Easy Mobile Learning (Sort of…)

Ok, so you have some existing e-learning with audio, video, animation that your users access online with their personal computers  (Do we still use the phrase “personal computers?”). Maybe you have created your course in something like Articulate Presenter or Flash where a large part of it consists of more listen-and-learn content and less click-and-read.

Why not make it available on mobile devices as another option so that users can access at least part of (the less interactive part) while on the road? Now by mobile format, I don’t mean true mobile learning. I simply mean video files that can be played on your IPod, Iphone, Ipad, Blackberry,  or Android device much as you would a video podcast.

Here is an easy way to convert your online learning to a mobile format.

Step 1: Get some screen recording software

Get yourself a copy of  Camtasia Studio 6 or 7 from Tech Smith. I use Camtasia and not something like Captivate from Adobe  because, not only is it cheaper, but it has a great Pan and Zoom feature that allows me to effectively zoom in on parts of the presentation and pan across the screen.  These are very important features when adapting something for the small screen that was originally intended for the big screen.

Step 2: Record

Record the main stage area of your course with Camtasia. Camtasia, allows you to record not only what appears on your computer screen, but also the system audio before it comes out of the speakers. This will give you the best sound quality. If you don’t have it set right, you may end up recording  the audio that has been picked up by your external microphone as it comes out of your speakers.  I had to fool around with the audio properties somewhat to get the settings right. In Camtasia Studio 7, in the audio options I chose Record System Audio.

System Audio

In Camtasia Studio 6, you will need to go into the audio options and choose either the Stereo Mix or Speaker Audio. Test it out on a short clip and see if it captures the audio correctly.

Once you know how to do it, you can record anything that you can see and hear on your computer just the way it was created. It is a great way to keep a copy of a video you like, extract audio from a flash movie, create a video from a flash movie. Whatever.

Tip: Some programs like Articulate allow you to let the entire course  play automatically from one section to the next. If you can, set it up to do auto play so that you don’t have to stop and start the recording and have multiple recordings to import into Camtasia. If you can’t do this, you can make smaller movies for each section of your course and then combine them in Camtasia.

Step 3: Import into Project

Once you have your recording(s), you will import them into Camtasia for editing. You will need to create a new Camtasia project. I suggest you choose a size for your project closer to the size of the output you want to create so that you can see how much you will have to zoom in on the material. However, if you want to create multiple sizes and formats for new devices as well as older ones you may want to start with a larger size and scale your videos down later with another tool.  In my case, I wanted to create output for older Blackberry Curves as well as newer Ipod Touches and Iphones.  I wanted various sizes to take advantage of the larger screens so I set my project setting to 640 x 480 and used another tool to process the other sizes and formats of videos.

Step 4: Edit

Once you have your movies in the Camtasia program, it is time to edit them. This will consist mostly of starting from the beginning  and progressing to the end all the while zooming in on key parts of your presentation that might not be as visible on a smaller device.

You will need to make some judgment calls.  Sometimes this may mean showing a full screen and then zooming on a particular image or bullet point, other times you may have to sacrifice showing the larger screen with associated images and pan around the screen focusing on individual elements. Since this is only good for narrated courses where the user can fill in the blanks by listening, there will be some trade-offs.

We did this for one client who had a course that was about an hour in length. In this case, we had to break the video into three parts to make it easier for users to download and  watch them in reasonable chunks. This meant also finding logical breaks and creating a clear title for the beginning and end of each part.

Step 5: Convert

Once you are done the editing, you can export the course from Camtasia and start converting the videos to other formats and sizes. In our case, we chose one of the output formats that produced a standard MP4 file. Once we had the MP4 file, we ran it through a program like Format Factory to give us the various sizes and formats for common mobile devices.  With newer smart phones this can mean quite large resolutions so make sure you keep this in mind when exporting from Camtasia. Also, keep in mind some older devices only handle 320 x 240 video and some only run 3GP. In most cases MP4 is the best format for devices out there.

Conclusion

Though the final product may not be as interactive as some people would like, this is one more good option to make existing elearning content accessible for people on the go.

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