Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Creating Teaching Resources: Lumen5

This is the second in a series of posts discussing my experiences of creating online learning materials. I've had some successes and some things which haven't worked so well but I get asked about them a lot so I thought that now was as good a time as any to share what I've learnt!  As always, this blog post only reflects my opinions and experiences and I'd be open to hearing from anyone else who has tried similar tools and wants to add  their own thoughts in the comments section below. 

This post will talk about my experiences of making short videos using Lumen5 - an online tool which lets you create short videos with images, music and onscreen text. This is one of the most popular tools we have used and the resulting videos have been viewed thousands of times across a range of platforms  - a great result considering how simple they were to create. They were also one of the most fun things to put together and offered a nice distraction when other forms of training got a bit heavy!

What is it?

As described above, Lumen5 is an online tool which lets you create short videos. It's entirely web and app based which means that it can be accessed anywhere - a definite bonus when working across multiple sites/machines/working from home. There are lots of tools for video creation out there but one thing that makes Lumen5 stand out from the crowd is that you can paste text straight into the editor or add the URL of a blog post and it will create a video for you. It does this using AI to select 'appropriate' images but this can be a bit hit and miss! However it can sometimes save a lot of time or provide inspiration if you don't know where to start. You can also just enter your text and create a video from scratch using the media within the site or uploading your own. I find the short videos it creates a great way to present text heavy content in a more engaging way. Videos can have static images, videos or a plain background with on-screen text. There is no real option to record a voice over unless you upgrade to a professional account and add your own audio track but this isn't really a problem for most videos. Like other sites there are paid-for account options which give you extra features like removing the Lumen5 branding and using a wider range of stock images but the free version hasn't let me down yet.

How are we using it?

Lumen5 video title cards
I've used Lumen5 in both my current and previous roles to make short videos explaining key research topics. These started as a series of videos called Research in 3 Minutes but because condensing topics such as open access into three minutes wasn't enough of a challenge these have evolved into the Moore Minute series which are roughly 60 seconds in length. They cover a range of scholarly communication topics from across the research lifecycle such as OA, data management, copyright and publishing. I find that most people (including busy researchers) have short attention spans and although video is an increasingly popular way to reach out, only the most dedicated will watch a video for more than a couple of minutes. 

The Moore Minutes in particular have been successful in reaching out to a new audience who might not otherwise engage. They can be shared on most social media sites and function almost as an advert for our other training and resources. The videos are also useful tools to embed in other online training resources such as Moodle or Sway. As the videos are so short they are a really good reflective tool for me as a teacher as they force me to think about what the audience really needs to know about a topic. There isn't much room for error and there have been hard decisions about what ends up on the cutting room floor to get some videos to time but overall I'm happy with the results. You can see an example video below:


How to...

Lumen5 is a fairly intuitive tool. You will need to register for an account to use it and although paid for options are offered I've always been able to do what I need to on the free version. 

Lumen5 main menu
Lumen5 main menu
When you first log in you will be offered a choice of options depending on how you want to build your video. You can copy text directly from a blog and let the AI do the work, add your own text, upload your own media or skip any of these options to go straight to the editing tool and get to work. A range of templates are also offered if you are new to using the tool or lacking inspiration. Whichever option you choose you will be sent to an editing page to begin changing or creating your video. You can alter the text (known here as the story), add media like videos or images from the built in library, or change the style or format of the video. You can find a lots of media on the in-tool database but I would be careful when choosing and double check any of the copyright restrictions. You can also upload your own media which is useful if you want to use screenshots or in-house branding on any of the videos. Constructing a video is a matter of planning out the content, finding the appropriate background to suit and then altering the times so that people have a chance to read the text on screen. I find it easier to plan out what I want to say first as a short series of bullet point and then create a video straight in the editor but otherswill have different ways of doing things.

One of the most useful features is being able to alter the format of a video at the click of a button. This means that you can change things like the orientation, making it more suitable for a different social media sites, without having to create a whole new video. There is sometimes a slight rearrangement of content needed but it saves a lot of time. Once completed, videos can be downloaded to add to YouTube or shared directly via social media sites. Even with fast download speeds the videos take a short time to render once published but I just use this an excuse to get a well-deserved cup of tea after my hard work!


Pros

As mentioned above, although Lumen5 offers paid options I've always been able to do everything I need to in the free account. This is listed on the sign-up page as 'forever free' but you never really know with online tools! The main advantage is that you can create engaging videos really easily as everything is provided for you. You can even set it up to automatically create videos from blog content (although double check the output before sharing!). Although it's an online tool you can download your videos and store them where you like which is good if like me you've lost content before when a site has disappeared or changed hands. Personally, a major advantage for me is that you can create something which looks good without having a lot of design skill. The templates are a little limited but it's easy enough to find something that will work without spending hours agonizing over a concept.

 
Cons

The major disadvantage comes from using the AI to construct videos automatically as some of the choices are just bonkers! Many of the stock videos/images used as backgrounds are also a bit cheesy so sometimes it takes careful hunting to find what you want. I would also recommend triple checking the copyright of any media you add to your video, especially music. We have been caught out when uploading a completed video to YouTube and having it held for copyright infringement due to the music we used (which claimed to be available). The accessibility of the finished videos is another concern. Although having the text appear on screen allows the videos to be viewed without sound making them easier to access for some there are concerns around how this works for those using screenreaders and other software. I am not an expert in this area but it's  something to think about with all online training. Finally, the free account limits you to creating five videos a month which are watermarked with the Lumen5 logo. I've found that this is more than enough and that the logo is unobtrusive but it might be a block for some people depending on circumstances.  


Next steps

Using Lumen5 to create videos has been one of the most successful of my experiments in online training. The videos have been really popular and they are very versatile which means I can use them in other training resources such as presentations and LibGuides. If anyone else is using Lumen5 and has tips they want to share please feel free to share them in the comments section so we can all benefit.

You can find some helpful guidance on how to use Lumen5 in their online Learning Centre which seems to be accessible to all even if you don't have an account.

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