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How I Develop My Video Courses

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Part 1 – From Idea to Script

In this session, I discuss how I develop my video courses and how I manage my video length. In terms of development, I discuss the outlines that I create and revise as the courses’ mature as well as the idea of using a script to update older material.

I also explain how I determine the optimum length for my videos and the factors that go into it such as whether or not the class is live, whether or not the material has an outline or if it’s ad hoc and so on.

Also mentioned are upcoming classes I am developing for the Genesis Theme Framework and the fundamentals of PHP and WordPress.

Video Transcript

Rick: So, anyway, tell me about your question.

Well basically, I went through your member website or the membership website and now actually creating the courses, I find I have a lot of questions about just the nitty gritty of how to record those courses using Camtasia, Powerpoint and… Especially like you write your courses up into shorter bits. How do you decide where to do that? Is it just the file size or is it just the topic that determines that? So there are all these questions around creating the actual courses to go on to the membership site.

Manage Video Lengths

Rick: Well, let’s tackle the last question first which is how do I decide how long to make my videos. My ideal length of a video segment is under 10 minutes. That’s what I try for and so if I am not recording it live, that is if I’ve figured the whole thing out in advance, made an outline and then proceeded to give a lesson without an audience which is how I used to do it but not how I do it much anymore, I would try to make sure that my outline fit that time frame so that I’d have big chunks of instruction that were between 3 minutes on the short end and 10 minutes on the long end.

And I guess the reason for that is just my own sense of how I interact with the videos or with somebody else’s videos. I could really hang on to a 3-minute video really easily while 10-minute videos seemed like they were about the maximum length of time I could really stay focused.

Creating Outlines

However, the way I’m doing most of my instruction now is live, and so in that case I also create an outline but the outline is not really focused on the length of each segment. And so I found that, I can have 20 minute video segments in the live instruction, and when I’m finished I get back and chop it up in spots. I find some that can be as long as 20 minutes. It’s not in my mind ideal but in that case what I’m doing is trying to develop an outline that adequately covers the material and then I just break each video at each primary outline section.

I guess I can even show you an example of that based on Monday night’s class. Let’s see gmail, oops, that’s not want I wanted. Okay, here I am actually. Let’s see documents. So I created a little document based on the outline of what I use to teach the class and so this is the outline that I used on Monday.


Rick: I just go through the process of laying out my outline and then well, I haven’t broken this video up yet, but I’m going to have the first video be Configure Electronic Download with Amazon S3. This whole thing is going to be one video. And then the second video is going to be the US Postal Service stuff, that’s actually going to be pretty short because that section was short. And then there’s Multiple Levels of Product Variations and Addons. That’s actually going to be long.

That was a heavy one.

Rick: Yeah, and I might, in fact, try and find a way to break it up into a couple pieces like maybe the theory and then the practice. Then we have the unscripted, unstructured conversation both of Lanny and with Fran on how that whole variation thing works in each of their cases. So obviously I don’t have much outline material here, I just knew we were going to have a conversation about it.

Adding the widgets and changing the display order are where I’m going to end up breaking it again. So for my live classes this is how I do it and the link just shows up to be whatever the link is. There are some classes where we develop a script and work off of a script.

So an example of that would be in the Start Building Your Website Here Series. So here’s our script for the first video on the Start Building Your Website Here with the InMotion Hosting series. And so in this case what I do is, I work out an actual script.

When I originally recorded this what I had was an outline and then I recorded off of an outline and then we transcribed it. Then as we update these we take the transcription and turn it into a script and then I just change the script as I work my way through so that it stays fresh with whatever new set of revisions has to happen. Sometimes I change the script significantly if I’m not happy with the way it was originally.


Using a Script to Update Older Materials

Rick: Then I just work out of the script like this and again a script like this is, I don’t know, probably 3 minutes long. I mean the two pages of script are about 3 minutes long. So that’s how I do most of my instruction which is live now. Most works off of an outline just like this. I’m sorry, just like this where I sit down and figure out what needs to be taught and then I make an outline based on that. I try to stick to the outline when I make a presentation and then break it up into segments.

There are times where I am working with a staff person to create the video. Melissa does all of my basic level videos now when we’re updating them for changes in the underlying software, so changes in WordPress or changes in whatever. Then Melissa takes over and we write a script together and then she creates the video based on that script. And then there’s video content like today where it is completely ad hoc and I just do it on the fly. Okay, so that’s length, right?

When I sit down and create a class, I actually start out with something like this where I sit down first and I say, what’s my outline going to be? So I think, I’m going to give myself 6 weeks. I suspect that, that 6-week period is going to be broken up kind of like this and I do a sort of a high level break down of what I assume the material is that we’re going to cover. Now if you pay close attention to the outline that I present at the very beginning of the lesson series and the outline as it gets done you’ll see that there are changes.

Genesis Theme Framework

Rick: As I work my way through it I realize I really don’t want to talk about that here, I’m going to talk about that later and so on and so forth. So I start off with an overview outline. Assuming that I know what I’m going to talk about and then each week I produce a new outline that is based on what I know right there and then.

I modify the fit for what I think should be done based on what I’ve already taught and that’s what this ends up being. Let’s look at how I put a class together. Right now I’m just in the beginning stages of creating two new courses. One of them is going to be a recreation of the Start Building Your Website Here Series using the Genesis Theme. I think that my business model requires me to expand the content I work with. And Genesis and Thesis have a lot of similarities.

Yeah, Genesis is also a framework kind of…

Rick: Genesis is also a framework, right. In fact, one of main authors of Genesis used to be a partner of Chris Pearsons in the early days of thesis. Anyway, Genesis is another theme framework which approaches some things differently but it has lots of hooks and filters in the same kind of places as Thesis. So I’m in the process of recreating my Start Building Your Website Here with that framework as well.

Fundamentals of Using PHP with WordPress

And then I’m also in the process of developing a course on the fundamentals of using PHP with WordPress. The standard PHP learning cycle doesn’t really help you very much in WordPress. With WordPress anything you want to do that’s remotely interesting requires you to know some PHP. And so, if you’re going to try to learn PHP in the context of WordPress, I think that a different paradigm is necessary for instruction.


Rick: I’m also working on that and I just spent some time brainstorming about what’s the best way to approach the material and as I do that an outline emerges and then each outline gets refined further and further down.

So that’s sort of the creation process not of the video nuts and bolts but just the process of going from an idea from where it would be interesting to teach to an actual full blown set of lessons.

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