Tutorials are a great way of teaching your students how to use certain tools. This article will show you the exact steps of writing an amazing tutorial plus a set of useful applications that you can definitely take advantage of.
To write a tutorial you need to:
- Outline Your Tutorial
- Type Of Tutorial
- Create The Content
- Gather Equipment
- Edit Your Material
- Process Images
- Edit Video Footage
- Share Your Tutorial
- LMS (Learning Management System)
- Third-Party Teaching Platform
- Custom Domain
Now you know which are the exact steps you need to take in order to create an amazing tutorial for your students. Let’s take an in-depth look and determine how to make it fit your needs.
Step 1 – Outline Your Tutorial
Before anything else, you need to outline your future tutorial. To make it easier to understand I have split this step into three smaller steps as follows:
- Topic Of Your Tutorial
- Tutorial Title
- The Type Of Tutorial
Step 1.1 – Topic Of Your Tutorial
The first step is choosing the topic of your tutorial. To do so you will have to think about the reason why you are creating it. Say you are teaching a Photo Editing online course. You can use a tutorial to show your students how to install Adobe Photoshop CS6 graphic editing tool.
There are several possible purposes for a tutorial. The most commonly approached are:
- Demonstrating a Procedure
- Fixing a Technical Issue
- Presenting a New Software
Depending on what exactly you are teaching you can choose one of the above-mentioned purposes or choose one that suits your teaching technique.
Step 1.2 – Tutorial Title
The second step is determining an appropriate title for your tutorial. There are several key aspects that you should take into account when choosing a suitable title. These aspects include but are not limited to:
- Length – Your Tutorial Title should not exceed 60 characters because that is the maximum number of characters that search engines are able to display
- Purpose – Reason why you are creating this tutorial (e.g. demonstration, resolving technical issues, etc.)
- Targeted Software – The name of the software tool you are working with during the tutorial (e.g. Adobe Photoshop CS5, Sony Vegas Pro 9, etc.)
- Expected Outcome – What will your students learn by following this tutorial (e.g. How to install, How to configure, Creating a blurry effect, etc.)
- Narrow Down The Niche – If your tutorial is applicable only for a specific OS (operating system) for example, then you should state that in your title
I have prepared two tutorial titles so that you will be able to get a better understanding of how to use all the above-mentioned aspects.
- Demonstration: How To Install Adobe Photoshop CS5 on Windows
- 60 characters
- Pointing out the reason for writing (Demonstration)
- Clearly stating the targeted software (Adobe Photoshop CS5)
- Pointing out the expected outcome (How To Install)
- Narrowing down to a specific operating system (Windows)
- Presentation: Learn To Use the Sony Vegas Pro 9 Toolkit
- 59 characters
- Stating the exact reason for writing (Presentation)
- Pointing out the targeted software (Sony Vegas Pro 9)
- Providing a potential outcome (Learn To Use)
- Narrowing down the targeted function (Toolkit)
Step 1.3 – Type Of Tutorial
Last but not least you have to determine which type of tutorial you are going to create. There are several distinct types of tutorials you can choose from. The most commonly used tutorials are:
- Training Manual
- Practical Demonstration
- How-To Guides
Regardless of the type of tutorial you choose you will have to include graphic aspects (e.g. images, screenshots, etc.). This way your students will be able to get a better understanding of the exact displacement of the targeted functions. For example, if you ask them to press the File button, depending on the software you are using, it may be placed somewhere else than normally. Using a screenshot with the appropriate highlight feature will resolve this miscoordination issue very fast.
Below you will find what are the following steps you need to perform to create an amazing tutorial for your online students.
Step 2 – Create The Content
After determining your tutorial outline it is time to create the actual content. For the same purpose, I have split down this section into three smaller steps. This way it will be easier for you to understand and keep track of your activities.
Step 2.1 – Gather Equipment
This step may take more time than you expect. Depending on the type of tutorial you are planning on creating you may need some additional equipment. For example, if you want your students to be able to see you while you demonstrate a photo editing technique then you will need some video recording equipment. Below you will find the most commonly used pieces of equipment (both hardware and software) for tutorials.
The required hardware equipment comprises all the physical components you will include in your tutorial.
Laptop or Computer
This is the most basic piece of equipment you will use when creating a tutorial. You will take advantage of your laptop/computer to record, process, and share your knowledge. Depending on the type of software you are planning on using you may or may not need a more powerful laptop.
Generally any computer less than 4 years old of around $500 will do for this style of training. For most training online an i3 or i5 Intel processor with 4 gigs of RAM with a solid-state disk (SSD) or 8 gigs so RAM with an older style hard drive is more than enough.
If you are planning on using a complex software suite (e.g. Chief Architect Pro, Adobe After Effects, etc.) then you might want to choose a higher-quality laptop. In this case, you will probably have to stick to the 8 gigs of RAM and an i5 processor.
Otherwise, you can successfully use the 4 gigs of RAM combined with an i3 Intel processor. This setup is capable of performing plenty of regular activities, such as:
- Text Editing
- Video Recording (Webcam and Screencast)
- Video Processing (Editing and Rendering)
- Using Multiple Applications At The Same Time
This is the video recording equipment that I was talking about before. A webcam allows you to record footage of yourself explaining certain topics. Moreover, it creates a personal linking with the student that is watching your tutorial. This happens because they can actually see the person that is creating the tutorial.
If you are using a laptop then it might have a built-in webcamera. Due to the poor quality of it, I strongly advise against using the integrated webcam for recording purposes. My suggestion is to buy a dedicated camera that also features certain quality-improving functions.
For example, a brand new webcam may include Image Stabilisation tools as well as Automatic Exposure Adjustment function. This way you will not have to worry about moving around your house to get the best light exposure.
If you want to see my personal recommendation in terms of dedicated webcameras I suggest taking a look at the Recommended Tools page. There you will find a bunch of hardware and software recommendations that are based on my teaching experience.
Your students being able to properly hear you is an aspect that you must take into account when teaching online. Yes, you can teach only using text documents and written materials but why would your students choose your course when there are heaps of other courses that include live meetings and social interactions between students and teachers?
If you are using a laptop then the situation is similar to the above-mentioned one. Your device may have a built-in microphone that is designed for personal use (e.g. audio calls with your family/friends, occasional recording, etc.). Online teaching requires a high-quality microphone that allows your students to clearly understand your voice and explanations.
I suggest buying a brand new dedicated microphone for your laptop. Depending on how much you are planning on spending for a piece of audio recording equipment, you may be able to get several other associated functions (e.g. noise cancellation, live equalizer, etc.).
To see my recommendations in terms of a dedicated microphone you should take a look at the Recommended Tools page.
After deciding on the hardware you are going to use for your tutorial it is time to buy/download and install the appropriate software tools. There are several categories of applications that you are going to need when creating a tutorial. Below I have prepared a list of the most commonly used tools.
- OBS Studio (free)
- CamStudio (free)
- Active Presenter (free version/paid version)
- Movie Maker (free)
- OpenShot (free)
- Adobe Premiere (paid)
- Corel Video Studio (paid)
- Shortcut (free)
- iMovie (paid)
Audio Recording And Editing
- Audacity (free)
- Mixxx (free)
- FL Studio (paid)
- Adobe Audition (paid)
- Online Voice Recorder (free)
- LightShot (free)
- GreenShot (free)
- ScreenShot (free)
- GIMP (free)
- Canva (free version/paid version)
- Adobe Photoshop (paid)
- Paint.NET (free)
- Corel (paid)
- Google Docs (free)
- Apache OpenOffice (free)
- EditPad Lite (free)
- Microsoft Word (paid)
Digital Training Manual Creation
Step 2.2 – Record Your Tutorial
If you are planning on creating a video tutorial then it is time to start recording. Make sure you have everything set up and press the Record button. You can use one of the above-mentioned screen recording tools. Make sure you have previously configured all the settings of the application. There are certain aspects you need to take into account. These aspects include but are not limited to:
- Framerate (FPS – Frames Per Second) – 60 FPS for a smooth video footage
- Footage Quality – Highest Available
- Resolution – 1920×1080 (Full-HD)
- Record Mouse Pointer – Enable it so that your students will be able to track your mouse pointer around the screen
- Record Clicks – Enable it so that your students will be capable of seeing the exact spot where you click (and differentiate between Right-click and Left-click)
If you want to also record footage of yourself during the tutorial then you can do so using one of the above-mentioned Video Editing tools. Most of them feature certain functions that allow you to record both your screen and your webcam at the same time.
Step 2.3 – Explain Your Actions
When recording a tutorial you might want to record the footage and the voice-over separately. This is a great idea to ensure the fluency of the speech. If you are focusing on performing the correct actions then it might be harder for you to find the appropriate words. Therefore, you will not be able to properly explain your actions.
That is why I strongly suggest recording a voice-over after finishing the initial footage. To do so you will have to use one of the above-mentioned audio recording tools. Play the screen recording footage and press the Record Voice (or similar) button. Watch your actions on the screen and explain to your students why and what they have to do.
Make sure you use the dedicated microphone when recording the voice-over. To do so go to the Settings tab (or similar) and make sure the dedicated audio recording equipment is enabled. After you finish recording the audio file you can use the audio editor to polish it. Check for discrepancies in volume and other unwanted characteristics.
For example, you can cut out the parts that you think do not sound well. If they are absolutely necessary you can record a certain portion again and insert it in the initial audio footage using an editing tool.
If the actions you perform during the tutorial are extremely complicated and require an increased amount of explanations then you might want to set up a script. You can write it using one of the above-mentioned text editors and record yourself reading it. If you can not synchronize your voice with the actions on the video footage then you do not have to worry. You can always use one of the video editing tools to make necessary adjustments.
Step 3 – Edit Your Materials
After recording everything it is time to edit your materials. This way your students will be able to proficiently understand all your explanations during the tutorial. Below I have listed the most popular editing methods for certain types of content.
Step 3.1 – Process Images
The most simple content format you can use in a tutorial is screenshots. After capturing the appropriate screenshots you should process them and highlight the most important aspects. When it comes to editing images you have two options:
- Use the built-in image editor
- Use a separate graphic editor
- Adobe Photoshop
Let’s see how you should process each image to effectively control your students’ attention.
Use The Built-In Image Editor
If you are using one of the above-mentioned screenshot capturing tools then you can easily use the integrated editor. Below I have prepared a short explanation on how to use each editor’s functions.
After capturing the appropriate screenshot you will have to press the Open in image editor button. This will open up a new window containing all the available functions of the integrated screenshot editor of this application.
In the left-side menu, you will be able to select one of the available pre-determined shapes. These shapes include:
- Freehand Line
You can use these functions to direct your students’ attention to a certain spot of the screenshot. The following features are related to adding text and creating text boxes inside the image. Use the Text function to add subtitles, annotations, and provide additional explanations.
Another great function is related to cutting the screenshot. You can adjust the size of the screenshot by:
- Making it smaller
- Expanding it
This powerful screenshot capturing tool comes with an amazing built-in image editor. After selecting the desired area, the graphic editor will automatically pop-up and allow you to make necessary adjustments. Its features include but are not limited to:
- Freehand Drawing
- Straight Line – Perfect for underlining portions of text
- Arrow – Suitable for pointing out objects’ positions
- Rectangle – Amazing tool when you want to show your students what button they have to press
- Marker – Similar to a real-life highlighter, contains a bright color that allows you to emphasize certain portions of text
- Text – Enables you to add subtitles, annotations, and explanations to your screenshot
Use A Separate Graphic Editor
If you want to make more complex adjustments to your screenshot then you will have to use a separate graphic editor tool. These tools include more advanced functions that allow you to create amazing screenshots for your tutorial.
The most commonly used image editing tools are:
- Adobe Photoshop
If you are planning on using an advanced image editor then you will have to spend a fair amount of time learning about its available functions. The more complex the software tool is, the more complicated its features are. That is why you need to learn how to properly use them before actually taking advantage of them.
Step 3.2 – Edit Video Footage
After recording your video footage (either screen recording or webcam footage) it is time to adjust it. You can take advantage of one of the above-mentioned video editing tools.
If you have recorded your screen for the tutorial then there are several functions that allow you to easily draw your students’ attention on certain aspects. For example, the Zoom In function is available on most of the video editing tools. Using this function you can make your students watch a certain portion of the screen and get a better understanding of your exact actions.
Using a video editing tool you can adjust the audio-video synchronization. Therefore, if you have recorded the voice-over after recording the actual footage then you can make sure that your verbal explanations fit the video. Moreover, you can adjust the volume of your recording and even add background music. Using the integrated audio mixer you can balance the sound (voice vs music) to obtain a delightful sound for your tutorial.
All of the above-mentioned video editing tools allow their users to take advantage of the picture-in-picture mode. This way you can use screenshots and other graphics to provide your students with further explanations while they are watching your video tutorial.
Before rendering your video you will have to review the screen size of the recording. Take into account the fact that most nowadays devices are able to play 1920x1080p (Full HD) footage without experiencing any problems.
However, the desired resolution depends very much on the device your students are using for watching the tutorial. FOr example, if they are planning on accessing the tutorial using their smartphone, the screen size depends on the producer and the generation of their device.
Make sure you export and render your video tutorial in a commonly-accepted file type. The most popular video content formats are:
Step 4 – Share Your Tutorial
The last step is sharing your tutorial with your students. When it comes to performing this action you get to choose between several exporting options. Below I will show you the differences between three of the most popular tutorial sharing possibilities.
Option 1 – Learning Management System (LMS)
If you are running an online course using one of the available learning management systems then you can also use it to deliver tutorials to your students. There are heaps of LMS and all of them include file-sharing functions. Yet the most popular learning management systems are:
Below you will find a brief description for each of the above-mentioned LMS.
Moodle is one of the most popular LMS available worldwide. It is an open-source tool so anyone can use it for free. The only service you may need to pay for is hosting.
The most commonly used features of Moodle are:
- Assessment and Grading Methods
- User Security Management
- Live Conferencing (using BigBlueButtonBN)
- Mobile App (both for students and teachers)
- Payment Handling Methods
- Content Hosting
If you notice Moodle lacks one certain feature that you may need you can always take a look at the plugins database. All the plugins are open-source too and can be used without paying any additional fees.
To learn more about how to use Moodle to train your students I suggest taking a look at the following articles: Moodle Articles
Google Classroom is a learning management system that is available worldwide. It can be used without any paid subscription by individual educators and eligible schools. However, if you are not eligible for the free version you need to pay a subscription fee that is calculated in accordance with the number of students and teachers you will add.
Among the features that Google Classroom offers, the most noteworthy are:
- Cloud storage (through Google Drive)
- Web conferences (using Google Meet)
- Assessment & Quizzes (using Google Forms)
- Grading methods
You can see the complete list of articles that are related to Google Classroom here:
Blackboard is another amazing LMS you can use for hosting your training content. This one is not an open-source learning management system but a paid one.
This LMS features an integrated grading method called Blackboard Open Grader. It is an alternative grading option that allows teachers to mark students’ submissions more easily.
Blackboard does not support as many plugins as other LMS but does have a partner network that provides plugins and content. The complete list of Blackboard partners can be found by accessing the following link:
LINK: Blackboard Partner Network
If you are not sure what to choose between Blackboard and Moodle I recommend taking a look at the following article:
ARTICLE: Blackboard vs. Moodle: How To Choose What Works For You?
Option 2 – Third-Party Teaching Platform
If you do not want to struggle with a hosting provider and other technical activities then you might want to join one of the available third-party teaching platforms. There are plenty of such platforms. Each one of them offers certain advantages and disadvantages.
Some of them do not allow their teachers to set their desired prices for courses. This may significantly reduce your overall revenue. However, the fact that there are several fees you are paying to the teaching platform compensates for free marketing (advertising) you get.
Keep in mind that you host your course on a platform that already has a database of thousands (maybe even millions) of registered students that are ready to enroll in your course.
The most commonly used third-party teaching platforms are:
Make sure to carefully read all the applicable Terms and Conditions before joining a certain teaching platform. This way you avoid encountering hidden clauses of the contract that you did not know about.
Option 3 – Custom Domain
If you already have a custom domain that you are using to connect with your online students then this is the right option for you. You can use a CMS (content management system) to host and deliver the previously-created tutorial to your students.
Please note that owning a custom domain involves paying an (annually) fee for the domain itself as well as for the hosting provider.