Many people have asked me how I make my videos. Making really nice videos ain’t cheap, but I’ll also offer some ideas on how you can make them at low cost.

I use a Wacom tablet (either a Cintiq 13HD or Cintiq 22HD, which are $1000 and $2000 respectively) which I plug into my computer as an external display (basically a second monitor). This is what both Udacity and Stanford Graduate School of Business use to write/draw on a screen. I use the graphic design software Sketchbook Pro ($25 for old versions up to $210 for the newest) to do all writing and illustrations, and Camtasia ($99 for Mac, $299 for PC) to record, edit, and add callouts such as highlighting text on the screen, making an image or text appear or move across the screen, or blurring something out. A good microphone can cost another few hundred. This video shows how we made the MOOCs at Udacity.

But there are ways to create instructional videos for free or at a low cost. One substitute for Sketchbook Pro is Open Sankoré, a free software that enables you to turn your screen into a whiteboard. Open Sankoré is great if you just want to write things, but if you want to draw fancy illustrations, Sketchbook Pro would be much better. If you’re using a Mac computer, QuickTime Player can do video, audio, and screen recordings, and then you can use iMovie to edit if necessary (whereas Camtasia includes both screen recording and editing software). If you’re on a PC, CamStudio is a free, open-source recording software and the website TechRadar offers a list of free video editing software. Finally, Wacom also offers low-cost alternatives to the Cintiqs (e.g., this $50 Bamboo tablet or this slightly nicer $100 Bamboo tablet). The main difference is your writing appears on the computer screen rather than on the actual tablet, and therefore writing can be very awkward.

So, it is possible to create good instructional videos for free — you just have to decide how much you want to spend to make them look fancy. At the very least, I recommend purchasing a Bamboo tablet and using free software for the rest.

Product Free or low-cost Expensive but nice
Writing/drawing Open Sankoré Sketchbook Pro ($25 – $210)
Screen recording QuickTime Player (Mac)
CamStudio (PC)
Camtasia ($99 Mac, $299 PC)
Video editing iMovie (Mac)
Free video editing software (PC)
Tablet Write with cursor on computer screen (free) or Bamboo tablet (<$100) Cintiq 13HD ($1000) or Cintiq 22HD ($2000)

2 thoughts on “Make your own instructional videos

  1. Hi Katie,

    I like your course on Elementary Statistics, at Udacity, very much. The reason I like it, is because you have explained a lot of complex things with easy to understand examples.

    I came here to this blog wanting to ask you how you created that impressive white-board illustration; where you used your hand to write/draw on the board. I want to develop online video tutorials with such technology and any information you provide will be very helpful.

    Your blog on ‘Make your own MOOC’ is motivating. I have added your blog to my favorites and will be following it from now on.

    Thanks once again for the great course in Udacity, and looking forward for your reply.



    1. Hi Pakalavan! Thanks for your comment! We used a digital tablet to create the visuals (there are a lot of programs that you can use, like Open-Sankoré and Sketchbook Pro), and then recorded the screen (programs I’ve used include Camtasia and Screenflick). Then a camera would film my hand as well. This video sorta shows how we made the courses: But you don’t need this fancy software. I’m actually going to go into other options in the next video.

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