If you are going to make eLearning these days, chances are good that you are thinking about using video and calling it “micro-learning.” And the chances are also good that you are thinking about using a smartphone to make that video. You have identified a story that will engage the viewers and you have organized a script that structures that story. But it takes more than a good script and an iPhone to get the quality you want and need to engage your audience.

The problem with many smartphone videos is that creators often don’t take advantage of the technology packed into their devices. Fortunately, iPhones and Androids also have apps with the expertise that you may need built in. In this article, I will give some recommendations for equipment and apps.

Your most important challenge may be one that you have not even thought about: audio. In video, audio can seem like a small thing, but it makes a huge difference to the quality of the finished product. Because every smartphone records audio along with the video, it may seem that the audio is “taken care of.” But you probably know from experience that smartphone audio can be terrible. Or you may have struggled with getting an external microphone (mic) to capture audio that is clear and good quality. You might have tried placing a lavalier microphone on an interview subject or actor, only to pick up interference from stray electrical noise or WiFi signals. In this article, I will offer some tips to eliminate these issues.

The eLearning Guild, Learning Solutions, and I have no financial relationship to the companies named here, and there has been no payment, equipment, or software provided in exchange for including them. Their inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by me, by The eLearning Guild, or by Learning Solutions.

Better audio for your eLearning videos

The basic secret to good audio is to think “balanced audio”, as in using a balanced microphone (mic) and balanced cables. Read the linked article above for an explanation about this technology. If you are recording the audio directly to your iPhone or Android (the simplest approach and the only one I am discussing here), you will also need a pre-amp and interface (one device, not two) between the mic and the smartphone.

Microphones (mic)

For your work with video, you want a balanced mic to eliminate noise in your audio. A balanced mic most likely has an XLR connector. (Exception: some balanced mics use a different connector— read the product notes!) For most eLearning videos, a lavalier mic is what you will find most useful. If you are doing interviews in a studio setting, you will probably want to set up with two lavalier mics. You can also use handheld mics if you are doing walk-around interviews or recording a phone interview.


Balanced cables (if needed when the mic and the iPhone or Android are far apart) are critical for great audio without noise or interference. Balanced cables can be 20 feet or more in length, with two shielded conductors. If your mic has a cable that is long enough, you may not need to buy an additional cable. Get a cable with connector types that match what you need for your mic and pre-amp and interface (read the product info and study the pictures!). Do not buy an RCA cable—these are not balanced. You may need various adapters to make connections. Be patient and study your devices and what they require. You can buy cables in any brick-and-mortar tech gear store or online.

Pre-amp and interface

There are many of these devices available. Do a search for “audio preamp and interface for smartphone video”. Popular choices come from Tascam, Zoom, IK Multimedia, and Saramonic. Good gear is not cheap; at full retail prices, the best all-around portable interfaces start at about $150 and may run as much as $200. Look for sales and refurbished gear to save money. Good gear will provide the features that you will use the most for basic work—“plug and play”—plus they support monitoring the audio during recording, provide gain controls, and some will charge your smartphone (if you add an optional DC power supply). Add one or more to your bag of audio gear as required to support your scenario.

Consider buying the pre-amp and interface first, then a mic that is compatible with it (read the instructions!), and only then buy cable if you need it to connect the mic and the pre-amp and interface. Match the choices to your likely scenarios (studio, walk-around interviews, etc.). You should also look for devices that combine mics, mic input options, and interface functions to save on packing space and setup needs.

Edit audio on your iPhone

Here are some app suggestions to consider:

Hokusai Audio Editor: basic audio editing for iOS. Filter out noise, insert or append new files, add simple effects.

Ferrite Recording Studio: iOS. Combine two audio files so that it sounds like a conversation is going on. Add background music. Snip and edit out segments of a recording and join the remaining parts, or insert new files in the middle of a recording.

TwistedWave Audio Editor: iOS audio processing app with features in addition to those in the other apps, such as fade, amplify, and normalize.

Edit audio on your Android device

Mstudio: Advanced audio editing app for Android, but simple to use without searching through menus and submenus.

WaveEditor: professional audio editing for Android. Record, master, and edit audio files on the go. Zoom, pan, and select. Export to AIFF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, PCM, and WAV.

MP3 Cutter and Ringtone Maker: Android; simple audio file editor, cut or trim audio or music files.

Edit audio on your desktop

Audacity: Mac, Windows, and Linux. Free, but you will need to spend about a half hour learning to use it.

There's an app for better video

Just because you are shooting video for eLearning does not mean you have to shoot boring video. Even interviews can be engaging. I have one suggestion for an app:

FILMIC Pro: iPhone or Android. Said to be the world’s best video camera app, with a choice of three shooting modes that provide precision control over the critical settings: focus, ISO, shutter speed. Choice of PAL or NTSC or default 24 fps. Slow motion, fast motion, your choice of resolutions and aspect ratios. Color grading support.

There are others. Look around your app store for alternatives that fit your likely scenarios. Read the reviews. Talk to people that you see at DevLearn who are shooting video.

Putting these ideas to work

Are you already using video but want to improve what you are doing? Maybe you are a beginner who wants to learn more about the topic. On October 22, prior to The eLearning Guild's DevLearn 2019 Conference & Expo, Jonathan Halls will present a day-long, hands-on "BYOD Video Bootcamp for Learning Professionals". He will illuminate what makes good instructional video, based on professional TV production techniques. Participants will learn how to:

• Make training video engaging by leveraging video's strengths

• Create short video, which is simpler/cheaper to produce

• Implement an efficient, effective planning process for video

• Adopt and execute the steps in the production process, from storyboard to post-production

• Develop a professional production workflow

Jonathan will discuss editing software and using DSLRs and cell phones as video cameras. Note: Jonathan will mainly be talking about using DSLRs to shoot video. Participants must bring a laptop with Camtasia installed (the free version is sufficient), and a set of headphones.

Registration for DevLearn is required in order to attend this video boot camp workshop. Register for DevLearn by Friday, September 6, 2019 and receive a $100 discount!