Online Course Management Tools Launched

It’s a very exciting day at Skilljar. Now instructors can create new courses and lessons, upload and edit their content, and preview the final result. We’re super thrilled to give more online course management tools to instructors and will be continuing to add more in the coming weeks.

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Skilljar Course Management Tools

Increase Sales using Promo Codes with these Four Channels

You’ve published your online course, what’s next? Marketing. In a previous article we identified five marketing strategies that would benefit from promo codes. Today we take a look at four channels you can use to implement these strategies.

promo-code-channels

  1. YouTube - Already have a YouTube channel? Great! If not, that’s ok too. You can check out YouTube support for information on setting up your own channel.  And the promo videos for your courses are the perfect content to upload. Display a link to the discounted course in the Description section of the channel homepage, the “About” section of your channel page, and the “About” section of each video.Tip: For Skilljar instructors, once you create a promo code, you can offer a link directly to the discounted course if you add ?pc=promocode to the end of your course url.
  2. Newsletter - If you have been maintaining an email list, this is a great channel to utilize. You’ve built an audience who is waiting to hear from you! Spread the news that your online course is available, and grab their interest by offering them a deal on it and including a promo code for a discount.
  3. Blog - Your blog is a great place to include a link with a promo code. Publish an article that complements the subject of your online course. You can captivate your readers by demonstrating your expertise in a subject, and then provide a discount link at the end for readers to learn more.
  4. Facebook - Announce a deal on your online course in a Facebook post with a link to the discounted course included. An article by Socially Stacked, a Facebook page designing company, stated that 42% of people like a page in order to receive discounts. Additionally, if you can allocate any budget toward a paid campaign, you can increase your post’s reach by targeting other users who might be interested in your course.

Track Each Promo Code’s Success

Create a different promo code for every channel, and for every unique location in a channel. Let’s say you have two videos on YouTube, for example. You would want four unique promo codes: one for each video page, one for the Description section of the channel homepage, and one for the About section of the channel page. You’ll be able to tell which codes were most successful, and can tailor your future efforts based on your findings.

Streaming-Only vs. Downloading: How to Deliver Your Videos

Should I allow downloading of my videos?

At Skilljar, instructors often ask us whether they should allow downloads of their videos. And since almost all of our instructors include at least 1 video in a course, it’s a very popular question.

In general, we recommend that instructors offer streaming-only on their videos. This is a great experience for customers because they can easily access the videos from any web or mobile browser. Video services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video have made streaming video the norm for video content delivery. Plus, this means that customers will be returning to your website again and again as they complete the course. This also provides the most security for your content.

streaming-downloading

Reasons to Allow Downloading

There are some cases, however, when you may want to consider allowing video downloads.

  1. Your target audience needs offline viewing. Customers with limited Internet access or available bandwidth may prefer to download videos in order to watch them offline. We see this often with customers outside of the United States.
  2. The concept of ‘ownership’ is important to your target audience. Customers occasionally want full access to the video file in exchange for their purchase. We see this most often with demographics that are less familiar with cloud-based technology.

When you decide to allow downloads of your video files, we recommend that instructors reduce file size as much as possible. This will result in a quicker download.

Weighing Your Options

In the streaming-only scenario, Skilljar has taken several security measures to prevent copying, including requiring authorized access to every content page and security tokens to access the content. With downloads, instructors do carry some risk that copies could be made without their consent.

The bottom line: Consider your target audience: their needs and motivations. And the risk of files being copied: how would this impact you?

What other considerations do you take into account when deciding whether or not to allow downloads of your videos? Leave us a comment!

Introducing Skilljar and Instructor Dashboard feature

We’re excited to announce that Everpath has rebranded to Skilljar! In this blog post, we provide insight into what motivated our name change, how we made the transition, and what to expect for the future of Skilljar.

introducing-skilljar

The importance of a .com

We want to make it as easy as possible for potential clients to find us. Most people assume you can be found at companyname.com. And if they don’t, a search for the name alone likely results in their browser defaulting to .com. This was a key benefit of changing our business name.

What else was important? Social media – we needed a name that was available on all of our social media platforms. But also, the sound and feel. It needed to be easy to say and spell. It should be creative, professional and memorable. It had to make sense for our vast array of instructors, who each have their own unique content. And we wanted to evoke an idea beyond the education space since we work with so many instructors that are reshaping the concept of traditional teaching.

The path to Skilljar

The challenge to find a name that would meet all of our needs could have been really time consuming. And with no guarantee of finding the perfect name. We wanted to stay focused on creating great features for our clients!

We took an approach that didn’t require days of brainstorming on our part, and completed the process in 3 main steps.

  1. Crowdsourcing: We set up a domain name contest through Squadhelp and received more than 800 ideas! After selecting our favorite prefixes and suffixes, we tried different combinations and identified the domains that were available on Sedo.
  2. Feedback: We asked friends and advisors for their feedback on our favorites and continued to narrow the list.
  3. Research: We did a google search on the top 3 options to compare the related search results for our top choices, and eliminated names that companies were already using in the US or abroad.

New and notable

To complete the transition, we also updated our links and social accounts. Find us at:

New feature: Instructor Dashboard

In addition to rebranding to Skilljar, we launched the instructor dashboard. Instructors are now instantly view or download order reports, manage their promo codes, and send announcements to customers who have registered for their course.

Skilljar. New name, new logo: same great service

Our goal hasn’t changed. We’re empowering instructors to teach online courses directly through their own websites. Thank you to the thousands of instructors and students who are already participating on the Skilljar platform!

How to Create Great Video Content: Part 4 (Talking Head)

In last week’s part 3 of How to Create Great Video Content, we looked at screencasting. Today we discuss the talking head style in detail. This technique shows the face and shoulders of the presenter as they speak into the camera.

Production

The first priority you need for the talking head technique is a camera. There are many devices you can use that vary in cost, convenience, and level of video production expertise needed.

  • phone – you can use the video feature of the camera app, easy as it sounds
  • tablet – very similar to the phone process
  • webcam – built into your computer
  • camera or camcorder – great quality but this option can get expensive

Once you decide on your camera type, you may be itching to begin. Before you start shooting, here are some production tips to consider.

  • use a script to help your pace and delivery
  • turn your phone or tablet horizontally
  • tripods can be helpful for stabilizing your shot, and you can find inexpensive ones for as little as $7 – $20 (depending on the camera type)
  • use a microphone for better audio quality: USB-style if you are using webcam, or clip-on for the other devices
  • you don’t need professional lighting, just a well lit space!

talking-head
Photo by Yuri Samoilov Photo / CC BY

Editing

For the next phase of the talking head creation process, you will need video editing software. Popular programs include:
Apple Final Cut Pro (Mac) – search apple support for an overview or a number of detailed help resources
Adobe Premiere (PC or Mac) – over 50 help tutorials can be found in the Adobe Support & Learning center

Exporting your video

Once you have your content set and have finalized any editing of the footage, you will want to export the files to their final format. Here are some best practices for finalizing your video files for online course delivery:

  • there are many video file formats, but MP4 is among the most commonly used
  • use H.264 video codec
  • use progressive frames instead of interlacing (ie. 720p vs 720i).
  • use a screen aspect ratio of 16:9 to prevent black borders from displaying around the frame

The unique benefit of the talking head technique is that it puts you in front of your customer. Facial expressions, hand gestures, and a personal touch can add a lot of value to your message. There are lots of options for executing the talking head technique. This can be both overwhelming and beneficial. Decide on a budget, assess the tools you have already vs. need to purchase, and determine what camera type you will use. You can then use the information above as a checklist.

Any feedback on what has worked for you (or not)? Leave a reply to share your experience!

How to Create Great Video Content: Part 3 (Screencast)

Welcome to the next installment of our How to Create Great Video Content series. Enter screencasting, technique #2.

Missed the first article in the series? Check out Part 1 for an introduction to 3 video production techniques.

Why Screencast

Because screencasting records the actions you take on your computer screen, this technique is great for step-by-step tutorials for anything you can do online.

Screencasting Software

Let’s talk tools. There are dozens of screencast tools available both for free or for purchase. Below are some of the most popular screencasting tools under $100.

  • Jing – PC (free)
  • CamStudio – PC (free)
  • Camtasia for MAC – MAC ($99)

With each of these, you can select your audio device and specify the part of your screen you’d like to capture. Here are some great tutorials with details on how to use Jing, CamStudio, and Camtasia for Mac. (Note: Use Jing for shorter videos; it only records up to 5 minutes.)

screencast-example
Photo by leighblackall / CC BY

Get Started

Before you start recording, here are some tips that may make the process go more smoothly.

  • Create a script – plan your talking points, and even your pauses between points, prior to recording for the best results.
  • Close your applications – you don’t want to have to start over because you received an IM half way into your recording. Close any application that aren’t necessary to prevent any surprises.
  • Clutter free – remove anything from the capture area that could be distracting during the recording, including file icons, browser bookmarks, or anything else that is not needed for your video
  • Sounds of silence – you want your audio to be “clutter free” too! Use a USB microphone, and try to record in a quiet location, free of phones ringing, loud fans, and any other unexpected noise.

What software do you use? Share your additional tips by commenting below.

How to Create Great Video Content: Part 2 (Narrated PowerPoint)

In the last article in our series on How to Create Great Video Content, we introduced 3 techniques on producing video content:

  1. Narrated PowerPoint
  2. Screencast
  3. Talking Head

Today, we dig into technique #1: Narrated PowerPoint.

powerpoint
Photo by p_a_h / CC BY

We previously mentioned that one key benefit of this technique is the ease of production. As long as you have a good microphone, then you are set. There are numerous resources that outline the exact steps for setting up your PowerPoint presentation, and recording. This article focuses on tips for getting the best results.

  • Use a USB-style microphone for superior quality. Don’t rely on your computer’s built-in microphone
  • Make sure the “Link narration” option is unchecked. This way, the audio will be embedded in the video file (instead of creating a separate file)
  • Don’t talk during slide changes. You could lose some audio as it is saved with each individual slide
  • Leave a few seconds of silence at the end of each slide
  • Create a script that references the points on a slide, but also provides further context. This will add much more value to your video

Have you used narrated PowerPoint before? We’d love to hear what tips you’ve learned.

How to Create Great Video Content: Part 1

Video content is one of the most widely used formats for online instruction. The video production process can vary greatly though. Consider your goals, your subject matter, and your audience as you decide what process to follow. We’ve outlined 3 different techniques to help you get started on creating your video content.video-content-2
Photo by Movieing Memories / CC BY

The big question: should I be featured on camera?

Maybe, but their are other approaches that do not require your presence in front of the camera. Below we take a look at 3 different techniques, and how the benefits differ for each method.

3 Techniques for Creating Video Content

1. Narrated PowerPoint – a PowerPoint presentation that includes audio narration and is converted into video format

Benefits

  • Get started quickly: PowerPoint is a standard program that you may already have access to
  • It’s a commonly used medium for instructional presentations so your audience is familiar with it

Requirements

  • Microphone
  • PowerPoint program

2. Screencast – a digital recording of a computer screen which can also contain audio narration

Benefits

  • Procedural style: you can replicate specific operations in a step-by-step manner
  • Demonstrate actions in real time in a way that is not possible using the PowerPoint structure

Requirements

3. Talking head – video filmed by displaying a person talking into the camera

Benefits

  • Personalization: provide a face to your business, and build a relationship with your audience
  • Facial expressions and body language can enhance the experience
  • Your content can extend beyond actions taken using a computer, unlike screencasting

Requirements

  • Microphone
  • Camera

One common thread between these techniques? Audio is essential. A good microphone will greatly enhance the production quality.

Microphones we recommend:

1. Clip-on microphone (if you are using a camera):
Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser Microphone (find it here on Amazon.com)

2. USB style (if you are recording through your computer):
Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone (find it here on Amazon.com)

More of our How to Create Great Video Content series to come in the following weeks: we’ll dive into how-to for each technique.

New Features on Everpath: PayPal and Website Redesign

We are excited to announce two new features on Everpath!

PayPal

Purchasing Everpath’s online courses just became easier. paypal1-everpathWe are happy to announce that we are now offering PayPal as an option for payment. Instructors can reach an even larger audience with the launch of the PayPal option. And students benefit from a convenient and familiar checkout experience.

Website Redesign

Welcome to a new, robust Everpath.org. How would I describe the changes? In a word, informative. Some of the biggest changes include a beautiful depiction of the product as well as more details about the platform’s key features. The refreshed design displays new styling and improved navigation.

everpath-redesignIt has been crafted to provide the information you need about how we can work together, and easy access to get in touch with us. Visit www.everpath.org, explore the new scenery, and dig into the fresh content.


We’re all ears.
Let us know what you think about our new features; we’d love to hear from you.

The Key to Successful Content Marketing (Psst: It’s not Great Content)

Online courses are a great tool for content marketing. But how can you be certain that your strategy will be effective? There are multiple details that will have an effect on the outcome of your marketing plan, but one in particular that is the most important.

Here’s an example. You design wedding cakes. You have years of experience. You have perfected the art of frosting. From edible flowers to elaborate etching, each design is intricate and awe-inspiring. You have created professional videos sharing some decorating tips.

You have great content. What else do you need?

Relevance.

You can’t market wedding cake services if there are no weddings, and if there are no aspiring cake designers.

content-marketing
Photo by hankinsphoto.com / CC BY

Whatever your area of expertise is, you cannot successfully market your content if the content does not hold specific relevance for your audience.

You’ve got helpful information? Great. It’s beautifully curated? That’s a plus. You’re the expert in your niche? Excellent. All great details to set you apart in the sea of content that exists online today. But relevance is what will ensure your content gets noticed to begin with.

In an article from Mashable, writer Stephanie Walden names 5 companies whose content marketing stand out from the rest:

  1. Zady, retail site focusing on solid construction and timeless design
  2. Sweetgreen, restaurant chain focusing on organic and sustainable ingredients
  3. Birchbox, subscription-based e-commerce platform for cosmetics
  4. Of a Kind, retail site that also includes story of how the products were made
  5. Equinox, fitness club chain

The common thread between each of these businesses is relevant content presented to an interested audience.

Know of any other companies rising up in the world of content marketing? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.