Trailer for our online course on Russian Folklore

In 2015, our program “Increasing Engagement through Storytelling, Scenario-Based Learning and Gamification” was a 2015 STARTALK grant recipient. During our program, we trained teachers of Russian on how to increase engagement in blended and distance learning classrooms through the use of storytelling, scenario-based learning and gamification. As a result of their training, we developed a fully functioning online course on the Russian Folklore based on the materials created by the teachers. Here is the trailer for the course.

 

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5 ways to generate compelling visuals for your content marketing and e-learning

collageAs the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words… well, maybe not a thousand, but 1.5 words at least. We do remember pictures better than we remember words. Studies by Paul W. Foos and Paula Goolkasian shed light on the difference between memory for pictures and words. They found that pictures were correctly recalled about 1.5 times as often as printed words. Researchers at the University of Iowa James Bigelow and Amy Poremba have found that when it comes to memory, we don’t remember things we hear nearly as well as things we see or touch.

Since visuals win the memory challenge, it only makes sense to incorporate them in your content presentation if you want it to be memorable. I once received an email from a member of a LinkedIn group after I posted a comment on one of the discussion threads. Something in my comment triggered his memory of an image I had shared in the same group many months before. He wasn’t sure but thought I might be the one who had shared it, so he emailed me to see if I could give him the source of that image. This illustrates the fact that visuals are memorable and that your expert brand can be associated with and reinforced by the content you share. In order to be effective, your visuals need to reinforce your message, be unique, and be able to stir some emotion or reflection in the viewers so that they could connect to your content on a deeper level. How do you find or create such visuals?

1. Stock up. There are numerous websites where you can search and legally download Creative Commons (CC) license or royalty-free stock photos. Always make sure you understand the restriction on the use of such images. Here are some of those websites:

Wikimedia Commons is a database of 23,769,240 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.

Flickr is another popular site where you can use an advanced search to find CC images.

Microsoft Office offers visuals you can use.

freeimages has a gallery containing over 350,000 quality stock photos by more than 30,000 photographers.

Getty Images now allows to easily embed and share its imagery at no cost for non-commercial use on websites, blogs and social media channels through their embed tool.

While stock images can get the job done, don’t underestimate your ability to produce your own visual content. Just pick up a camera, even if it’s your smart phone camera and begin to look around. Our surroundings abound with the rich and complex material that can help you tell your personal expert brand story. Train your eye to see it. It is easier than you think. Here are a few tips to get started:

2. Organize your existing photo collection. Chances are you already have plenty of good, funny, personal images tucked away somewhere on your computer drive or in photo albums. They all tell your story. Take time to go over your collection with an eye to possible future business use. It is a fun thing to do. Plus, it can trigger memories that may result in new stories to tell about your personal brand and your business. We did just that with our Halloween post when Marina found an old photo of us dressed up for Halloween.

3. Start taking pictures – lots and lots of them. Get in touch with your own sensibilities. Look at other photography sites and photo sharing platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest. Notice what appeals to you and why. What moods, styles, colors, patterns resonate with you most? What makes you laugh, think or inspires you? Start capturing those “snapshots of the moment” – often mundane but also funny, puzzling, memorable aspects of your reality. Notice patterns and disruptions. Our brains constantly search for patterns and make predictions to make us comfortable in our environment. Studies show that bizarre and grotesque images are especially effective at grabbing attention. People tend to spend more time on such images as they try to figure out what is going on in the picture – their brains are busy deciphering the pattern. Be ready to capture anything surprising, bizzare, humorous, unusual – such images are likely to provoke thoughts and appeal to emotions. Analyze your own work just like you did with other people’s photos. Use Flickr or Instagram as a way to filter and store the photos you like, get feedback from your followers and grow your own collection of visuals that can be later used for various projects.

4. Turn your content into a collage. Here’s how it works. Pick the key elements and relationships that describe your concept. Then, find images that you associate with those elements. You can browse magazines if you want to make it low tech or find images on the web if you want to create your collage in a digital format, or maybe, you can sketch them yourself. After you are done collecting your visuals, arrange them in a collage trying to reflect the relationships among the underlying elements. The benefit of a collage is that it allows you to see the concept as a whole whereas the verbal description can only be sequential. Collages can serve as visual metaphors, allowing for personal interpretation. Visit Creativity Portal to explore various collage resources on the Internet.

5. Get moving with video marketing. Videos offer a great way to promote yourself as an expert, speaker or author. According to comScore, website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product on an online retail site after watching a video. In addition, visitors who view videos stay on the site an average of 2 minutes longer than those who don’t view videos. People have short attention spans and tune out easily. Keep your videos under 3 minutes in length. You can do a series of videos on different topics. If you use a webcam to record your videos, make sure you position yourself in the center, look into the camera, choose an appropriate background, and have light facing you. A webcam does not have the energy of a live audience, so you have to bring your own energy up through your body posture, smile, and variations in your pitch, tempo and volume. The good news is that you can re-record any number of times you want, so you get the result you like. Whenever you upload your videos onto video sharing platforms, such as YouTube or Vimeo, make sure to use appropriate keywords and links to your website to build traffic and subscriptions to your email list.

Ready to package your expertise online? Sign up for a FREE consultation with Marina and Anastasia!

Explainers: Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Whether you are trying to assemble a new kitchen table or learn a new program, you have to deal with instructions. Reading instructions is rarely fun. They are often boring, confusing and full of jargon. We’d rather jump in and tinker with things to figure out how they work. That is why our Bookphoria team favors an interactive, audience-driven approach to explainers.

In recent years, short explainer videos have become popular in business to introduce and explain the functions and benefits of various products and services and educate consumers. These videos are definitely more engaging than just text. An expainer video can also increase conversion rates by around 15% to 50%. However, even with explainer videos, viewers still remain passive and their attention can drift away.

Continue reading Explainers: Thumbs up or thumbs down?