Internal training is a project that often falls onto the shoulders of technical writers, regardless of our instructional design background. Why? Availability and expedience, as it's typical for training resources to be jealously protected for end-user training. (It's the same reason that technical writers end up getting to create visuals and design the documentation: any graphic design resources are typically dedicated to Marketing needs.)
So it has been with me on several occasions, but this time the training project had new constraints: first, I had no authoring tool with which to make videos; second, I was not to use any Microsoft Office applications or formats, since our shop was standardizing on Google Apps for Business across the enterprise. I had to dream up a new approach, and I needed a good-enough way to incorporate video, to free me from repeating the brown-bag presentations for every new batch of analysts in our fast-growing company.
Although I cannot share links to my proprietary internal training, I can share the dirt-cheap production method that I ended up with, as well as lessons that I learned:
Presentation: Google Slides
- Handouts: Since I was needing to teach dense system architecture content, I found it most efficient to work backwards: to create and get technical reviews for the printable handouts that attendees would end up taking back to their desks, before I worried about breaking them down for slides.
- I used LucidChart (for previous projects, I used Cacoo) to create the handouts.
- Using it like a spreadsheet, I had one LucidChart diagram that included one tab (page) per handout.
- I used the Share | Sharing feature to include my reviewers.
- I used the Share | Publish feature to generate the on-demand PDF link for attendees.
- I then used SnagIt to take screenshots of small areas of the complex diagrams for use in the Google presentation.
- PowerPoint Features: While Google Slides (was Presentations) is a far simpler app than PowerPoint, it imports PowerPoints very well and supports more functionality via import than you can create outright. (I was clued in on this from my work with Google Docs, which supports advanced features such as fields that I imported from Word, even though they can't be directly created or edited.)
- (for all of Google Apps) When stuck on how to achieve something (such as a two-column layout), create what you want in Office and then import the slide to Google.
- Templates: I took existing corporate PPT slides and imported them into Google; the template (master pages) came over with the slide content.
- To work with imported slide templates, select View | Master.
- Animations: Although Slides supports animations, I don't see a way to apply them to master pages; therefore, it's fastest to create what you want to standardize on and use Duplicate Slide as you author.
- To manage animations, select an object on the slide, which enables Insert | Animation. Be sure to delete the animation you just inserted to get the panel open, if you didn't want it.
- If you set up progressive display, use it deliberately, to support your narration and keep viewer attention focused.
- To achieve progressive display of bullets, use On click with By paragraph enabled.
- To delay display of an object until a related one appears, use After previous.
- Drag and drop the animations to the ordering you want, and use Play to test it.
Many technical writers consider Snagit to be the premier screenshot creation tool for documentation, but it's also the only video tool I needed to create my training. Through an online deal, I was able to buy my own copy for about $30. Snagit is made by TechSmith, the creator of Camtasia and host of Screencast.com, so it has basic but solid video creation abilities.
- Audio: Get a decent noise-canceling headset (such as a Plantronics), and make sure that the mic boom is low enough to escape breathing and percussive noises.
- Shortcuts: Spend ample time optimizing the key commands for recording video, because you will have to juggle both Snagit and Google Slides while you struggle to keep speaking fluidly.
- Being right-handed, it worked best for me when I reserved the right hand to drive the presentation and created video shortcuts that were convenient for my left hand.
- Select More preferences, Hotkeys, and set comfortable key combinations for Video capture start/pause/resume, Video capture stop, and OneClick Video capture.
- Options: Happily, there are really none to fuss with! Snagit only saves to MP4 (HD) video format using its own defaults, and MP4 is fine for a device-neutral, mobile publishing strategy.
- Snagit will incorporate System Audio capture if you enable it, but keep this disabled for narrated presentations.
- Pausing: With your three hotkeys, you will launch a capture, drag the recording area, press keys to start, and press keys to stop, which finalizes the video for review and saving.
- Practice pressing the keys to start, which is also your pause and resume command; whenever you want a moment to rest or rehearse a line, hit your pause keys and take your time.
- No editing: The key to using Snagit for video captures is to keep them short and your process easy, because they're essentially disposable. You will not be editing these; instead, you reshoot any problematic videos.
- File size: To keep the size of videos as small as possible, these are two strategies that work:
- Restrict the number of slides you cover per tutorial, reworking the content to support shorter videos. (This is both easier to shoot initially and less wasteful when you need to reshoot later.)
- Shrink the window size of your Google Slides presentation before you launch Snagit. Google Slides defaults to presenting in full-screen mode (or close to it), so resize the window manually.
Publishing: Google Site
Since our company uses Google Apps for Business, we host our intranet on Google Sites and make full use of Google Drive. Happily, SnagIt integrates nicely with Google Drive.
- When you press your stop hotkeys, Snagit Editor opens your video; if you watch it and find it flawed, just select File | Delete and try again.
- To keep the video, do File | Save As..., or click Send to Google Drive on your Share tab.
- Tip: To share video production between work and home, use a Google Drive folder that is fully shared between both Google accounts.
- To publish on a Google Site, simply create a new page and select Insert | Drive | Video. Google shows you only the videos on your Drive, from which you select.
- Once a video is placed on the page, use its gear icon to change the settings for how the video displays on your site.
- When you're ready to roll out the self-serve training, set up a node for the course, with each video having its own page and introduction, and enable Comments. On the last page, include the links to your printable handouts.
- Contact your Google Site administrator about what you need to do to get reports on page views/usage, if that data is needed for your project.
Hope this helps!