While making even basic webcam video can be a scary process for some, personal video shows students that their instructor is an “active participant in the presentation of new material rather than just selecting appropriate readings or videos for students to passively absorb” (Bronsky, 2015). If you’ve never done video before, it’s okay to start small. A personal introduction, a course introduction, or short, weekly or bi-weekly summaries of the previous module, questions that students were struggling with, and introductions to the upcoming module are a great way to start without committing to developing content in video form.
What to Consider When Making Your Own Video
In addition to the recommendations in the guidelines, it is useful to consider the ways in which people take in and process information from text, audio, and visual sources. Research shows that students often benefit from a verbal description of an image, chart, diagram, or other visual more than from reading a text description. However, people cannot read one thing and listen to someone saying something else at the same time and pay attention to both. The theory surrounding this phenomenon is that the brain processes words in both aural and textual form in the same way but processes words and pictures differently (Mayer 2014). Slides that are filled with text for students to read while listening to someone talk about the text (but not read it verbatim) reduces the ability to comprehend and retain either set of information. For a lay description of this concept this NPR story on multitasking provides an overview. When considering audiovisual presentations, it is good to think about how well your content can be presented with images and audio, with text alone, or with audio only.
Whether you are making actual videos showing you in person or other types of presentations you need to consider the shelf-life of your product. Is this a one-off announcement or recap of the class’s work or a piece that you want to reuse in a following semester? Single use, in-the-moment videos are great to address current happenings in the class, talk about concepts that several students seem to be struggling with, or give general feedback on assignments. If the video is only being used once lower quality video is fine – these would normally be done on your webcam – but still take the time to make sure you have good sound and lighting. You may or may not write a script, often a brief outline is all you’ll need. You can combine different topics in the same video with impunity, announcing a guest speaker, explaining a point, and reminding students of an upcoming due date all within 5-7 minutes.
If this is a video that you will reuse you will want to consider what you want to do to make the video one that will not look and sound dated. Limiting videos to one topic (likely including subtopics) makes them easier to move around if you restructure the course later on. Spending some time making it look professional up front can reduce the urge to remake them the next semester. These are the videos you’re going to want to script. The Writing for the Ear section below and using a Readability Checker can help you to sound more conversational and less like you’re reading.
DON’Ts For Reusable Videos:
- Don’t talk about dates. Say “later in the semester” or “in the next few weeks” instead of “by the end of October” which would be confusing in the spring semester.
- Don’t talk about specific pages or chapters (or possibly also books). New editions come out regularly with new chapter titles and different page numbers.
When you are thinking about video it is also good to think about the format of the video in addition to the length. Research based on MOOC videos showed that personal videos including a mix of instructor video with PowerPoint or screen capture instead of only voice over PowerPoint were more engaging.
Why Not Lecture Capture?
Cutting down larger existing in-class lectures into shorter segments were not as engaging as videos recorded for the purpose of serving in a class that is predominately or entirely online. Using existing lecture capture in its entirety is never recommended in any situation as it promotes inefficient, passive learning. As an aid to students in your face-to-face classes, lecture capture can be quite useful but online students can be temporally, affectively, and intellectually disengaged watching a different class, likely from a previous semester, work through their own issues, questions, and logistics.
The first main issue with lecture capture video is engagement. Consider, for example, how you feel watching C-SPAN. People up front are talking to the crowd, trying to explain and convince. Do you feel personally engaged with the person talking? What do you do when they start addressing questions from the audience? Alternatively, consider then how you felt watching the video on the previous page. Did you feel personally engaged with the person in that video? Did you feel that he was talking to you and not to an audience that doesn’t include you?
Even if an instructor feels comfortable editing video to eliminate ancillary conversation and discussion related to the in-person class such as due dates, testing procedures, etc., the engagement issue remains. Even in the best TED Talks, if the speaker is talking to a live audience and not making eye contact with the camera, the viewer has difficulty even imagining that the speaker is talking to them. Video produced specifically for online learning activities lets you make and keep eye contact, speak directly to your students, and show your enthusiasm for your content.
The second main issue is focus. Video produced specifically for online learning activity use can be more direct and denser. By thinking through a video script, the approach to the content can be refined, the best examples can be selected, and the video can move from topic to topic in a logical manner, which doesn’t always happen when in-class questions derail your plans. Videos can be structured to rely on students having read or attempted something in advance.
As opposed to those students in a live class, those watching online video as part of an online learning activity can stop watching the video and go read the chapter or try the assignment and then come back to the video when they are prepared.
- Visual aids, whether they are slides, images, graphs, or diagrams, need to be clear, uncluttered, and in high enough resolution to not appear pixelated when added to a video.
- Background music must be legal to use and should be kept quiet enough to not distract from the presentation of the content.
- What you wear is also important. Solid colors are best and small, busy patterns are the worst on camera. Hats, large jewelry, and other distracting accessories should also be avoided.
- Lighting should be good and set in such a way that you are not back lit. If you’re stepping up to the challenge of making video, your students should be able to see you and not a darkened silhouette.
- Audio should be clear so background noise must be kept to a minimum. If you’re using a laptop it is a good idea to get a separate mic if your cooling fan is loud.
The main thing to keep in mind is that your video doesn’t have to be perfect. Students appreciate the humanness of an instructor when things aren’t perfect. If you stop and start, you can also edit parts out and create clips in Windows Movie Maker or Quicktime Pro (Mac) or using more complex tools like Adobe Premier Elements.
Writing for the Ear
The following section is by Renée Petrina, Instructional Design and Technology Specialist at the Institute for Learning and Teaching Excellence at Indiana University Southeast
When we lecture in class, students have the opportunity to stop us and ask us to repeat or clarify. We also have the benefit of being able to “read” the class – what aren’t they getting? What can I skip over? Also, students are pretty much stuck in the room while we lecture, and we’re boxed into a 50- or 75-minute time slot.
But when we move information delivery outside the classroom, the dynamic changes. Students are now accessing lectures without the ability to quickly ask us a question – however, they can rewind the recording if they miss something. But we’re also “competing” with all the lovely cat videos out there on the Internet. So we need to be clear and concise when we make our out-of-class materials, and break them up into reasonably-sized units. Research shows that shorter videos are more engaging (pdf, 1.6MB) so try to chunk topics into 6 minutes or less. Researchers at Columbia University found that the average video watching time in their graduate/certificate courses was only four minutes.
Quite simply, you should write a script. A little effort on the front end creates a useful lecture piece that you can re-use in future semesters.
Scripting matters because it…
- Makes your recording shorter, which is more engaging
- Ensures you don’t forget any of the material you wanted to present
- Makes your presentation crisper and easier to understand
- Gives you another mode of delivery for universal design (Make the script available along with your video/audio lecture; students will benefit from being able to follow along)
- Saves you time over trying to transcribe a lecture after the fact
If you’ve only ever written items that are meant to be read on paper, writing for the listener may be new to you. But consider the way that we listen versus the way that we read. They are two different ways of getting information. It helps to consider the listening audience when you write your lecture script.
- 5 Ways to Write for the Ear, Not for the Eye offers basic tips for writing for listeners. It’s written by a man who trains executives and public officials on how to speak to media.
- Your Ears Are Stupid: My Top Ten Tips When Writing for the Ear provides 10 tips and a whole lot more sarcasm. It’s written by someone in science communications.
Writing for the Ear Tutorial
If you really want to commit to writing great audio lectures, there’s a free tutorial designed for broadcast journalists. It’s called Writing for the Ear. It is a self-directed module with certain sections that won’t apply to you but some that are excellent. Renée (who completed the tutorial a few years ago) recommends signing up, launching the tutorial and going directly to Writing the Story – Sentence writing. You could also benefit from some of the Revising the Story information.
When you look at the section on Voicing, consider how it applies to you. Just as radio announcers automatically have authority because they are on the radio, you automatically have authority because of your role as a professor and subject-area expert. By using a conversational voice, you make your audio lectures easier for students to pay attention to and you get your message across more clearly.
The content found here was designed by Indiana University and adapted for use by the Institute for Faculty Development at Vanguard University. This material is offered under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license and should be considered under this license unless otherwise noted. The original content was imported from “Designing and Teaching for Impact in Online Courses” from within Canvas Commons.