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Inspiration: Extra Credits

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I have a confession: I have been binge watching Extra Credits episodes (highly recommended!) for the past couple of weeks as I prepare to embark on my game design learning with a small game (which will probably stink, but I’m prepared for that). I chose building games as one of my goals this year because I think it’s at another great intersection between things I think are cool and useful and my day job: learning experience design. The idea of serious games (games that are useful for teaching performance in various aspects) are becoming more and more important. But I don’t think it’s enough to add some badges or some points in a typical elearning interaction and call it a “game.” It’s not even enough to try and emulate other games, without understanding how and why they work. Game design has its own theory and rules and so I want to really dive deep into what games are and how they work in order to actually do it well.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

Believe it or not, I actually want to talk about is Extra Credits as an inspiration for presentation and video.

As it happens my binge watching has coincided with my test prep design project and we’re at the stage where we are giving feedback to the SME on videos. I’ve been learning a lot from my colleague on this project  (Hi again, Mike!) and his experience in creating really effective videos. As a result, I’ve also been looking at videos differently. There are two big things that stand out about Extra Credits(EC) as inspiration for us as learning experience designers.

Pacing

I remember a couple of years ago, when I was at Region 13, one of the most interesting pieces of advice I got about designing good presentations was to treat them kind of like TV: don’t hold a shot for more than about 5 seconds at a time. A slide presentation should have a kind of movement and pacing. Otherwise, it might be a good time to rethink maybe you need slides at all (we actually went through a great process of choosing the correct media for the job (and int the process I created an Oppia exploration to help others choose the right media), so we’ve decided that video is a good option for certain things).

As I’ve watched EC, I’ve seen them put this in action to great effect. They do an incredible job of holding the viewer’s attention by changing visuals every few seconds (in combination, of course with interesting topics and well thought-out, well-delivered arguments and analyses).

Of course the visuals aren’t random. They use their visuals to enhance the presentation by illustrating what they’re talking about at the time. It’s not always topic-specific words either. So you may know that you can throw up a picture of your product if you’re giving a sales presentation, but EC also illustrates ideas like barrier or storage or encoding. It’s really great to watch.

Simplicity

I don’t know about you but sometimes I get caught up in designing a beautiful slide deck. Everyone loves a beautiful slide deck. But when I look at EC, I’m blown away by the simplicity of it.

Every transition is a simple cut. The images that they use are stock images (or images from simple web searches, which we try to avoid of course) with no formatting, no editing, no rounded corners or shadows. Sometimes they take up the entire space and sometimes (presumably if they aren’t big enough) they are shown up against a simple white background.

Even the drawings are very simple and accessible. Not quite stick figures but pretty darn close. (Another point of interest is that they bring in artists sometimes to have a new take on their drawing style, but that’s another thing)

And yet it’s all so effective.

I think what I love best is that this is something I can point anyone to and say, “You can do this. You can make effective presentation-type videos and you don’t have to be a pro or have a big budget.”

See for Yourself

I am super impressed by the quality of EC content. That is, as you probably know, the most important thing. But delivery is also high up there and these folks manage to pack in cogent arguments, clear-sighted analyses, and great, engaging questions while using very simple presentation techniques. It’s been a real eye-opener for me.

Try this episode and let me know what you think.

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