There’s no question that explainer videos are one of the major trends in e-learning in recent years. Forbes reports that educational channels on YouTube are for example viewed as much as twice as often as pure entertainment channels. Many teachers at schools and lecturers at universities (including those holding the training courses we offer) want not only to use well-made existing explainer videos on YouTube and similar sites, but also to create their own.
Many explainer video tools are often too time-consuming or technically complex
The range of tools for creating explainer videos is growing rapidly. Lernhandwerk has for some time been recommending Office Mix, a tool that lets you convert PowerPoint presentations into explainer videos easily and free of charge, then post them to a dedicated platform or export them. Other notable providers include ShowMe, Educreations and Explain Everything; many of these however require the use of a tablet, and while the creation process is simple, it tends to be fairly time-consuming. We should also mention PowToons as a sort of market leader. It includes a large number of templates and an interface that is also very similar to PowerPoint, but our tests often found it too “technical”: it suffers from the unfortunately still highly prevalent issue that users have to spend more time dealing with technical questions (“how do I let the image fly in from the right?”) than on the video’s educational aims. However, we only recommend approaches and tools that focus on precisely the opposite.
mysimpleshow leaves the unpleasant tasks to the computer
Explainer video pioneer simpleshow, with whom we are already cooperating on research and who create these brief videos mainly for corporate clients, have now also developed a promising tool. The creation process is very simple:
- Log in to the website: Go to the website www.mysimpleshow.com and create an account (required in order to edit videos later on).
- Select category: After clicking “Create new video” you will first be asked to choose a category (Professional, Educational or Personal).
- Select design/structure (template): You can now select a template that suits your chosen category and comes closest to the topic you want to explain (e.g. “Summarize a topic – Explain a historic event”). What’s great about these templates is that they aid the later writing process – you can follow both the phases of the explanation (Intro, Category, Description, Summary, Conclusion) and specific examples on the right-hand side.
- Create script with didactic assistance: Then you’ll see the writing mask, which offers the above-mentioned didactic assistance (a feature that many rather technical tools are often painfully lacking!). This assistance also includes that you are limited to a certain number of characters per slide; this number cannot be increased, and thus forces you to be as succinct as possible and not create 15-minute explainer monologues.
- Automatic illustration: So far, so good. After you have completed your script comes the really clever part: an algorithm automatically searches your text, finds the most important terms (which are presumably the ones that need to be visualised), compares them to a large database of images in the typical minimalist simpleshow style and links the found images to your text. This automated function is surprisingly accurate (approximately 80–90% of the terms were assigned an appropriate image in our test), but it can nonetheless be adjusted by hand. I.e. you can also manually search the image database for other illustrations or visualise and arrange other words on the whiteboards.
- Record soundtrack: Once you’re happy with the result, it’s time for the final step: creating the voice-over. This is where tools such as PowToons have proven awkward and time-consuming in the past. Not so mysimpleshow: you can either quickly choose a computer-generated voice that reads the text out automatically, or you can use a sort of “karaoke mode” in which the images are displayed one by one and you record a voice-over per slide as you go along.
- Publish: Then the video is rendered (i.e. converted into a video file) and can be uploaded directly to YouTube or other video hosting platforms and used. Once uploaded, you can integrate the YouTube or other link into your own online course – and of course you can also download the video for offline use.
Conclusion: Already the almost perfect tool for the right job
We are very impressed with how well mysimpleshow already works in one of its first versions. Using it is extremely easy (and – surprise! – there are little explainer videos to help you along the way). We especially like the didactic assistance during production and that the software handles complex and time-consuming tasks (e.g. clip art searches) for you. A further advantage is that you don’t have to worry about the use of (possibly) copyrighted images. Of course the tool’s approach isn’t suited to every educational purpose, but it doesn’t have to be. mysimpleshow provides a few examples that demonstrate what the tool can do.
- Easy to use, free
- Offers assistance with the creative and especially the writing process
- Automated visualisation search, large image database (but you can also upload your own images)
- Automated text-to-speech soundtrack or simple “karaoke” recording make creating a voice-over very easy
- Currently only available in English (the visualisation algorithm also only works with English terms)
- Success rate of animated image selection not yet perfect (but already surprisingly good)
- Customisation options (animation type, image type, script templates) are still limited – but this could also be considered an advantage, as overloading software with too many customisation options can quickly become overwhelming for users
Why not simply give it a try?
To summarise, here’s a video from the makers themselves in their typical style:
Note: There is a German version of this blog post!