Videocasts at point of need

Our guest authors share lessons learned about using videocasts to help develop students' information literacy skills.

The Distributed eLibrary (known as DeLib) at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) is a library without walls, consisting of a reading room and a growing electronic collection.

DeLib provides information support to Generation Y students who are studying a problem-based curriculum.   DeLib used the ACRL Information Competency Standards for Higher Education as a conceptual framework for the development of an Information Literacy Plan.  The Information Literacy Plan was developed to help us meet the goals and objectives set out in our strategic plan (known as ‘Futura').

In this distributed environment, relying heavily on technology, DeLib staff determined that a set of strategically planned instructional videos or ‘DeLibCasts' would be an effective and technologically appropriate medium to supplement DeLib's  Information Literacy Plan.  Our librarians developed a master list of topics, which we later divided into separate categories or ‘Series'. 

We consulted with the AV Support Manager in the Information Technology Services Division and he provided some useful guidance on how to design videos.  His ten tips were incredibly valuable:

  • Do not assume the viewer knows anything. Always start at the most basic point and explain each and every move.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Avoid ‘library speak'. Use common terminology or explain.
  • Do not move your mouse out of sync with the audio.
  • Synchronize audio with video shots.
  • Avoid all extraneous movements or sounds.
  • Keep it short.
  • Be precise. Describe each movement.
  • Have obvious opening and closing screens.
  • Outline logical sequence of actions by working from a script.

Working in a Mac environment, the first videos in 2009 were recorded using Snapz Pro X. Migration to the Mac version of Camtasia in 2010 provided additional options and features such as the integration of video, transitions between scenes and the ability to separate video from audio.

A workable template for the scripts was developed, consisting of a two-column page: the left side noting what was to be shown on the screen, mouse movements, etc; the right side detailing the audio portion.  You can see examples the  scripts here.  

Opening and closing slides with suitable images were incorporated into the videos. Other details, such as screen size, transitions and opening and closing audio were also determined.

A dedicated webpage was developed to provide a prominent view of the full list of the DeLibCasts in .mov and .mp4 formats with the text available as a pdf document. In addition, a linked camera icon was placed throughout the DeLib website for point of need access. The videos were promoted in DeLib publications and workshops.

Helpful hints when developing a brief instructional video are:

  • Select a software that suits your needs.
  • Keep each video short.
  • Find the right presenter.
  • Develop a structure, including a timeline and template for scripts.
  • Include EVERY step in the process.
  • Regularly monitor, adapt and update as needed.

Usage statistics for the DeLibCasts were acquired to assess if and how much DeLib patrons were using this new tool. The usage from December 2009 to the time of the presentation at the Internet Librarian Conference in London mid-October 2010 is shown in the chart below. After the conference there was a marked increase in the usage statistics with a total of 576 ‘hits' for October 2010.

The full article titled ‘Developing Videocasts for Integration into a Library Information Literacy Program at a Medical College' will be published in mid-December in the inaugural issue of Perspectives in International Librarianship at

Suggested reading:

Harinarayana, N. S., and N. V. Raju. ‘Web 2.0 Features in University Library Web Sites.' Electronic Library 28.1 (2010): 69-88.

Xiao, Daniel Yi, Barbara A. Pietraszewski, and Susan P. Goodwin. ‘Full Stream Ahead: Database Instruction through Online Videos.' Library Hi Tech 22.4 (2004): 366. Print.