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Creating an Online Course? Here's What you Need to Know - Part III

Part III - Production

In this third installment of our Creating an Online Course series, we’re going to be chatting all about the best practices for producing your content and then in Part IV, we will discuss how to incorporate beta testing models to ensure your course runs smoothly when it’s time to launch! 

If you haven’t yet read Part I and Part II of this series, we highly recommend going back and getting those under your belt first so the tips and tricks we chat about in this article make more sense.

Let’s hop right in!

So now that you’ve put all of the content together in a manner that flows properly and meets your learning outcomes, it is time to film, record, and edit your online course.

For many, this is the most intimidating phase of online course development. Depending on the nature of your course, this may include getting in front of the camera, which can be daunting for many.  


Before we get to filming though, let’s chat about format!

The first thing you must do as a course creator is determine what type of course you will be creating. There are several formats to consider and each has its own set of advantages and drawbacks.


Presenter Video 

With a presenter video format, YOU are the star of the show.  This is a fabulous way to build rapport and connection with your audience and is the closest option available to live training. It is also a great way to repurpose live training as instructional video content. 

The main drawback to this format is the added time needed to film and edit your material, especially if you’re a DIYer new to these practices. If you’re in a rush to get to market, this may not be the best format to begin with (unless you have a partner like shiftED to whom you can outsource the editing process).


Voiceover Narration

One of the more common formats is to use a slide presentation with voiceover narration. Slide presentations are versatile and familiar, so it is often a well received format for both student and facilitator. This is handy if you have existing educational content you’d like to repurpose into a course and is also a great way to ease into course creation if you’re not yet comfortable with being on screen. Most presentation software programs have built-in narration recording capability, making it a very accessible format as well, as long as you invest in a decent microphone. 

The downside of using a fully narrated slide presentation is that you may miss opportunities to build rapport with your students if they aren’t able to see you at all throughout the duration of the course. You can, however, supplement your slide presentations with interactive workshops and cohort breakouts to help bridge that gap.


Screen Recording

Similar to a narrated slide presentation, screencasting also allows for a voiceover narration; however, this time it is used while capturing a video recording of your screen to show a process or technical task in real time. Screencasting is an effective format to use when you’re going through step-by-step instructions. The drawback to this format is similar to slide presentations in its lack of opportunity to build connection and rapport with your audience. In addition, this particular format ought to be in small, bite-sized lessons so that your student can get just-in-time learning on specific processes without having to wade through long-form content for answers.


 Graphic - Based Animation

Graphic-based animation offers a visually stimulating and engaging experience for learners. While the visual impact is strong, animated presentations typically require a bit of technical expertise. They can, however, be quite effective in capturing content that is challenging, such as engineering schematics of large equipment, demonstrations of invasive medical devices, or to liven up financial or legal case studies. Animation not only allows for more onscreen explanations, this creative format can also be leveraged for marketing your course!


Laying it all out

Once you’ve determined what type(s) of format(s) you’d like to include in your course content, the next step is to take your module outline and lesson content pulled together during the planning phase and create a script and storyboard to allow for best flow and execution.

The process of storyboarding allows for a visual layout of how things will flow, the order in which the learner will navigate through them, and the overall structure of your online course. Creating a script is imperative for staying on task, incorporating all the key points to be included, and providing a more professional feel to your final product. In addition, this creates a tool for agreement on group projects prior to production!


The Tools of the Trade

With your script and storyboard in hand, it’s time to put your content plan into a consumable format. Make sure you have the right equipment to get the job done!  The following list may get you started with presenter video format .

  • A video camera (as long as it can capture High Definition (HD) footage, a high-end smartphone will do the trick)
  • A tripod to ensure steady and properly aligned and focused output
  • A good microphone
  • Video editing software
  • Lighting (Ring lights or a room with great natural lighting)
  • Backdrop (including some branding here is a great way to uplevel the production value of your course)

For more information on our top picks for presenter video format, you can visit our blog post about equipment for live online sessions here. And, if you have opted for an alternate format, you’ll need less hardware and more software than listed above. For example, for screencasting you won’t need a tripod but you will need programs that allow you to capture your screen motions. 


Rubber, meet road.

This is the heart of the production phase! Depending on the format you’ve chosen for your online course, you will be either getting ready to either record your voiceover components or film your lessons. Before getting started, there are a few things you should keep in mind.



It doesn’t need to be perfect!  Perfection is an illusion and when we get too caught up in trying to create perfect content, it can often end up paralyzing our creative output. The point of your video is to create instructional content for your audience, so focus on what you are teaching..  

Decide what works best for you. If you’re recording narration only, determine which voiceover software or equipment you’d like to use. Most smart phones come with a built-in voice recording app (or you can download one) or, as mentioned previously, your slide/animation program likely has a built in voice recorder.

Next, find a quiet place to record. Most people don’t have recording studios, so we typically recommend using a space like a small storage closet or confined office space for voiceover.  These spaces can result in professional sounding audio without the tinniness or echoes that can come from recording in large rooms that have lots of surfaces off which noise can bounce. 

Remember to speak slowly and clearly. If you mess up, keep going rather than starting over. Take a small pause and then start from where you left off. Mistakes can be patched up during the editing process.



Have everything ready to go. If you’re opting for video instruction, you will need your backdrop, script, lighting setup, microphone, video camera, and tripod. As mentioned previously, you’ll want your recording area to be well lit either by choosing a space with an abundance of natural light or by creating a well lit space with video lighting equipment.  

Set up your shot. Position your camera and tripod so that you are placed in the center of the screen both vertically and horizontally. The optimal distance from the camera is one that results in more than your head and shoulders being visible so that your open body language can be captured. If you will be showing items during your filming or will be including overlapping screen captures or graphics during the editing process, you will want to account for that by either moving to the right or left of your film window when appropriate.

Record each module or lesson as its own video.  This will allow you to better manage the editing and storage of your final output as well as your archive or raw files.  As with your narration recording, if you mess up, simply pause your performance rather than the equipment and continue from where you left off for ease during the editing process.


Editing your Content

Editing can be the most intimidating part of creating an online course, but it doesn’t need to be! You may even be able to edit your videos using your smartphone, however, this may be slightly more time consuming due to the smaller screens and cumbersome editing tools. A few desktop editing software programs we recommend are: Camtasia, iMovie, Filmora, Clipchamp, or Adobe Premiere Elements.  Keep in mind that when you’re navigating a new software program, there will likely be a bit of a learning curve, so it is recommended to carve out some time to get comfortable with the features before getting started on editing your course.

Once you’ve chosen your editing suite, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. 


Video Length

Globally, attention spans continue to dwindle, so it is important to keep this in mind when determining the length of each of your video segments. Research suggests that most audiences will tune out after 15 minutes when it comes to instructional videos (source: Academia), so trying to keep each lesson within that window will allow for your most optimal reception.  As long as the message you want to convey is captured in your video, that is all you need to include - and this might mean some lessons are literally a minute long (and that’s perfectly okay!). This might mean cutting parts that are ‘nice to have’ but not necessary for the betterment of your final product or the experience of your learner.


Removing Extra Content

This can be rough, as you’ve spent an enormous amount of time perfecting your message and delivery, however, if it isn’t necessary, it could end up hurting your course rather than helping it.  As the ‘director’, it is your responsibility to use a critical eye when editing your course materials to ensure that your final product is as succinct and impactful as possible.


Adding in Extra Elements

If possible, adding text (especially closed captions) or graphical elements to your video content is a fantastic way to keep your audience engaged and also to ensure that your videos are accessible to all audiences. Use these elements to highlight key messages and takeaways or to provide more context. 

 Once you’ve completed your filming and editing, it is time to upload your videos to your course software platform and start testing.  There are a number of ways to incorporate beta testing into your course launch plan, including both paid and unpaid models.  We will dive into each in Part IV of this series, coming soon.


As always, if you have any questions or would like more information on any of the topics covered here, please do not hesitate to reach out. We can be your guide on the side or you can outsource the heavy-lifting to us.



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