07 June 2015

What Makes a Good Tutorial?

Tutorials online have become an amazing resource to learn just about anything you want to learn. From installing a fence to learning new features in a complicated software package to making your own clothes, you can find it all online and usually for free. But what is it that makes a good tutorial, good? 

Here is a small list of general things I look for in a tutorial

Concise and to the point descriptions about the subject. Far too many people making tutorials spend up to ⅓ the length of the video just rambling about things not connected to the subject and takes away from what they are trying teach at  the moment. Get right into what your video is about and don’t muck around telling people how to turn the computer on, open the software… basically avoid the things anyone who wants to watch your lesson should already know. 

Uses editing of sound and video.  There is a tendency to think when making a tutorial that you have dot do it all in one go. I can be much better to film doing the thing apart from the narration which gives you the ability to take out the « umm and ahhs » present in normal speech and to refine what you are saying to be as clear as possible. You can also edit the  filming of the activity so it includes just the basic steps, not every second it takes to complete the task. Some people are using video to show of a creative process which would include how you fix mistakes and come up on the fly, but that’s a small percentage of what’s out there in my experience. 

The teacher speaks clearly and strikes a good balance between being a robot and a comedian. We all like to here a likeable voice and some witty remarks but when you are trying to learn something complicated, too many jokes and asides can make it impossible while a droning, colourless voice will just put you to sleep. If you have a strong accent, be sure it’s not so strong that no one can understand  what you are trying to say. 

Tells how to do something, not what to do exactly. I am sure there are plenty of exceptions to this but if you are going to show how to draw something that will look exactly like what you drew with no way to apply that knowledge into anything else, it’s sort of a waste. I find the best videos show me how not just to do something but how to use techniques I can use elsewhere and encourages me to find different uses for them on my own. 

Doesn’t play loud music in the background! This might be just a pet peeve on mine, but I don’t think so. Music drowning out the speaker’s voice can be very distracting, not to mention copyright infringing. So shut off the tunes while you are recording your narration! 

I am sure there is plenty else to talk about but these are the items I seem to look for the most when seeking help with something in the form of online tutorials. Really good lessons, especially for something you really need to know well for work are worth paying for and it’s just mean to be hyper critical to someone who is trying to give out information for free. So be kind in your comments to people trying to help you out and be constructive not cruel if you feel the need to critique what they’ve put online. 

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