Using video is eLearning is a double-edged sword. It can make a learning experience much more interesting, exciting, and engaging, but technical issues can often negate the positive effects. It’s important to be aware of this before getting too far…
The learner just needs to have the Flash player plugin installed and they’ll be able to view the video. Just a year or two ago, deploying video meant that the learner would have to download and install a specialized plugin such as RealPlayer, QuickTime, or Windows Media Player. (Yes, I realize the Flash player technically is a plugin, but it has become so ubiquitous that I don’t consider it to be a specialized plugin that requires effort to obtain.)
If you’ve ever worked with video, you probably know that its file size can be quite big. If you use video in your eLearning, you may want to split it out into smaller chunks, constrain the width and height of the video (so that it isn’t huge on the screen), and try to compress the video as much as possible using the Flash Video Encoder or whatever application(s) you prefer. Flash is known for being able to stream information to the user. This works especially well on high-speed internet connections; learners are able to begin watching a video while the rest of it is downloading. This is called progressive download. Assuming the connection is fast enough, there won’t be any interruptions as the learner watches the video. For slower connections, I recommend automatically pausing the movie as soon as it starts loading and instructing the learner to hit the play button once the movie has fully downloaded. They can start watching it earlier, but it’s possible that the rate which they’re watching the video is faster than the download rate. When this happens, the video will stop dead in its tracks. That’s not a great experience for the learner.
If you want to get fancy and use the Flash Media Server, it can automatically determine the users connectivity and then serve up the most appropriate version of the video (ex. low-quality, medium-quality, high-quality). It can also do true video streaming, which allows the user to watch the video as the bits are downloaded, which is as live as it gets. This method also prevents the user from saving the video to their computers.
Tools for Working with Video
We use a Canon Elura 100 digital camcorder for recording our training events at work. I dump the video to a PC via FireWire. I pull the video into Sony Vegas, resize the video when necessary, and then export it as .mpg files. At this point, I launch the Flash 8 Video Encoder and let it convert the .mpg files, usually over one or two days. Once everything is finished, I have several .flv files waiting for me. I open Flash 8, utilize the FLVPlayback component, and build my eLearning as the situation requires. Did I mention that I love working with all of these cool toys?
B.J. is the Founding Editor of eLearning Weekly and has contributed more than 150 articles. He works in elearning at Qualcomm, focusing on mobile learning.