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My Course Creation Setup

I mentioned in a past blog post that I was able to conceive of, write, record, edit and upload a new Udemy class in one day. And you may be wondering, but HOW was I able to do that?

First, it’s important to note that there are many different types of courses, and not all of them are appropriate depending on the topic you wish to teach. So far, I have done “screen-share” courses, where I record my screen, record my voice, and save that to a video file.

The components of my setup include:

–          Computer (duh)

–          Screen sharing software

–          Presentation Software

–          Document Writing Software

–          Microphone

–          Audio editing software

–          Course publishing site

 

Computer

Now some people claim you can record courses on your iPhone, and perhaps you can. But I wouldn’t know how to do that. And wouldn’t trust that the phone provides sufficient capability to really record, edit and post courses. Let’s just say, you need access to a computer. I have one that runs Windows. Vista for life, baby!

 

Screen sharing software

My screen-sharing software of choice is currently screencast-o-matic. Yes, many people use Camtasia Studio but I found that screencast-o-matic does everything I need it to do, and all for a reasonable price. Camtasia is quite expensive but some people swear by that.

Screencast-o-matic
Screencast-o-matic

It is software that runs on your computer. You start it up, set the parameters you want to record (dimensions of the recording, microphone settings, webcam settings if you wish, etc) and hit the record button.

And boom, my desktop monitor is recorded for as long as I need it to be. I can pause and resume, and it even contains features such as live “drawing on the screen”, and tons of “post-edit” options such as annotations, blurred boxes, arrows, and boxes. I can export the audio, edit that in another program, and re-import it easily enough too.

Udemy requires that the courses be in HD, which means 720p minimum. So I actually physically change the dimensions of my main computer monitor to 720p dimensions and record the whole screen. Trying to record 720p of only a fraction of a screen is just too much to try to manage for me.

Consider carefully whether you should record the mouse cursor. Unless you are very very careful about using it, it could be distracting to the user. You may be moving the mouse around the screen without even noticing yourself (nervous cursor). Try to avoid needing to show the cursor movements unless you are specifically demonstrating active clicks and menu selections.

 

Presentation Software or Browser

When you are recording your screen, you need to record something. That something is usually a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation that I created on the topic. You can use PowerPoint, or you can use Google Presentation, Prezi, Powtoon, or any other software of your choice to run the presentation on your own computer. As long as it takes up the entire screen.

I set the PowerPoint into “present mode”, so that it takes over the entire screen including Windows task bar, and then start recording. I make sure the presentation looks nice, and meets modern standards for presentation design. Look into those if you’re not a presentation expert.

If what you are showing is a web browser, put the web browser in full screen mode (F11 on most browsers) to hide the title bar, address bar, and bottom windows task bar. Looks better. Consider increasing your font size a touch (Control-+ on most browsers) so that the viewer doesn’t have to strain their eyes to read what is on screen.

Any other software you are presenting (like Visual Studio), try and increase the font size so the viewer can more easily see. That’s my one tip. And minimize all the unimportant panels. If coding, focus on the code, not the “properties panel” that you never reference or look at.

 

Document Writing Software

I include this on this list as a subtle way of saying, I write down in advance what I want to say. Sometimes I have a script, and sometimes it’s just a collection of bullet points. But having something like a Word document to look at will keep you on topic, reduce the umm’s and ahh’s, and generally produce a better quality presentation. Be careful not to be reading from a document like a monotone robot. But the opposite – a presentation that gets easily side-tracked, and where the presenter has clearly forgotten what he was talking about or what he wanted to say next – is bad too.

You are aiming for concise, on-topic information, yet casually delivered with a friendly, warm tone. I try. I hope my videos come off sounding that way.

 

Microphone

SAMSON-C01u-Microphone

No, your computer or webcam microphone is not good enough to record a course. Consider purchasing a stand-alone USB microphone. Microphones that cost $60 and up have a better sound quality than a computer microphone by a wide degree. Nobody wants to hear a teacher that sounds like he is talking into a speaker-phone, nor trapped at the bottom of a deep well. Sound quality is among the very top things that you have to get right to do a well-rated course, and I suggest investing less than $100 in a good mic.

I use the Samson C01U. I am very happy with it.

I purchased a pop filter, to catch some of the P’s and T’s from hitting the mic too hard. It’s made a pretty noticeable difference and it was worth the investment.

 

Audio Editing Software

I thought I could avoid this by having a good microphone, but it’s very hard to avoid. Inevitably, I record in my home office, which is a room with hardwood floors and very little furniture. There’s an echo. My computer has a constant humming sound from the fan. I breathe, and my mouth sometimes makes a smacking sound without me even realizing. When recording a lesson that I haven’t written a script for, I sometimes insert an “um” or an “ah” in between words, as I finish my thought aloud.

All these little things mean that the audio that gets recorded is less than perfect. Since some of them are how I would talk naturally, I can leave some of the um’s in. But I do edit the sound to reduce background noise, and edit out as much of the lip smacking noise as I can. I also normalize the sound so that it’s of consistent volume from lesson to lesson.

I use a program called Audacity to do this. There are some great tutorials out there. I think that most professionals have to clean up the sound to some degree, so it’s a good skill to know.

 

Course Publishing Site

The ultimate destination for all these MP4 video files is a site where you will sell or share your courses. It could be YouTube or Vimeo, Udemy, or your own Fedora site. There’s a lot of options out there.

You can check out my instructor profile, where my courses live, here.

Scott Duffy on Udemy
Scott Duffy on Udemy

 

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