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Tutorials Best Practices Toolkit: Development & Design


The ALA Library Instruction Round Table provides a link to a Reference Guide for Instructional Design and Development from IEEE.  See for a description of Assessing Instructional Needs.  The purpose of the tutorial is inherent in the instructional needs identified.  

In general, here are considerations for refining the purpose of a tutorial:

  • Standalone or part of course?
  • Who does the tutorial serve?
  • Is there prerequisite knowledge required or is this an introduction?
  • What are the learning goals and objectives?


When making a decision about the format of your tutorial, consider first whether your tutorial is concept-based or demonstration-based.

  • Concept-based: Introduces a new concept, such as plagiarism.
  • Demonstration-based: Usually involves instructions on “how to,” i.e. “how to use the find it button” or “how to conduct an advanced search in a database.”

Some tutorials may be a mix of the two. If possible, consider offering your tutorial in multiple formats to accommodate a variety of learning styles of preferences. If you choose only one format, keep the following in mind:

Demonstration-based tutorials work best in formats that are self-paced, where the viewer can easily navigate back and forth at his or her own speed, skimming and reviewing as needed. These tutorials might feature text and still images to guide the learner.

Concept-based tutorials can work as either self-paced or video tutorials. Video tutorials might feature narration rather than text and animated rather than still images.


Overall, determining whether the tutorial is available at the point of need or if there is a set location for tutorials is key.  Options to consider include:

  • Embedded:  in library resource guides, in library catalog, in databases, in online course management systems or, generally, in user's environment vs. the library's environment
  • Making the tutorial available in a set location on, e.g., the library Web page
  • Making the tutorial available via an icon such as Help
  • Using a tutorial icon to identify a tutorial
  • Pushing the tutorial via e-mail or chat
  • Available via a search option to find a specific tutorial
  • Number of clicks needed to reach tutorial


Software and Equipment

Camtasia Studio ( and Adobe Captivate ( are currently the most commonly used software for creating video tutorials. With some manipulation, they can also be used to create self-paced tutorials.

  • Tip: When creating Adobe Captivate tutorials, be sure to stay within the file size limit of the web platform you will be uploading your video to (on Drupal, this is currently set to 15 MB). Camtasia tutorials can be uploaded to Screencast ( and embedded on a webpage using the code provided by Screencast.

 Self-paced tutorials can also be created directly in Drupal or using webpage creation software such as Adobe Dreamweaver.

  • Tip: Make navigation through self-paced tutorials consistent and obvious for the user.

 Adobe Photoshop and GIMP ( are the most robust programs for image editing.

  • Tip: Use only images for which you have permission or which are available free from copyright. See “Images” for recommended sources.

 Audacity ( is a free audio editing program that can be used to record and edit narration and audio for your tutorial. Audio can also be recorded directly into Camtasia or Captivate using a wired or wireless microphone such as those available from the IMC.

  • Tip: Be aware of and try to reduce white noise and background noise when recording audio.


To accommodate students' varying attention spans, video tutorials should be kept as short as possible.  Shorter videos are more likely to be viewed and have the highest engagement. 

  • 3 minutes is a good target.
  • 2-5 minute lengths are also acceptable.
  • Longer videos should be divided into shorter standalone segments. 


Free images with Creative Commons licenses are available on several websites:

Wikimedia Commons.  A collection of millions of freely usable media files.  Always check to see if images can be altered. 

Flickr. To search for Creative Commons license, search by subject and click on "Any License" on the left.  Select "all Creative Commons," "no know copyright restrictions," or another category.  "An archive of stock photography for use in websites, printed materials and products. Images are provided unwatermarked, free of charge for both commercial and personal use under an attribution license."

Pixabay.   "Over 380,000 free photos, vectors and art illustrations. Your source for free vectors, free drawings and free photos. You can use any Pixabay image without attribution in digital and printed form, even for commercial applications."