Flip the Script: Use CLE Presenters as Resources, Not the Focus

Close up professional digital equipment recording video blog of student shown on screen man sit at desk in front of camera filming online training webinar educational seminar or job interview concept

Quick show of hands—who has taken an online CLE that is a one-hour video of an expert talking to the camera? Everyone? Now let me ask you this: how engaging was the CLE and what did you learn?

The basic principles of adult education tell us that learning must make the learner feel good (endorphins), challenged (dopamine), and in control; that learning through experience is more likely to stick; and that people will commit to learning when they can connect it to their experiences, beliefs, or to tangible outcomes that meet their needs.

Too often in online CLE we attempt to accomplish this through asynchronous, noninteractive video. Ironically, the video itself, script, and production are typically the most underinvested in part of a course. They are most likely completed by an attorney with little media experience who suddenly becomes an unpaid actor, scriptwriter, and video editor.

Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Pick a documentary you liked and ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you choose it?
  • Did it feel good to watch?
  • Did you learn something?
  • Did it pull you into the story?
  • Did it alter how you view the topic?

Assuming the answer to most of these is yes, imagine that the same documentary was shot on a laptop with a budget of $54.27 and a free can of La Croix. Would you have the same responses? Likely not.

So, what do we do?

I suggest we take what is great about CLE—the attorneys with a deep understanding of the topic, the audience, and the practicalities of the profession—and put those front and center. Then, use video explanation as part of the experience, not the whole experience.

By placing stories, examples, and hypotheticals at the center, you are allowing the learner to form opinions about what they have learned applied to their own experiences.

Let us walk through the process using PowerPoint, a laptop, and the untapped creativity that is bubbling inside of you.

The topic I’ve chosen is making a cup of tea because it is generic, and I am British.

Step 1: Create a storyboard for your online CLE

There are two aspects to every learning presentation topic: the academic and the practical. For example, an academic approach would walk through the traditional steps of making a cup of tea. However, in the real world, people like tea in a multitude of ways and have different equipment available to them (practical).

Here’s an example of creating a storyboard for a PowerPoint presentation based on making tea for a local dignitary who will be visiting my house.

After the introduction, I would start the story by creating a fake invitation on a slide and audio narrate that I’m in a dilemma. I’ve heard that they like tea, but how do they take it?

Cue video 1 from an expert, who explains different tea options (English Breakfast, Earl Grey, etc.) and how to source it. Maybe even some background or norms on which to drink and when. I would create a placeholder slide for this video.

online CLE slide sketch with invitation online CLE slide sketch with video

I would use the next slide to highlight the options in the local store, using images of the different teas. This is an opportunity to ask the learners to think about what they would choose.

The next slide is back in my house, where I have the equipment—teapot, kettle, tea bags, etc.—laid out in an image.

Cue the video 2 placeholder slide, where the process of making tea is explained by my expert (e.g., there are many ways to make tea so the expert would explain the nuance). You could even add some text animation to the video (I lay out simple ways to do that using Windows here.)

online CLE slide sketch with video 2

The next slides are a series of images of the dignitary at my house. The learner is asked to reflect on how they would inquire about the dignitary’s tea preferences, which they should have some knowledge about now based on the expert’s video.

I finish up by explaining how the visit went well and why. The PowerPoint would end with a wrap-up of the key takeaways and any next steps.

Step 2: Shoot the video

Your video script should position your speaker as an expert who provides valuable insight into the situation at hand. A good start is to reference the scenario at the beginning (“This situation is interesting because…”) and build background context from there.

The video can be shot in clips from your laptop using Windows Video Editor (for more information on this, click here) and a decent webcam that is set to HD if possible.

online CLE recording
Dan recording CLE content for the Commission

Once the video is shot and edited, import it into the relevant PowerPoint slide by using the Insert tab > Media > Video > This Device.

Once in, select the video, click the Playback tab > Video Options > Start > Automatically.

Once all of your content is in, it’s time to narrate. You can narrate each slide by clicking Insert > Media > Audio > Record Audio. The recording will be added to the slide once you have finished. Then… move on to the next slide!

Before you finish, run through the PowerPoint to make sure the audio and video play automatically and at the right time.

PowerPoint has a great tool for getting your timing right (click the Slide Show tab > Rehearse Timings/Record). This tool remembers how long you stay on a slide, which is important for the final step.

Step 3: Exporting to Video

This is the final step. Once you have approved the PowerPoint, click File Tab > Export > Create a Video to create a video.

I’d recommend exporting the video at the highest quality possible and uploading it to Dropbox, SharePoint, or some other platform, rather than exporting it at a lower quality so the video can be emailed.

And voila! A story-based video online CLE with an expert in front of the camera.

(Extra) Step 4: Read this!

If you are thinking this approach sounds interesting but too time-consuming, start by testing it on a small scale.

Think of a topic and brainstorm five minutes of content on that topic (academic). Then, imagine what you would say if you were being interviewed on how the topic applies to your daily life (practical). I’d put money on the second one being easier.

That’s it. Good luck and as always please share any comments below.

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