Half-Screen Training Debut

Learn what half-screen computer training is, why it’s helpful and how to get started using it today.

Introduction

Hi there! This is Jay with web app zero and this post introduces the concept of half-screen training.

Have you ever noticed that many programming videos needlessly take up the entire screen of your laptop? Imagine videos which only take up half the screen, allowing you to easily follow the steps in the video right on your local system, playing/pausing/rewinding the video as desired, all while inside the comfort and familiarity of your favorite text editor or programming environment. Imagine being able to focus deeply on a lesson's content rather than on switching back and forth between your video tutorial and text editor.

Good news! You don't have to imagine it, half-screen training is the solution you've been waiting for and it's freely available to instructors and learners the world over.

What is half-screen training?

Half-Screen training is really just a set of conventions and practices adhered to by the people who produce the half-screen videos and also by those who follow, i.e. watch, the videos. Let’s look at an example video to see a half-screen video demo:

So, in a nutshell, a half-screen video allows a learner to follow the guidance of an instructor, step by step, on the learners own computer system.

Why is it helpful?

One major advantage of this over online tutorials is that the learner is programming on their own system, just as they will in the future, when their training is complete. This facilitates a more seamless transition from the ‘learning’ phase to the ‘doing’ phase.

‘Half-Screening’ also promotes focus. Deep concentration is critical to learning. Our tools should help us get ‘in the zone’ and stay there for a reasonable period of time, typically 25 - 45 minutes.

Setup Instructions for Learners

(Note: The first edition of this post includes specific instructions for mac users. If you are a Windows or Linux user, please consider writing up some instructions for your platform and sharing with me in the survey below or at my twitter handle @webappzero. Thank you!)

We’ll demonstrate the details of each step in the video Half-Screen Setup for Learners, but here’s a broad look at what we’re trying to accomplish:

  1. Install the VLC video player on your computer.
  2. Setup global keyboard shortcuts to control VLC playback functions: Play, Pause & Rewind. (Applescripts used in the video: vlc-play-pause & vlc-step-backward)
  3. Setup global keyboard shortcuts to move windows into half-screen locations. I’m using the Moom app. (Note: Alternatively, you can use your operating system’s mouse drag feature instead.)
  4. Open your favorite text editor or programming environment and place it on the right half of your screen by using the method established in Step 3.
  5. Watch a half-screen video by pasting its URL into VLC: File | Open Network | URL (Alternatively, you can download the video your local system and watch it as you would any other local video.)
  6. Control the video from within you editor and immerse yourself in the learning experience. Done.

Setup Instructions for Instructors

See the video Half-Screen Setup for Instructors for a demonstration of the following general steps:

  1. Follow the steps above for getting setup as a learner.
  2. Set your screen resolution to 1080p (1920 x 1080) to ensure text is readable for learners.
  3. Whenever possible, use only the left-half of your screen for demonstrating computer based training lessons. For exceptions to this rule, be sure to let the learner know that you’re switching to full-screen mode within a video so that they know to view the right half of the screen which is presently obscured by their editor.
  4. After demonstrating a step during your recording, you might want to direct learners to pause the video, so they can perform the step you’ve just demonstrated.
  5. Provide a link to these setup instructions in every half-screen video you publish: webappzero.com/half-screen-training-debut

Done!

How can we improve this idea?

Together! Please consider filling out this brief, 3 question survey to provide your feedback and innovations. You can complete the survey multiple times if you have new ideas in the future:

Conclusion

Half-Screen training offers an alternative way of creating and consuming training content. It should help learners focus on the substance of the lesson at hand.

You can help make it better by trying it out and sharing your own ideas. Thank you!

My best,

j : )