25 Video Course Creation Tips For Online Course and Digital Creators - S3 Media Vault - WordPress Plugin for Amazon S3 and CloudFront That Provides a S3 Audio Player and a S3 Video Player

25 Video Course Creation Tips For Online Course and Digital Creators

By Ravi Jayagopal | S3MediaVault

If you're reading this, you probably have a membership site or online course, or maybe you want to start one.
Either way, you're going to probably have a bunch of Video, Audio and PDF's in your online course.

And in this blog post, I'm going to share 25 tips that will help you with creating and delivering videos.

You can also listen to this post as a 3-part audio series below.

Brainstorming with a Mindmap:

Start by brainstorming ideas using a Mindmap: aka an IdeaMap.

I don't think there's a single more powerful tool for brainstorming ideas, practically at the speed of thought, like using a Mindmap. I love and recommend Xmind.net mind-mapping software. They have a free version, which is all you need.

I actually even have a course about this, called Brainstorming Badass: The Abso-Frickin-Lutely Fastest way to Brainstorm and Churn out ideas for the next 33 years - for your online courses, podcast, live streaming videos, webinars, Kindle books, YouTube channel, and any imaginable type of Content Marketing. You can get it for free if you're a member of my Digital Creators Academy.

Save the Best For First

You know the saying Save The Best For Last. Scratch that. Today, people's attention spans have gotten so short - like the attention span of a goldfish, they say :-). So do not hold back. You've got to start your content like a Bond movie - cut right to the chase. Get into the core content quickly. There's no time for a slick 20 second splashy video intro, no time for an elaborate introduction of yourself, background story, history, preamble, no nothing. Quickly tease what's coming up in the video lesson, or even the entire course, so that the person watching has an idea as to what's coming up and can get excited about what they're about to learn. And then dive right in.

Keep Videos Short 

Ideally about 5-10 minutes long. I'm only talking about course videos here. Not social videos or content marketing videos (which may need to be shorter or longer depending on the social platform).

Udemy.com, which is one of the biggest course marketplaces online, recommends a video length of up to 7 minutes.

Someone once said, there's no such thing as too long, only too boring. I've talked about that in episode 59: How Long Should Videos In Your Online Course Be?.

In that episode, I focused more on the question, how long should my book be, or my podcast be, or my webinar be, and so on. That's why I wanted this episode to focus entirely on JUST online course videos.

A study conducted by MIT of over 6.9 million video sessions recorded for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses, at Mooc.org) found that the optimal video length should be under 6 minutes. Shorter videos were found to be much more engaging. Videos longer than 6 minutes had significant viewer drop-off.

By the way, MOOCS are "free online courses available for anyone to enroll. MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale." They have free courses from some of the biggest universities, like MIT, and Stanford.

So this MIT study, "is the largest-scale study of video engagement to date, using data from 6.9 million video watching sessions across four courses on the edX MOOC platform. We measure engagement by how long students are watching each video, and whether they attempt to answer post-video assessment problems."

So here are their main takeaways from the study:

  • Shorter videos are much more engaging
  • Khan-style tablet drawing tutorials are more engaging than PowerPoint slides or code screencasts
  • Informal talking-head videos are more engaging
  • Even high quality pre-recorded classroom lectures are not as engaging when chopped up for a MOOC
  • Videos that intersperse an instructor’s talking head with slides are more engaging than slides alone.
  • Videos where instructors speak fairly fast and with high enthusiasm are more engaging

And their recommendations were as follows:

  • Invest in pre-production lesson planning to segment videos into chunks shorter than 6 minutes
  • Display the instructor’s head at opportune times in the video
  • Try filming in an informal setting; not necessary to invest in big-budget studio productions
  • The instructors should bring out their enthusiasm, and do not need to purposely slow down
  • Focus more on the first-watch experience; add support for rewatching and skimming
  • Students engage differently with lecture and tutorial videos

Another study from Academia.edu found that students engaged the most with videos that were under 15 minutes, and ideally, under 10 minutes.

So overall, my personal recommendation is to keep it between 5-10 minutes. Ideally, around 6 minutes.

Size Matters

Let's talk about video size: Not all of your members will watch a video all the way through even after they click play. Which means, if you're using standard progressive download videos, which I'll talk about in a minute, it means that once they hit play on your video, the entire video will start downloading to their device, even if they watch just 5 seconds of it.

Actually, it will download the entire video even if they just click play, and then pause it right away. And they may do it more than once if they stop watching the video because they got distracted, or had to take care of something, and come back later and hit refresh on the page.

So you're going to pay for a lot of wasted bandwidth regardless, unless you use True Streaming Videos, which I'll address in a little bit.

And that's why it is critical that you keep your videos short, because if you have a long video, then you'll waste a LOT MORE bandwidth in the long-run, because of how people watch videos in spurts.

So the shorter your videos, the less bandwidth you'll waste, and the smaller the bill will be from your video provider, like Amazon S3.

Video resolution

I've seen some course creators go overboard by creating their videos in 4K. Unless you're in a niche, like photography, art or modeling, or a niche that requires impeccable details in your videos, 4K is absolute overkill.

Also, depending on your audience and where they're geo-located, even 1080p might be too much, and 720p might be more than enough. Don't forget - until about 10-15 years ago, before there was HD content on TV, we were all watching SD - or Standard Definition - content on our screens. Yeah, it sucked. But only after we saw how good HD was.

So encode your videos in no greater than 1080p. 720p would be just fine as the maximum resolution if you're doing presentations and talking-head videos.

And make your videos available in multiple resolutions - like 1080p at the highest, then going lower with 720p, 360p, 240p and 144p, so that if you have viewers in countries where they don't have high-speed internet access, or maybe the have caps on their bandwidth, or maybe they're watching on a 3G or 4G phone connection with limited bandwidth, then they won't care about HD so much.

In fact, they may not even be able to watch HD videos without the video sputtering and freezing every few seconds, because they just don't have access to high-speed internet access. So make it easier for them to watch your videos by offering lower resolutions. And my WordPress plugin S3MediaVault.com will take care of all of this for you.

Optimize Your Video Encoding

If your video creation software doesn't give you too many options to create the most web-friendly format, then use the free software HandBrake.fr that will allow you to properly encode your main video in the right format and compress it so you can keep the quality high, but also make the size of the video smaller. Small video sizes means a smaller bandwidth bill for you.

Keep it Simple

Keep your course video simple - no need for elaborate presentations. You could just open your IdeaMap (your Mindmap with all of your ideas) on the screen, do a screen recording, and walk them through each node, one by one, expanding each one as you go.

A few of my own courses were created this way, because it just gives you the ability to create content SUPER fast. No need to waste hours hunting for fancy copyright-free photos and images, or creating cartoon animations, or a "spectacular presentation". No need for overkill.

You're not giving a TED talk. You're also not giving a presentation on stage at Social Media Marketing World or some big conference. So don't get too hung up over the slickness or spiffyness of the visuals. Your members just want to learn from you the best way possible. So instead of all that, use as many real-world screenshots of whatever it is that you're teaching. Maybe even do a screencast of your software, or any articles that you're referring to, and so on. And if you do need some great images to visually influence or motivate, you can get them at free stock photo websites like Pexels.com or Pixabay.com.

Jump Cut Joy: Ditch The Teleprompter

A lot of people give too much value to a teleprompter. I've had one before. I actually created one in the past using my old iPad and a teleprompter mirror stand with see-through glass that you can put a camera behind and the iPad becomes your teleprompter.

Teleprompters are over-rated, because reading from a teleprompter and still looking and speaking naturally, requires a lot of practice. It also means having a script first, that you probably want to spell out word-for-word what you're going to say. Because it's not easy to read from a script in front of you, make sure you have enough head and eyes movement so that it's not blatantly obvious that you're reading from a teleprompter, and then also look natural, talk natural, go with the flow and appear casual as if you were saying it off the top of your head. It's really hard to do all of that, all at the same time. And the fact that it requires a script ahead of time, makes the preparation a lot harder. And after trying to do that a few times, most people would give up making videos entirely.

And if you're just going to have bullet points on the teleprompter, and you're going to speak naturally about each bullet point, and you don't need a word-for-word script, then that's great! That probably means you don't need a teleprompter at all to begin with.

But a lot of people who're just getting started with creating talking-head videos may not be able to talk for long without a proper script, and their impromptu videos might have a lot of umms and aahs and awkward stumbles and pauses. And then it takes an insane amount of time to edit those videos, and suddenly, it is no longer fun to make videos, and they end up making videos altogether.

Plus you probably shouldn't be doing long video lessons as a full talking-head video anyway - not unless you are as dashing and good looking as me :-). Just kidding! No one can be as dashing and good looking as me. KIDDING AGAIN!

The reality is, if I can do talking-head videos with this face made for radio, I mean podcasts, anyone can. So here's a middle-ground, a great option that has worked for me VERY well.

Introducing Jump Cuts
What you can do is the quick intro video where you can briefly appear on camera to introduce yourself, tease the course a little bit, give them the lay of the land. And then switch to screen-recordings. Maybe you could record your face and the screen, and include your talking head in the lower left or right corner of the screen. I personally don't prefer that because being on camera is generally more work for me, with lighting and shaving and looking half-decent, also not being able to do it in the middle of the night with just a small light turned on in the corner of my room, and so on.

My point is, you can still create a short script. Then sit in front of your monitor, and your phone camera in between you and the monitor. And then, pull up the script on the monitor behind the phone. Read through the entire script once or twice. And then, hit record and start talking. And if you get stuck, if it's a short 2-3 minute video, then you don't have to stop the recording - let it keep recording. Or if it's a longer video, just stop it, and restart the recording.

And then, without moving your head too much, just give a brief pause (which you can easily cut out later), just move your eyes a little bit to look at the monitor behind your phone, take a quick look at the script, then start talking again, and keep doing that until your script is done. All in one take, in one recording, which you can then edit later.

And the editing of this is also so much simpler. Just keep going until you hit a break, cut that part out, and continue with the next segment. It will be so easy that you can do it with any basic video editing app on your phone.

Now, you will see your head and body movements jump a little bit between the cuts. And that's why it's called a Jump Cut. And it's a perfectly fine and accepted way of editing for almost all types of videos, whether it is course videos, sales videos or documentation videos.

"What's Up Everybody?"

Avoid addressing your audience as "Hello everyone", "Hey guys", "How are you doing, Ravi-Nation?" or "Wussup SubscribeMe-Gang" or any such groupie terms. Talk like you're talking to one person. One of the most powerful aspects of direct response marketing is directly talking to one person - whether that's your member watching your course videos, a YouTube video viewer, blog reader, email subscriber or podcast listener. 

Regardless of the platform, remember that there's only one person - reading, watching or listening - at a time. They're not in an auditorium with tens or hundreds of others. They're consuming your content by themselves. Even if you have a 1000 viewers, they're still watching it by themselves, one person at a time. So talk directly to that one person. And that one person only - like I'm doing right now, where I'm talking to you, and not combining you with a group of readers.

And every one of your course video viewers will feel like you are talking directly to them, and not grouping them into some anonymous, invisible "group".

Short Bursts

Record your videos in short segments - i.e., the actual process of clicking record, stopping, saving, checking and then starting the recording again. So even if it's only a 10 minute video, you could record it in 2-3 minute segments and save the recording every 2-3 minutes. And in the end, you can assemble the 3 or 4 files together to make one video.

So that way, even if something goes wrong during the recording, like your computer crashes, or the recording or editing software quits suddenly, you lose power and your laptop wasn't plugged in, your phone/iPad batter dies or you get a battery alert, or someone calls you in the middle of a recording, etc. This way, at worst, you will never lose more than 2 - 3 minutes of work.

Reject Perfectionism

Do not strive for perfection. As the saying goes, Perfection is the Enemy of Progress.

Perfectionism actually takes like 10x longer, and creates a lot of stress because of the unnecessary pressure you've put on yourself to try and make everything just perfect. It won't allow you to take quick action because you have to plan and debate everything in your mind to excruciating detail, you won't be able to look or talk naturally, which means you have to script every word, which means you might end up sounding like a robot.

Rejecting perfectionism will allow you to be natural, be yourself, reduce stress and pressure, launch your course sooner, and save you tons of time - which you can then use on actually promoting the course.

Respect Your Viewer's Intelligence

Talk like you're talking to a friend, a peer, or even a coaching client, and not like you're talking to an 8 year old. That will help you avoid coming across as patronizing.

Track Progress

Make sure your viewer can track progress. So the next time they come back to your video course, they should be able to pick up watching the video right where they left off the last time, and shouldn't have to start from the beginning, or wonder if they've watched this video before.

Captions & Transcripts

Create captions for your international viewers who may not be familiar with your language, or may not understand your accent or speed of delivery.

Offer Transcripts of your videos, in case someone wants to skim through your course. Now, Captions and Transcripts are optional, because it takes time to create those. So I would say they're not a must-have for launching your course. You can always add them after the fact too. So don't let those two items slow you down.

Cut to the Chase

Don't have long, extended intros, too much small-talk or excessive casual, non-relevant banter. Online Course Videos aren't your live video stream where you feel compelled to engage with those joining the stream. Also, it's one thing to do it on social, or in your podcast, but course content is a different beast, for the most part. But if that is a part of your core identity, then that's fine. But avoid it if you can.

< 5 Videos

If you're using a learning management system (LMS) that allows your members to mark a module or lesson as complete and then move on to the next one, then it's best that you keep the number of videos on a page to between 1-5. The more videos you have on a page, the longer it might take for the page to load.

I once saw an online course with 20 videos, like 10 or 15 audios, and a bunch of PDF's, all on one page. That's just overkill, it's going to cause tremendous overwhelm as well, and also run up your bandwidth bill for no good reason.

Optimize for mobile

Make sure your website is responsive, your member pages are responsive, and your video player is responsive and works on all mobile devices.

Streaming vs. Progressive Downloads

Streaming is a highly misused word. Some use the word "Streaming" to describe any video that's playing in their browser, or audio that's playing on their device.

But just because you are watching a video online, doesn't mean it is being "Streamed". This might not be of relevance to regular folks, but it is highly relevant to digital content creators.

What is a Progressive Download?
Read about it here: Streaming vs. Progressive Downloads

Downsides of Streaming Video

There are two minor points to note about streaming:

1) It costs a tiny bit more in terms of your AWS bill, because to create a streaming video, you need to use Amazon MediaConvert, a cloud-based service that can take a .mp4 file and convert it into streaming "segments". But it's a one-time cost.

2) If some of your audience are from countries where they have slow or poor internet access, and if you only offer HD streaming videos in your course, then your videos will be almost unwatchable to them, because their internet access will never be fast enough to download the video "segments" fast enough for them to continue watching normally. And may result in the video freezing up every few seconds while the downloading of the segments catches up to their viewing.

But with progressive downloads, those who have poor internet access speeds, will be able to hit Play on the video, then hit Pause, and come back in however long, and the video would continue to download the whole time they're away from their device, because that's what progressively downloading means. But you can't do that with streaming where you can Play, Pause and come back later to a fully downloaded video, because the video doesn't download full with streaming.

S3MediaVault does offer you an awesome feature to get around the limitation of slow internet when watching streaming videos: It allows you to encode a single video in multiple resolutions. And those are 1080p, which is known as Full HD; 720p, which is known as Standard HD, basically a slightly lower-resolution version of HD; 360p, 240p and as low as 144p. The lowest one might appear a bit blurry and low quality, but is what is required in many places which have poor internet coverage.

So if you deliver your videos as regular "progressive downloads", you need just Amazon S3, and you get possibly (slightly) higher bandwidth costs because the video is fully downloaded to the viewer's device regardless of how much of it they watch.

And if you deliver them as "streaming videos", then you'll need S3 + CloudFront + MediaConvert. And you could also end up saving a little bit on the bandwidth costs in the long run, because only as much of the video is necessary is delivered to the viewer's device.

So if the video is 30 minutes long, which could be like a 100 MB in bandwidth normally, and if the viewer watches only 5 minutes before they stop watching for some reason, then you're only charged for those 5 minutes worth of watching time, which could only be like 20 MB, instead of paying for the whole 100 MB download, which is what would happen if you used just S3 and Progressive Download videos.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

It's not enough to just store your files on a cloud service like Amazon S3. You need to add a Content Delivery Network (CDN) on top of it - like Amazon CloudFront.

The basic difference is: Streaming downloads the video or audio in chunks - it is never fully downloaded to your device. And Progressively Downloaded Video or Audio is actually downloaded to the device, even as it's playing.

Allowing Downloads

Should you allow or not allow downloading of your video, audio and PDF?

The best membership sites allow people to consume the content they've paid for in multiple ways - watch the video on the website, download the video, download mp3 audio version of the video, download the presentation as a PowerPoint, download the transcripts as a PDF, and so on.

So you should focus on making it easy for your paying members to download the content that they've actually paid for. Don't make it harder for 99% of your paying members in order to make it hard on the 1%n order to secure your content from the 1% of pirates, who will steal and share your content no matter what.

So forget about the 1%, and focus on the 99%.

Evergreen Content

Try to create evergreen content by avoiding dating your videos by mentioning current dates and events as much as possible, unless it's highly relevant to your course material.

If you can't creating evergreen content because your show is about current events, that's ok. If you can't, you can't. But if have the option, then evergreen is the way to go.

Also, don't mention any specific pricing or phone numbers or specific long links in your videos, because those things can change in the future. Which is why, if you notice, in the direct response ads on TV, they'll say "Call the number on your screen right now, and you'll get" - and the voice changes and reads out the current offer, and they give out a different number based on the TV show or geo location because that's how they track the performance of the ads.

* If you are in a niche or in a part of the world where piracy is rampant, then you could add watermarks to your videos. You could do the simple watermark of adding some text or logo on the right bottom corner of the video - like they do on TV. Or you could also do the more advanced watermark of showing the member's own name, email and IP - either all of them, or just one of them - on the video. So if I log in, the video would have the watermark with my name - Ravi Jayagopal and my email - Ravi@SubscribeMe.fm - on the screen. And if Jill logged in, it would show her name and email and or IP on it.

You might think: Oh people can screen-capture the video and simply zoom in on the video a little and trim out the watermark in the right bottom corner. Well, S3MediaVault has a solution for that too - it's called
Moving Watermarks.

So the personalized dynamic watermark - like name, email, ip, etc - will move around on the video screen randomly, once every few seconds. You can configure how often that is.

So that it's no longer easy to simply crop out the corners because it will appear bang in the middle of the screen and dance around on the screen every so often.

Obviously, you don't want to annoy your users, so you can make the font color subtle and make it almost blend into the background of the video, and yet be visible to someone who is actively looking for it.

So if I, Ravi Jayagopal, try to rip you off by screen-recording your videos, then my name or email or IP will show up in the screen and I won't be able to avoid that. So if I try to steal your content and upload it elsewhere, everyone will know that it was me who pirated the video. And that's not good for me, the pirate. Aargh! Ahoy, Me Hearties!

Video Storage

Do not store videos or audio on your own website. You might wonder, why not just upload these files to your website via FTP or through the WordPress Media page and just store them on your own website? After all, you have "Unlimited Hosting" and "Unlimited Bandwidth" from your web host, so why not take advantage of it, right? That's a great question asked by a lot of WordPress users. And here's why.

Read the full post here: 

I hope you were able to either read or listen (via the audio players at the top of this post) to this article, which is also published as a mini-series on my podcast at SubscribeMe.fm.

And if you wish to implement what I've talked about on this mini series of 3 episodes, you can do it with my amazon s3 video player, at S3MediaVault.com.

You can create responsive video players that look beautiful and work great on any and all devices, you can do static logo or text watermarks, or the more advanced Personalized Dynamic Watermarks that move, which can help deter piracy. You can add captions, create transcripts, tracks play duration for your members so that if they watch 3:35 seconds of a video, and come back another day, it will pick up right from 3:36 seconds, right where they left off previously.

And it lets you see how long each of your videos were watched overall, how long each member watched it, how many times they watched it, and so on. It allows you to create videos that are super secure and load super fast, makes sure the links to the videos cannot be shared with their friends or other unauthorized users. Check it out at S3MediaVault.com s3 video and audio player.

P.S: Check out my Podcast below about Digital Marketing, creating Membership Sites and Online Courses, how to Create, Sell and Deliver Digital Content, Content Marketing, Creating Audio, Video and PDF's and Reports and Kindle books, at SubscribeMe.fm .

Or you can also search for "SubscribeMe.fm" as one word, in your favorite podcast app - like Apple Podcasts, Overcast and even Spotify. On my home page at https://SubscribeMe.fm , you can see a number of different platforms where you can listen to my show.

I frequently give away my paid content via my podcast. So be sure to subscribe. 


About the Author

Ravi Jayagopal is a Business Coach, 8-time Author, Speaker, Podcaster, Entrepreneur, Digital Marketer, WordPress Developer and also an Amateur Ventriloquist :-). Read more about him at https://SubscribeMe.fm/ravi-jayagopal

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