A digital version of your natural environment is worth billions

You need a video to your e-learning-course? But you have no money, and no time for it, and you are not an actor. Still you want to achieve something great, and you definitely know your own topic. Then here is my suggestion on what to do. It is actually possible to achieve what you want.

A common suggestion on how to solve this matter is to suggest training, people, time and a big budget. The more videos you do, the better you become. If you even do it with the help of professionals, the better it will become. Someone might even suggest you to use a movie-studio, write a script, and use a teleprompter during your video-recordings.

Teleprompter = what news-readers on television is using. They look into the camera and read a prepared text for us that they see on a screen in the middle of the camera-lens, but we as audience do not see the teleprompter so it is supposed to look very natural to us. It often actually also does look natural, simply because they are professionals on it. They have done it many times before. The have trained on it.

This is what media experienced people often suggest us educators to do when we ask them for help to develop an e-learning-course and we come up with the idea of making a video to put in the center of it.

In some sense they do also have a point. For instance; the more we do something the better in average we also become in doing it. But…most of these ideas are not possible to use while developing e-learning. Who gets for instance the big budget needed? Who gets the time needed?

Adding to that; most of these ideas are actually based on the assumption that content-people should adapt to the media used, and not the other way around. Most content-people would instead prefer if the media could adapt to them. From the educator’s point of view, it would be far nicer if that was possible. And it actually is.

You might also already have tried to make a video before. But it was difficult to make it good, even if you prepared, wasn´t it? You might have become a bit nervous, and then you never become as good as you actually are.

It is nothing strange if that happened. All of us easily get a bit nervous when we find ourselves a bit outside our normal comfort zone. Ask a TV-producer to give a traditional class-room lecture on your topic – meaning try the opposite than what they tend to suggest you to do – and we all can watch this happening in reality. It would not become that great, because they do not know your topic the way that you do.

In all this, we also find one of the most important underlying reasons to why a decent number of video-produced “lectures” at this moment, given by people that at the same time really knows the content behind (the topic), are not even close to being as good as the persons behind them actually are.

Doing a video-recording is just not that often the natural environment for a person that is very qualified in a certain topic. You did not sign up for spending huge amounts of time to learn a certain kind of topic in order to suddenly become a movie star instead, right?

I would therefore instead suggest trying the total opposite than what is mentioned so far, and if you just follow me here for a minute, I will show you how great your result can become if you do.

On top of that, I would definitely also claim that doing the opposite is a far faster, and cheaper, even nicer, way in the long run – not only in the short run. And the quality of your end result will even go up, not down, compared to the “movie-makers-way”.

Here is a somewhat blurry picture taken in Cuba, January 2020 (sorry but my own mobile-camera-lens had just broken because I dropped it one day before). It is my colleague Martin Vendel, on the right, that is planning for a possible cross-international project jointly with René Díaz Suárez, to the left.

René is doing research and technical development at The Photovoltaics Research Laboratory at the University of Havanna. He definitely has a lot of knowledge about solar-cells, and he is also used to giving traditional lectures on it. I´m heavily convinced that anyone that is seriously interested in climate change issues related to solar power could have a great and interesting conversation with René during a sunny afternoon in Havanna – if they ever got that possibility (with the help of e-learning you will also be able to do that in the future).

I´m not sure if you know it, but in my own country, Sweden, that globally speaking often is claimed to be a forerunner on this matter, it is not as sunny as in Cuba. Adding to that: I have never seen as many electric motorcycles and mopeds in my home-town Stockholm as I did in Havanna when I was there and meet René and his colleagues. So, why would not a dinner with René be of interest?

However, René himself has never made a video-tape-lecture before. Why would he?

Below you find Martin and René setting up the equipment needed in order to make a video-recording with René. There was no plan for doing it, not even one hour before they did. No time for preparation was given. It was just an idea that we got when sitting and working there jointly in his lab.

It also for instance explain why the Camera Tripod you see in this picture actually was a Tripod René used for his technical experiments…tape was needed for the camera…actually it was Martins new smartphone and not a “camera” (sorry; still blurry because taken with my own broken camera).

Then they just talked. Or, actually, Martin did just ask René some questions, and René simply answered.

Just one take was made, that’s it. It took less than 15 minutes, and then we continued working with our project.

Neither René, nor Martin, did really know what to talk about, before they pressed play. But yes, Martin had a rough idea on what to do. He wanted to see how good something could become in the end, if working in this way. At the same time, Martin also had the idea that it would be nice to give René a present – a short video that René maybe later on could put on YouTube. Then René, in short, could describe to possible external people what they are working on at his laboratory.

Below is the final result. What do you think about it yourself?

As you might not notice; in the interview Martin actually speak English, since René understand English. But Reneé was asked to answer in Spanish, his own native language (the translations you see in the video was made afterwards with the help of software and a language translator). Martin is not native in Spanish (he is Swedish). But, if René should be able to use the end-result for his own possible use, Spanish was needed. On top of that; of course, it was more natural to René to speak his own native language.

Now, after the taping was done, and while walking back to our hotel, Martin also made some short videos on the surroundings – the ones that you also can see in the video.

Then, when back at the hotel, Martin put all these tapings into Adobe Premier Pro, and created this final result. It took him some hours. He was finished before we had dinner that night.

Do notice that Martin and his questions to René are taken out from the final result (could you even see that they had been there?). The questions Martin did ask René to answer was/is actually not needed in the final video. They were just needed during the taping-process, in order to make it easier for René to know what to talk about (how else would he know what to say…he had not prepared more than 30 seconds before?)

Well, you and I can discuss if this video is great, or not (please make a better one yourself with the same kind of circumstance if you do not find it good enough). Of course, far better videos have been made in the history of human kind. But that is not the point here.

The point here is that it took less than 2 hours in total to create this result, it costed nearly nothing to create, René did only have to spend like 15 minutes on it, and if taking all that into account; I claim this video to be unusually great!

Adding to that; doesn´t it seems like René himself, in this video, is a little bit eager to tell us (Martin) something of importance, something he do really care about himself? The video is “him”, in many ways (thereby it also becomes different from other people that could have tried to make it). This video makes at least me curious of getting to know more. What kind of interesting research does René actually do in this center?

René is not trying to adapt, neither to the camera-lens, nor to a script, not even to Martin, and therefore the video becomes “lively”. Somehow René seems rather motivated, and motivation tend to spread, as you know. Therefore, the likelihood of others watching this video, already being somewhat interested into the field of solar cells and climate change (the intended target group for the video…this video is not made for “anyone”) calling this video “good quality” is fairly high.

Motivation is nothing we can force people to have. We cannot even ask for it. Motivation is something that spreads like a virus. If we, educators, have it, then maybe others will get it to. And then they want to know more – maybe even watch more videos with René.

Then why was René “suddenly” motivated when we did this video? Because we were curious of getting to know more about his center, and asked him about it. We actually were seriously interested and wanted to know more (that is why we visited him).

I assume that this is an important reason why René in return was seriously interested in answering. And since there was so limited amount of technology involved, we lowered the barrier for René to be “himself”. Doing the interview in his own laboratory, on his own home yard so to speak, probably also added the barrier for him. We came to him. He did not come to us.

Here is my suggestion for a conclusion:

The closer we can get to what could be called “the natural environment” of a person that is doing a video-taping, the higher likelihood we would do better, cheaper and faster, videos.

Having that said, here are some side notes that could be of interest.

Of course, working like this is totally different than what normal TV-production-people are used to. Most likely they would never even accept this way of working, and that is also a reason why me and Martin tend to use less and less amount of “professional media-makers” the more we work in the field  of e-learning (they don´t find this way of working to be “serious enough”, but it is).

One also have to remember that at least some technology is needed here, and understanding how to use that might take some time (in the begging of the video you find a list of what technologies that actually was used…sound-recordings is for instance not possible to do in a great way with a smartphone today…not yet).

Knowledge on how to use post-production-software is also a skill needed here, and learning how to use that do also take time (Martin has done this for some time now…we neither use professionals for that, but of course you can). It is even so, that from an end-results-point of view, the post-production-process becomes far more important than preparation and recording (that is where most of the time is spent).

So, there are some more issues here that we could dig deeper into, if we want to know how to really achieve this. But that is for another post.

The big point here was just to show that by trying to find your “natural element”, when doing video-recordings to your e-learning-courses, you will be able to create great result – even without the money and the time often claimed to be needed for it.

In many ways; Doing e-learning is about how we, as educators, think about it. It is not about what others that might have good intentions behind a suggestion on how to do this, think about it.

Most professional media makers don´t have a clear understanding on what learning actually is about.

The big trick with e-learning is not the technology itself. It´s the way we use its potential that makes the big difference.

Try to find you natural environment, and use it heavily.

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