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Session Notes: Online Tutorials – Creating Them Easily & Effectively (an ALA Online Course)

 This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class. Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast. This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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Amy Horell

by Amy Horell
Altoona Area Public Library 

Starting with planning and analysis of users, knowledge types, and tutorial types. Ask yourself: why is instruction needed? What is your instructional goal? Always keep this in mind throughout creating your tutorial.

Beginning to think about a tutorial requires thought about your learners. There are different knowledge types to consider: declarative, conceptual and procedural. It is also important to consider your learners’ characteristics: age, developmental stage motivation for learning, cultural background, cognitive/learning style, comfort with technology, language, and prior knowledge.

Choosing and creating visuals for your tutorial is very important and there are a few tips you should know: there are different types of visuals – infographics such as screen shots, tables, diagrams. Also, animations are another type of visual. When choosing visuals, be careful of the cognitive load for your learner. Simple is best. Reduce text and place visuals on or close to text, use captions, and don’t use decorative visuals. There are some really good tools for creating visuals: Jing is a free tool that is great for capturing screen shots, Snagit is another tool, Screencast-o-matic, Prezi, and YouTube are also decent tools for capturing and creating visuals in your tutorial. 

Next in the process of creating an online tutorial is storyboarding. This snapshot of your content elements helps you to show how the content will be illustrated and how it is connected. Storyboards also help to reveal gaps in your content. Some free tools are: Celtx, Twine, Xmind. 

There are different types of tutorials and many tools to create them. For a web-based tutorial, Flash is key. For a presentation-based, Powerpoint and Softchalk are great tools. A screencast/screenshot-based tutorial can be created by Camtasia, Powerpoint, Jing, or Snagit. Video or animation-based tutorials can be created by using iMovie, Windows Moviemaker, Powtoons, or Camtasia. I found that Camtasia worked best for my tutorial. There was definitely a learning curve to using it but once I got the hang of it, it worked very well.  

The next step in the tutorial creation process is writing a script. The process is fairly simple: outline your content, write slide titles and individual slide narration, read narration out loud many times for clarity and content, and describe visual images. Assemble your visuals and add to slides. Read the narration with the slide deck and then refine it. 

Now that you have your tutorial put together, it’s time to review its accessibility and usability. The tutorial must benefit a wide range of users such as users with disabilities, mobile device users, aging learners and those with language barriers. Tips for usability and accessibility: Avoid using flashing objects, have clear uncluttered graphics and fonts, adequate contrast between screen elements, consistent visual and color scheme, consistent navigational cues and directions, choices about how to navigate through your tutorial, reading order must be logical and intuitive, and highlight important concepts. 

Some best practices for usability and accessibility are: the ability to customize displays, colors, font sizes, audio volume, and video playback speed; adding alternatives to auditory or visual information; incorporating clear syntax and structure; having the key points illustrated using multiple media; having background knowledge presented as an option; and highlighting key concepts. To add alternative text in Powerpoint, right click on image. Choose format link and then size and properties. Then click on the 3rd link from the left (in orange), enter title and brief image description.

Usability Testing is also important for quality of your tutorial. What do you test? You test what works well for users, what are the most significant usability issues preventing users from learning from your tutorial, what frustrates users, and what are the most common mistakes. 

How to test for usability…Get 5-10 people with similar characteristics to your target user group. Include time for recruiting participants – offer some type of incentive. Create a brief questionnaire with screening questions to see if target user group fits. Example: “Have you had an experience with/using…” and What do you know about…?” 

Online tutorials are very effective teaching tools. Whether it is something complex or something simple, creating an online tutorial for it is challenging but is also an excellent way to connect to your learners. My online tutorial teaches users how to check out the library’s e-books on an iPad.







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