Best practices in creating online tutorials

Matt Lee, Minitex.

Side note – packed room, with people sitting on the floor.  Very loud presentation next door, making a bit difficult to hear in ours.

Show of hands in the room – few had already created online tutorials, most were planning to do so in the near future.

The purpose of a tutorial is to teach your library user something, and should be narrowly focused on that library user.

Near-term possible need for online education, given the H1N1 issues.

Different types of online tutorials.  Online courses – typically occurs over a period of days or months, contains homework, etc.  HTML tutorials – very interactive, based on student clicking.  Video tutorials – also called screencasts.  Navigation is much more linear, and typically relies less on user participation.

Effectiveness of online tutorials.  Ideal for teaching tasks, teaching fact-based topics, providing introductory knowledge, allowing participants to move at their own pace, reaching a large group of “unherdable” participants.  Immediately responsive to a user’s needs, encourage multiple learning styles.

Best practices for online tutorials.  6 goals: be clear about audience, be clear about outcomes, be clear about content, encourage interaction, employ varied design, be a  resource beyond the tutorial.

Audience – focus content, consider the participant’s point of view, effectively describe and market the created product.

Outcomes – define scope, assert practicality.

Content – plan ahead of time, build structure, make structure transparent to participants, provide access.  Probably the most important is the planning.  Suggestion to break presentation into chapters, so that a user can access the particular part of the presentation they particularly are interested in learning.

Interaction – engage multiple learning styles, promote active learning.

Researchers explored video vs. HTML tutorials; found that users learned more through video tutorial and that the interactivity was a detriment.

Design – engage participants, use the visual medium to its full potential.  Break up a tutorial and make it visually engaging. Be creative about the visual presentation – will make it more dynamic.  Zoom in, float words, switch up what the screen looks like.

Resource – encourage follow-up, reinforce tutorial content.  Link out to chat window, provide contact information.

Examples of online tutorials.

Minitex series: 2.0 tools in 2.0 minutes.  (Clever title.)  Showed lovely tutorial on Zoho.

Music in background of tutorial from



Filed under Libraries and Librarianship

2 responses to “Best practices in creating online tutorials

  1. Carla Johnson

    Thanks, MaryBeth, for sharing this. This is one I would’ve liked to attend.

    –carla j.

  2. I love your blog. I’ve added it to my favorite bookmarks and subscribed in a reader.

    Looking forward to reading more posts by you.


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