Online Instructor-led Training Production Tips

Best practices for online instructor-led trainingOnline Instructor-led training continues to grow in popularity for delivering corporate training. I don’t think that surprises anybody. This is not breaking news. It’s the natural progression of an education system that defined the product of learning as a classroom consisting of an instructor who knows stuff and listeners/viewers who need to know stuff.

It wasn’t that long ago that voice over IP, or VoIP, was reserved for only the most geeky employees. However, that has changed in recent years. I think it’s safe to say that most computer users have and use Skype, or Facetime, or some other online real time voice and video communication service. These technologies not only make communicating more fun, but they provide an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs, instructors, and subject matter experts.

That opportunity is a much broader audience for sharing their knowledge. Some call it the classroom of the future. I prefer calling it another tool in the tool box of the corporate knowledge broker…or training specialist.

While teleconferencing systems have improved over the years, there is still a problem that remains. How do you look and sound good to those on the receiving end of your image. Computers come standard with builtin microphones and webcams, but most remain lacking in quality. Here are 3 elements that will impact your presentation the most.

You need a good location, a good microphone, and a good internet connection. All three are required if you expect to be successful at presenting instructional content online. And yes, in my opinion, how you sound is far more important than how you look.  So, if you start experiencing bandwidth issues and quality drops, then drop the video stream and continue with only audio. Your learners can get by without seeing you, but hearing you is mandatory.

What is a good location for teaching online?

Let’s start by identifying a couple common yet bad locations. Why do I know they’re bad? Because I’ve presented online in all of them. Just trust me on this.

The first and most common bad location is your cubical. Some times you have no choice and so you do what you can. But for the sake of this post, let’s just agree that presenting online from your cubical is less than ideal, and much less than good. So avoid it if you can.

The local coffee shop has free wifi, so that should be okay, right? WRONG! The bandwidth is slow at best. And, well, it’s a coffee shop.  Most of the patrons are there for the face-to-face conversations. Don’t be that guy/gal. And if you think you can just get a close parking spot and present from your car, well, just don’t do that.  And yes, I’ve done it. It was horrible. And yes, I’ve been on the receiving end of a presenter doing it, and it was even worse as a learner.

So what’s left? Your closet? Yes, I’ve done a lot of audio recording in my closet. Ten years ago my office was in my closet but that’s another story.  Small rooms like closets are great for recording scripted audio that can be edited later. But if you need more space to move or make hand gestures while you speak… even if nobody sees them… you’ll need a bigger space.

So here’s the gist. You need a space with no, or very little, external noise, and no echo. You don’t want to sound like you’re presenting from the inside of an empty warehouse. The sound of your voice should carry into the microphone and then stop.  At the very least you want to minimize the amount of extra sound getting into the microphone.

What’s a good microphone or headset for eLearning?

And speaking of microphones, you have a lot of options here. And with all the options comes a lot of new buzzwords like cardioid, condenser, and others. If you really want to geek out on microphones, and audio quality, just search YouTube.  If you are a beginner or will only be recorded occasionally, then I’d recommend a headset . If you are going to be on video you may not like the sports caster look, but headsets are designed to maximize your voice and minimize all external sound. And they are very easy to setup which makes them ideal even for the expert as a backup solution.

I still use my old Plantronics Audio 510 headset. It’s been discontinued but I’m always told that my audio sounded great. According to the Plantronics web site the .Audio 655 DSP headset is the successor to the 510. They’re only about $50 and well worth the expense.

Have a Solid Internet Connection When Teaching Online Courses

This was a huge problem as recent as 5 years ago. But today most internet connections are high speed and relatively reliable. Even portable hotspots like the mifi do a pretty good job of handling voice and video over IP. The best practice is to always test the setup you will be using before “go time”.

Here’s a list of basic practices:

  1. Shutdown and restart your computer
  2. Open only the applications that you need
  3. Login to the system at least 30mins before class
  4. If using a builtin webcam, make sure it’s at eye level
  5. Test your presentation in run mode, and test all the slides

There are many different setups that are possible and they all have their pros and cons.  I will be posting more tips and tricks in the future, and I’d like to hear yours. Please comment or connect with me online.