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Department: Education Extra

Coming to “grips” with educational video production

Mahon, Paul MSc, RGN, FFNMRCSI; Crotty, Yvonne PhD, MSc

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/01.NME.0000694204.42621.8e
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One of the key challenges for any modern healthcare facility is building the confidence, competence, and capacity of its staff. However, factors internal to health services, such as the increasing complexity of patient care and limited time and budgets for continuous education and professional development (CEPD), coupled with outside factors, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, mean that even when CEPD programs are available, nurses and other healthcare professionals may not be able to physically attend in-class education. Ironically, when extreme events occur, staff education is even more important, such as when it comes to rapid upskilling in donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE) or the use of mechanical ventilators.

One potential solution to the limitations of traditional classroom-based CEPD is the use of reusable learning objects (RLOs), such as educational videos, to quickly communicate a standardized message to multiple learners. With all of the technology available to us, educational videos can be produced quickly and cheaply; in fact, smartphones not only have built-in cameras and microphones, but some even have video-editing software.

Although well-produced educational videos can have a positive effect on learners, poorly produced videos can have an equally negative effect. This article offers practical advice for nurses thinking about producing an educational video to make sure you achieve the best quality and educational value.

Reusable learning objects

An RLO is an electronically stored learning activity designed to meet a specific educational need. RLOs come in different forms and may include a combination of media, such as text, audio, live action, animation, or graphics. A benefit of RLOs is that once produced, they're accessible anywhere with an internet connection. When standardized and reused over time, RLOs also offer long-term value that offsets any initial cost. In addition to helping overcome the barriers of distance and time, RLOs provide instructional methods that today's learners are familiar with and expect without a decrease in learning quality.

An educational video is a type of RLO with the primary purpose of educating the viewer. If you've ever searched for how to do something on YouTube, chances are you were watching an educational video. Educational videos are popular with both teachers and learners, and the better the video is produced, the better viewers learn from it. It's been suggested that even when the learning from a face-to-face interaction and an educational video is the same, student satisfaction and learning experience are better with the video. Part of the reason for this is that educational videos cater to learners of all abilities, giving viewers the freedom to pause, rewind, and play the video again at a pace that suits them best.

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Sample storyboard

Although educational videos offer an accessible, flexible, reusable, multimedia and “anywhere” learning experience, they aren't without pitfalls. The biggest problem with videos freely available on social media or video-sharing websites is that it's hard to know if the content is factually accurate. In one study, it was found that most of the online educational videos reviewed were unsatisfactory. A second study found that online videos were deficient in discussing key criteria of surgical procedures, and yet another study suggested that the quality of online educational videos is questionable because most of them are uploaded without peer review or a quality assessment process. Research such as this strongly supports the development of in-house educational videos that are evidence-based, tailored to the healthcare institution's needs, and frequently reviewed to ensure up-to-date information.

Helpful tips

There are three stages to creating an educational video: preproduction, production, and postproduction.

Preproduction

Preproduction is where you do all the planning. Just as there are different genres of feature films, so too are there various types of educational videos, such as discussing a specific topic, demonstrating a particular technique, setting a challenge for the viewer, or telling a story. Think about why you're creating the video and what you want viewers to learn, which will help you decide what type of educational video you want to produce. It will also help you decide on some of the following points.

The two most important things you need to do in the preproduction stage are storyboarding and scripting. A storyboard details all the shots you want to get and includes a sketch of what the scenes will look like, along with other information such as how long each shot will last, what the actor is doing/saying, and what audio is needed. The storyboard doesn't need to be complicated (see Sample storyboard). For example, imagine you're producing a video on how to don and doff PPE. It's unlikely that you'll shoot the whole sequence from start to finish because you may want to add close-up shots of how to remove the face mask safely or decontaminate hands. Having a storyboard will help you compile all the pieces of footage, which reduces the need for reshoots and saves valuable time during the editing process. As you capture each shot, cross it off your storyboard. Before you finish filming, double-check your storyboard to make sure you have all the footage you need.

When you're creating your storyboard, think about what extra shots you may need besides the main footage. Called the B-roll or filler, these shots help maintain your viewers' interest and make editing much easier. Continuing with our previous example, PPE educational video B-roll shot list offers examples of B-roll footage. Also think about the angle of the shots because different angles help highlight important points and make your video much more interesting and informative.

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PPE educational video B-roll shot list

A general rule is to keep the script conversational in tone, just as if you were explaining the concept to someone face-to-face. Known as the personalization principle, this is an effective way to help viewers learn. Before you shoot your educational video, meet with everyone involved, such as actors, the videographer, and subject matter experts, for a “table read” to ensure that the script meets the brief (see Scripting tips).

At the preproduction stage, it's also useful to compile a list of all the equipment you'll need to shoot your video. This includes the equipment you need in the shot, such as gloves, gown, and alcohol hand gel, and the equipment you need to get the shot, such as a power cable, memory card, camera, and so on.

Production

Production is when you actually shoot your educational video. Choose a location that will help viewers anticipate what the video is about. This depends on the nature of your subject and may include a unit, treatment area, or classroom. While on location, think about how factors such as background noise and lighting might impact the final product. If shooting in a public area, be sure that anyone who passes through is aware that a video is being made because there may be data protection issues to consider. You may need to gain written consent from your actors. Check this out with your healthcare institution before you start.

Poor video or audio quality are the main reasons viewers dislike educational videos, so it's a good idea to test the microphone and camera on the day of the shoot. Record a brief segment and review it before shooting the whole video. The last thing you want to happen is that you shoot the entire storyboard only to find out later that there was a problem with the sound or picture. Don't forget to check the memory on the camera and consider having a back-up memory card. The voice recorder on most smartphones can be used to rerecord audio segments if needed. Take the time to compose the shot the way you imagined it and avoid zooming in and out; these effects can be added later if needed.

A teleprompter is useful so your actors don't have to remember their lines. Again, you don't need any expensive specialist equipment; there are many free versions available online that you can use straight from your laptop. Online teleprompters are easy to use: Simply cut and paste your script into the teleprompter and press play. The script will start scrolling and you can adjust the speed if necessary. Keep the teleprompter as close to the camera lens as possible because you don't want your actors looking off in one direction to read their lines.

Viewers like, and learn better from, an enthusiastic, friendly speaker with expertise in the topic. Unfortunately, no matter how enthusiastic your actors were during preproduction, they're likely to develop a sudden case of camera shyness on the day of the shoot. Your job as director is to put them at ease. Keep the atmosphere jovial, allow time for multiple retakes, and don't forget to have some fun with the whole process. If you're relaxed, your actors (who are likely to be colleagues) will be more relaxed. You've probably heard celebrity actors speak of the chemistry on set—the effect of good chemistry on the final product shouldn't be underestimated.

Postproduction

Postproduction is when all the footage that you gathered (video, audio, and still shots) is pieced together into the final product, along with additional material such as opening and closing credits. Some video-sharing websites have their own editing software and certain laptops also come with editing software preinstalled. Editing may take longer than you think, so be sure to allow yourself time to rerecord audio or video footage as needed.

Although this part is time-consuming, it's well worth the effort. A higher production value will lead to superior learning. While you're editing the footage, always keep the viewers in mind. The whole reason for producing the video is to teach your viewers, so make it as easy as possible for them to pick up and retain the key information.

For those final touches, free-to-use images, videos, and audio can be helpful. Adding cuts and transitions can also make a big difference, but don't overdo it because they can get distracting. In the closing credits, don't forget to credit any material you used that you didn't create yourself; even if it has a Creative Commons license, it may still need a credit.

Once the first edit is complete, check it with your subject matter expert to see if the educational video meets the brief, is factually accurate, and is sequenced correctly. Finally, ensure that the title of the video matches the content. Remember that the value of an educational video is determined by the degree to which it complements the content you're trying to communicate.

Action!

In our modern healthcare environment where emphasis is placed on innovative and creative approaches to teaching and learning, educational videos are an attractive option for both students and teachers. Indeed, if we truly wish to increase the quality of clinical nursing skills, and ultimately the safety of patient care, nurses must be given the best possible education regardless of the clinical, classroom, or computer-based context in which learning occurs. We must work to reimagine what it means to teach and learn in the modern digital age. To borrow an entertainment industry phrase, this article has been a trailer that we hope increases your interest in educational video production and demonstrates that creating your own videos is easier than it may first appear.

Scripting tips

  • Develop a brief: What's the topic of the educational video? Who's the audience? What are the goals, the key takeaways, and the call to action?
  • Write the script: Write conversationally and use short sentences. Differentiate the main narrative from the B-roll. Script every word and make it brief.
  • Do a table read: Read through the script together in advance.
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