Nov 022015
This entry is part 5 of 17 in the series 2015-16 Program Chronicles
Videos as Learning ContentCreated by Andrew Nolte from The Noun Project

Videos as Learning Content

How many times have you searched YouTube to learn a new skill or learn how to fix something? Some tasks are easier to learn by watching than by reading text or looking at pictures. Many of today’s learners are no longer satisfied with a PDF or even an online help system. Not content with text and images that describe how to do a task, users want videos that show them how to do it. 

If you haven’t yet delved into the world of TechComm videos, the prospect can seem overwhelming. What tools should you use? How long should the videos be? Should they provide step-by-step instructions or conceptual information? Should they be narrated or use captions? Should videos include a “talking head” or just show the software in action? And what about localization?

These are just some of the questions that will be explored on Thursday, November 19, at the STC New England monthly program in Burlington, Mass. (Note the date—Ed.) Lisa McCarty and Jeff Hanson of Autodesk will describe their process for developing and producing top-quality videos for complex software, sharing their expertise and lessons learned over several years of video production.

Lisa and Jeff work at Autodesk, Inc., in Manchester, New Hampshire. They both started at Autodesk in 2005 and began working together in 2006. Before joining Autodesk, Lisa worked at IBM as an instructional designer working on eLearning courses. Jeff practiced architecture for 8 ½ years before joining Autodesk to provide technical support for their architectural software. He then transferred to the Technical Publications team as an architectural subject matter expert.

Since joining forces, Lisa and Jeff have iterated through several different styles of tutorials and videos, continuously refining and improving their techniques. In 2009, the Technical Publications team wanted to update their approach to user assistance for Revit, Autodesk’s 3D modeling software for architects and engineers. As part of this effort, they decided to produce short, focused videos similar in style to videos of other high-tech companies, such as Apple.

Before moving forward, the team worked with the User Experience Center at Bentley University to perform usability testing on videos. They wanted to understand user preferences for videos: length, voice, captions, style, and more. Lisa and Jeff created several videos that incorporated different characteristics to be tested, and the User Experience Center performed the usability testing with several users. The results of this testing set the direction for video production and became the backbone of their video guidelines and process.

The proof is in the pudding: all members of the Revit learning content team (no longer called “Technical Publications”) now produce high-quality videos on a regular basis as part of their normal work. Revit learning content includes a library of more than 100 videos that help users perform tasks, solve problems, and understand important concepts.

In the STC New England 2013 competition, Lisa and Jeff won the Award of Distinction and Best in Show for their joint work on the Autodesk Revit LT Getting Started Guide, which consists of online step-by-step tutorials, data sets for user practice, and accompanying videos that demonstrate each lesson in the guide. “New users appreciate these lessons for gently introducing important concepts and common tasks for using our software,” said Jeff.


The program, titled “Videos as Learning Content: How to Get Started,” is Thursday, November 19, 2015, starting at 6 pm, at the Hilton Garden Inn, 5 Wheeler Road, Burlington, Massachusetts.

The following ticket prices (USD) include networking, dinner, and then the presentation:

  • STC New England Chapter members: $25
  • Non-members: $35
  • Not currently employed professionals: $20
  • STC student members: $15

The deadline to register for the networking, dinner, and live presentation is 6 p.m. on Tuesday, November 17.

If you cannot attend in person, you can register to attend the presentation only (approximately 7–8:30 pm) remotely.  The webinar price is $15.

Lisa McCartyPhoto by Dana Alan

Lisa McCarty

About Lisa McCarty

As a learning content developer for a technical writing team at Autodesk, Lisa develops video tutorials and learning experiences to support Autodesk’s 3D modeling software for architects. As the video strategist for her team, she develops and maintains guidelines and procedures for video design and development, and provides editing and storyboard review for draft videos. Lisa’s previous experience as an instructional designer at IBM provided opportunities to design and develop distance learning and multimedia courseware in addition to traditional documentation. Lisa holds a BA in English from Boston College and an MA in English from Rutgers University.

Jeff Hanson

Jeff Hanson

About Jeff Hanson

Jeff is a Subject Matter Expert for Revit, Autodesk’s 3D modeling software for architects. He has worked with the Revit Learning Experience team for over 9 years. When the team adopted the Agile framework, Jeff became the team’s Product Owner, representing user interests and helping to prioritize the team’s work. He also contributes topic reviews, artwork, and real-world examples, analyzes customer feedback, and produces video tutorials. In addition to his duties at Autodesk, Jeff teaches a Revit course at New Hampshire Technical Institute. Before joining Autodesk, Jeff worked as an architect.

About the New England Chapter of STC

The New England chapter is one of the largest chapters in the Society for Technical Communication (STC). The New England chapter serves technical communications professionals in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The chapter sponsors monthly programs, informal social events, and an annual regional professional conference.

STC New England was formed in 2011 when the Boston Chapter and the Northern New England Chapter merged to form the New England chapter. The Boston Chapter, incorporated in 1953, and the Association of Technical Writers and Editors in New York City were founding chapters of the STC.

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