Published Nov 7, 2012 in the Newsletter Issue: Information Literacy -- November 2012
Each semester I visit business classes to teach students how to use the incredible array of research tools and databases. I show them how to find information on such diverse (and fun) topics as industry ratios for the restaurant industry, market research reports for the popcorn industry, or demographic information of NASCAR fans. Thorough business research requires the use of a variety of complex databases, making it extremely challenging for students to become expert researchers in a one-hour session. To make the most of their research time and to provide on-demand help options, I started making videos that demonstrate the more complicated (but often most needed) research tools.
Because more than 250 students work on the same project simultaneously, I try to customize each video to their specific needs. I have found that a general “How to Find Market Research Reports in Passport GMID” is not as effective as a context-specific video such as “How to Find Market Research Information on the Snack Foods Market in Passport GMID.” Some may argue that this approach treads very closely to doing their research for them, while others may be concerned about the time required to make videos for each assignment.
I believe that providing video help tailored to a specific project ensures that students find and use the best resources available. Another advantage of targeted videos is that the shelf life of the content extends far beyond the class assignment. YouTube statistics show that users outside our university community searching for topics such as “popcorn industry analysis” often discover my videos via Google. More generic videos likely would not be discovered and viewed as frequently. I regularly receive comments from other librarians and researchers who have found my videos useful.
When I started making videos to share with friends and family on the Web over eight years ago, it was a time-intensive and often frustrating experience. Fortunately, technology has improved so much that it is quick and easy for anyone to create and share an instructional video using tools and services such as Screencast-O-Matic and YouTube. (My personal record is six videos, edited and uploaded, in an hour.)
Screencast-O-Matic is a Web-based service used to record the computer screen, or screencast. Because it is browser-based, you can use the service with any computer or operating system — simply go to www.screencast-o-matic.com and click the big “Start Recording” button to begin. For recording sound with your screencast, a simple USB microphone or webcam will work just fine. Screencast-O-Matic’s basic service is free, though the inexpensive paid version offers advanced editing features and removes the company’s watermark from your videos. Screencast-O-Matic offers direct uploading to YouTube, or you can download the video to your computer if you would like to save or edit the file. For an in-depth video demonstration of how I make videos, visit http://libraryvoice.com/videos/how-to-make-library-instructional-or-other-educational-videos-and-screencasts.
Many would-be video makers are more afraid of recording themselves than conquering the technology. Here are some tips for presenting information on video:
- Explain things as if you were helping a single student in a reference interview. Take it slow, and don’t worry about saying “um” or losing your way with your mouse. In all of the comments that I have received on my videos, no one has ever told me that I say “OK” or talk with my hands too much.
- Try to keep the demonstration short. I shoot for less than 5 minutes for each of my videos and try to get to the point quickly. You may be able to hold a student captive in your office for 30 minutes while you show him every little detail of a database, but online viewers appreciate brevity.
- Don’t set your standards too high. While you should aim to create quality content, remember that your users are watching because they need help, not because they want to be entertained. Although you likely won’t become a YouTube sensation who can quit your day job, you can help your patrons (and many more Web users) easily with Web video.