect that the process of creating such short videos is an even more powerful tool for re-enforcing learning, and can create an asset that others may find useful.   Projects such as the ever impressive Khan Accademy with its 2500+ instructional videos and associated tutor eco-system is worth  taking a look at if you have not already done so.

Youtube and video jug are full of great examples of short videos that demonstrate howto do things, though of variable quality. It is always easy to criticise others efforts , having watched a few of these, read some materials on best practice  and thought a bit about what makes a good one work, I thought I would have a go at creating one.

I recently found out how to load free books from Project Gutenberg onto my Amazon Kindle and thought that it would be a good subject, it not being mentioned on the amazon instructions and on the basis that e-readers and OER are likely to be a thing of the future.

While the cost of a 2 min advert on commercial TV can be  many times more than the annual budget of a small school, I thought I should set myself some design goals and constraints:

Design goals

1. The final video should be no longer than 5 minutes in length.

2. After viewing it most people would feel confident to have a go at exploring Project Gutenberg and be able to download an e-book to their PC, connect their Kindle and upload the book.

3. Compared with a written howto it should give the viewer more confidence to have a go.

4. The aim was for the viewer to feel as if they had a friendly instructor sat beside them and to keep personality out of the way and focus on activity.

Design constraints:

1. On the basis that most people are short of time, I set myself a goal that it should not take more than 1 hr to plan and film the material, no scripts, a  simple structure outline

2. Use simple software tools that are free.

3. To minimise risks and assumptions and for it to more than instruct, for it to motivate someone to have a go.

To see how it turned out click below: (best viewed full screen)

What did I learn?

In creating this I learnt that it was not as easy as I first thought to create one of these.

It took me about 2 hrs to film the material 1hr to process it and another 1 hr to save it to the various formats and upload it to Youtube so that’s 4 hrs for a 5 minute video.  Next time I feel sure I could get it down by a  1/3  but it still it took longer than I thought.

You need to speak slowly, and leaving  2 second pauses at the end of every learning point and section helps you with the editing.

The ability to insert captions is a strong feature.  It allows teaching points to be re-enforced and lets you make up for mistakes in the video – you can see that in disconnecting the kindle I just pulled the cable but in the video I use a caption to remind people to disconnect the device correctly.

Sound quality is absolutely critical – I am not happy with the sound quality used in the screen capture in this one and having watched quite a few of these it makes such a difference.  Video quality needs to be adequate, if you are pointing out things on a screen then its important that they can be seen.  For that reason this was saved with a high resolution.  Nick Newman from told me that I should think of these as radio with pictures and it seems right to me.


Creating a video howto is a good exercise to have a go at.  I think that asking students to create some of these  would be a very strong  formative assessment method, particularly when other students are encouraged to provide feedback.

 Tools used

Screen capture: Hypercam 2 free screen capture.  easy to install and allows you to select an area of the screen to capture

Video editing and assembling: Windows live move maker  free to download and easy to use.  This software allows you to add images captions titles etc .

Hosting: load onto a Youtube channel

Video capture: a Sony handycam with an internal hard disk

I would be interested to hear your opinion on the use of short videos as an aid to teaching and learning!

  • Is it is better to have 3 x 5 minute videos than 1 x 15 minute video?
  • What do you think makes a great video howto?
  • What pitfalls did I make in this one and what should I do to improve it?
Comments and feedback sought.
Quick update
RIP Michael Hart died this week the 6th of Sepember 2011, I sent him the link to this posting just after I wrote it he replied almost immediately.  Over the last tw0 weeks we exchanged a few emails, he came across as a kind, generous, challenging,  person.  He leaves the world a different richer place with  36,000 free books available for anyone that wants one FOC.  I regret not knowing him.  Michael wrote these words, which summarize his goals and his lasting legacy: “One thing about eBooks that most people haven’t thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we’re all able to have as much as we want other than air.”
His obituary can be found here:

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