Written by Stuart MacLeod, Digital Communications Manager, IMA International.
If you’re using online platforms, apps or software for communication and/or content creation, here are some tips and tools, that I have used, that may just help you too.
This past year IMA International has been working remotely, adapting our face-to-face training courses into online versions, and communicating virtually too, this has introduced us to a wide variety of Information Communication Technology (ICT). Finding the online tools was essential for us, to maintain our participatory training approach, despite not being in a room together.
This was done by researching possibilities available, trying them, and subsequently by the consultants’ ability to think imaginatively about how to use them.
These days, most companies that provide online services, offer free trials (which I recommend trying) which can then be upgraded into paid subscriptions if required, but before you try all of them, do some free research into which ones will suit your needs best.
Use YouTube to research any online tools and platforms, it is good to watch instructional overviews published by the companies who provide a product or service, but it’s also even more helpful to watch independently produced content. There are often hundreds of reviews, comparisons, and how-to videos available online, and when the person presenting is not sponsored or employed by the company, you will often get an honest insight into negative aspects as well as positive ones. I suggest after searching for ‘best online tools for education’, for example, then search for ‘option 1 VS option 2’ from the list, there will almost certainly be a helpful video talking through the pros and cons of each. One important aspect to check on all videos is the date they were created, if they were created a long time ago, the information may be out-of-date. Users cannot update videos once published on YouTube but if a particular video has a lot of views (also a good sign to look for) but is old, it can be worth checking the users profile page to see if they have published updated versions.
Watch more than one, depending on your time and patience. Many videos will cover the same basics but occasionally there will be a nugget of information that only appears in one video, and these can be very useful. It’s also a great way to discover new things, due to the suggested videos that pop up at the end. It’s very easy to find yourself researching how one thing works and discover a completely different thing which is also helpful.
Speak to the company directly, often they may point you in the direction of the right FAQ pages but if you need specific questions answered, it is always worth trying to get a direct response. It is also advisable to send a numbered list of questions rather than interspersing them within an email, as this makes it easier for them to reply point by point.
Join specific community groups on social media sites, these are filled with enthusiasts who are always happy to help plus the groups are also a source of inspiration to learn from. You can also check the company’s social media pages for webinars which are a good way to get information and even communication about certain topics.
When recording audio or video content, especially on collaborative projects such as creating online course content or reporting on a project, make sure you can recreate your ‘studio’. Ensure you use the same equipment, you can sit the same distance away from the microphone and be in the same room etc., you could take a picture of your setup to help remind you. Things are easily missed the first time you record or need to be modified, and you need to be able to add audio or video that matches your original content, for example, the acoustics in different rooms can lead to noticeable variations in sound quality which can distract from the content.
Create videos from PowerPoint by recording audio directly over your slides and then exporting into a video file. This is a minimal approach but can be a great way to start creating content.
Adobe Express online (https://photoshop.adobe.com/) is free to use (although you will need to set up an account) and is useful for simple photo editing such as cropping, resizing, and adding effects without needing to download any apps or buy any software. This tool can be very handy for many content creation jobs.
Another useful tool for creating content is screencast software which allows you to record what is on your computer screen or phone and add narration on top. These can be especially useful if you need to show how software or computer-based processes work. We use https://screencast-o-matic.com/ which has a free version but is fairly reasonable at around $100 a year for the subscription version.
Here is an example of screen casting, that just so happens to be an advert for our online tailored training! 🙂
If you are creating engaging online educational content as we are doing, remember that engaging exercises can be done offline too, and uploaded and shared digitally afterwards. It doesn’t have to all be online tests and quizzes!
Gamification is also worth a mention, which introduces elements and experiences of playing games, to increase active engagement into scenarios where games are not usually played. Keep in mind, gamification doesn’t just refer to video games! It could be as simple as using a crossword, spot the difference pictures or quizzes. It can also mean creating a leader board or a points system for people to compete against each other, or work together to complete tasks, again some of this can be done offline.
And finally, be sure to integrate feedback options into whatever you produce, so you can learn from your audience about how to improve. Creating a community group for people is also a positive step to encouraging engagement and building relationship and networks, just pick one of the 100 million types of communication platforms out there (after you have done your research) and you are on your way, good luck & hold fast!
This is by no means an extensive guide, but I hope it has helped spark a few ideas, please get in touch if you have any questions or suggestions.
If you are interested in the online courses we offer or would like more information about the tailored training and consultancy work we do, please visit https://imainternational.com/our-services/online-learning