Video Creation

Video Creation

Including instructional content in video form can be a fantastic way to engage students and communicate ideas. In face-to-face, hybrid, and online classes, videos can help instructors present otherwise difficult-to-explain content. That said, a lot of instructors feel intimidated about making videos because it can be hard to know where to start or what tools to use!

Next steps

This guide offers a quick break-down of how to prepare for creating a video and what editing best practices you’ll want to follow. Toggle to reveal each step.

Once you have formulated your objective​s, it’s time to think about what type of video is right for you. We have identified eight different types of videos to help you get started.

  • Assignment overview video: Steps students through the requirements for course assessments and activities. Each video should overview only one assignment or assessment. Embed assignment overview videos with the written instructions for the assignment.
  • Announcement video: ​Provides timely updates throughout the course and provides an opportunity to establish a social and teaching presence.
  • Demonstration: Simultaneously explains and illustrates the steps in a process or procedure. Demonstration videos are great for teaching learners to solve a problem, follow a process, or complete a task.
  • Feedback or “Screencast” video Provides summarizing commentary on student work. This can be done for individual students (one video per student) or feedback to all (one video for an entire class).
  • Introduction video: Allows an educator to introduce themselves to students informally. This type of video provides your students an opportunity to learn more about you and your approach to teaching.
  • Lecture Capture. Allows instructors to video record lectures and makes them available to students online. As a result, students can view and interact with the videos on their computers and mobile devices. A best practice is to edit long lecture videos into smaller micro-lectures and upload those to a video-sharing platform.
  • Micro lecture: A brief (under five minutes) video recording explains a single concept or topic.
  • Orientation video Introduces the layout of an online learning environment or tool. Effective orientation videos demonstrate how essential elements such as content and assignments are accessed.
  • Overview video: Synthesizes how the materials and activities for a duration of time (ex. a week, unit, or semester) will pull together to help students achieve the prescribed learning outcomes.

Simply narrating a slide presentation may seem like the easiest way to transfer your lecture material online, but it may not be the best for your learners. Before you begin to design content for the online modality, take the time to explore your options and then choose the right visual format for your desired objectives.

Explore the links below to learn about the styles of videos that you can create.

  • A talking head video features an individual speaking directly into a camera. If you do not have access to a recording studio, this style of video can be created nearly anywhere with a computer and webcam, tablet, or smartphone.
  • A screencast video features a recording of a computer or device screen and an audio track. This style of video can be created nearly anywhere with a computer and microphone (or tablet). 
  • A pencast is a video that focuses on a canvas that is marked-up as the video progresses. As the instructor marks the canvas, they narrate their actions. Typically, the instructor is not visible in a pencast video, but their voice can be heard.
  • Assisted creation is when an instructional design team helps with the design or the recording/streaming of the video/webinar (i.e., Engineering LAS Online, Brenton Center (CALS))
  • Self-produced is when the instructor uses appropriate technologies without additional assistance to record their lecture at their desk or in a learning space.
    • Recorded with a software application (see tools below), captures your lecture and/or what is happening on your computer screen along with your narration.
    • Then, edited to 7-10 minute recordings, and uploaded to a video platform, such as Studio (Canvas).
Questions? Check out the where to go for support page.
  • Create a storyboard in advance. It can be overwhelming to consider all of the options for creating a video! Generating a storyboard is like writing an outline; it’ll give you a sense of the video’s basic shape and what images or links you’ll need to include within the video without feeling bogged down. Storyboards don’t have to be complicated. Stick figures work. Using a tool you already have, like PowerPoint, can help to organize the general flow of a video.
  • Write a script to keep ideas on track. When we improvise, we tend to say more than we anticipate. Improvising can work well in a live lecture but can sound like rambling in a pre-recorded mini video lecture. Writing a script or list of bullet points that you and refer to as you’re recording your video will help keep the content focused and the length short—worried about seeming stiff? Try a few practice rounds with your script to get comfortable. That should help you feel “loose” enough to start sounding natural and not like you’re reading.

Still not convinced that writing out a script is useful? 95% of all the faculty that we’ve worked with who started creating videos by only talking extemporaneously eventually decided that writing out scripts ahead of time ended up working better.

  • Keep the video short (7-10 minutes maximum). Even if you are trying to create videos for an hour’s worth of content, break that video into smaller segments. Chances are, once you start planning out and thinking through how your hour-long lecture can be divided into 5-minute sections, developing shorter videos may come more naturally than you expect! 
  • Maintain variety in images and sounds. Watching a “talking head” bob in front of a screen for five minutes straight is not particularly engaging. Instead, be sure to include a variety of images along with the recording of yourself speaking. You might, for example, have a picture of yourself speaking in the bottom-left or bottom-right hand corner while the background of the video moves through different models, graphs, or maps.
    • Faculty often ask is it necessary for them to appear in their videos. The easy answer is, no, it isn’t required; but, research has demonstrated that students have a much more favorable opinion and tend to learn more from videos where the instructor is on screen at least part of the time (Kizilcec, 2015). Especially in an online course, appearing in videos can help establish instructor presence that allows the student to connect much better with the asynchronous content.
  • Intersperse interviews with experts. It can be tough to maintain focus on a video that includes only one voice. Videos can be fantastic for adding others’ views that you may not be able to bring into the classroom otherwise. Interviews are best when video-recorded, but even including audio interviews can be helpful as well.
  • Use animation to illustrate complex topics. Including a moving graphic – rather than simply a static one – can do a convincing job of showing how a mechanism or action functions. To be as accessible as possible, make sure you include a visual description with your script. 
  • Include interactive content (e.g., quizzes). Watching a video is frequently a passive experience for a student. Consider including a quick quiz for students in the middle or at the end of the video. This step can help students assess their comprehension of the video content quickly and receive immediate feedback. Even including a button where students have to click “next” to see the next part of a video sequence helps keep students actively engaged in the video process. There are a lot of tools to help you create interactive video content.

Accessibility pertains to how users with differences access electronic content. Design web content so that it is compatible with assistive technology. As it relates to our video content, we are primarily concerned with ensuring that videos have synchronized closed captions (transcripts are not enough) and audio descriptions.

Before you use a tool to record and publish a video, take some time to learn about the available accessibility features. This step applies to any third-party applications used to add interactive elements to video as well.

Closed Captions

Closed captioning is text that synchronously reflects a video’s audio track. Captioning should include any words spoken in a video in a video’s closed captions. If your institution does not provide a captioning service for videos, sites such as YouTube can be used to add captions to videos. If you use the automatic captioning available on YouTube, take the time to edit the captions for accuracy.

Audio (Video) Descriptions

Audio description is an audio track that attempts to describe the visual aspects (what is happening on screen). There are currently no free tools available to generate audio descriptions automatically. YouTube does not yet support an additional track for audio descriptions.

The American Council of the Blind provides guidelines for audio descriptions.

Other Accessibility Considerations

While video accessibility is primarily concerned with closed captions and audio descriptions, it is essential that any visual elements appearing in your videos are designed with accessibility in mind, as well. Consider these accessibility practices when creating visual elements for your videos:

  • do not exclusively use color to convey information
  • follow WCAG’s recommendations on color contrast ratios
  • do not clutter the screen with information
  • focus one idea at a time

Learn more about captioning and accessibility from CELT’s Accessible Course Design page and ISU’s Digital Access page.


Creating a video at home or in your office simply requires a device with a built-in or external webcam with a microphone (if you use a hand-held device or tablet, make sure you use a tripod), a microphone or microphone headset, a quiet environment, a plan, and a bit of patience. You will also need an application to capture your recording, visual content, and (depending on your objective) perhaps a whiteboard tool, too (ISU community members have access to Microsoft OneNote).

First, record the video

Record using one of the centrally-supported tools at Iowa State. Several are identified below.

Video recording tools

  • Studio in Canvas: Easily record video or capture your screen on any machine; create collections for organization; share directly within Canvas.
  • Panopto: Record and edit professional videos; live stream or capture your lecture; content organization and sharing synched to your Canvas course.
  • Echo360: Record and stream your lectures; engage students with polling and interactive media; manage videos and sharing synched to your Canvas course.

Video recording with web-conferencing tools

  • Webex: Host and record online class meetings via the cloud; meet individually with students; engage students with polling and interactive features.
  • ZoomHost and locally record online class meetings; meet individually with students; engage students with polling and interactive features.
  • Microsoft Teams: Chat, meet, call, and collaborate with students; enable other apps for more functionality; restrict access to specific areas.

Video recording with PowerPoint

  1. To add audio (and optionally video) to your slides, follow Microsoft’s Record a slide show with narration and slide timings guide.
  2. To generate a MPEG-4 (.mp4) file from your slides and audio/video, follow Microsoft’s Turn your presentation into a video guide.
  3. Alternatively, you can follow How to Make a Video in PowerPoint – ppt to video YouTube video, which goes through both of these steps.

Video recording with Keynote

  1. To create a recording on a Mac, follow this Keynote: How to Record & Export High-Quality Videos YouTube video.
  2. To make one on an iPad, follow this Record video and audio in Keynote on iPad guide.

Then, embed the video into your Canvas course

If the video is not already hosted in the cloud, upload it to Studio, then embed it in your course. Using Canvas Studio has several advantages:
  1. Videos do not count against your Canvas file quota.
  2. Can automatically generate captions to your videos.
  3. Students can choose to stream at a lower video quality when on a poor internet connection.
  4. Video playback speed can be altered to fit each student’s learning preference.
  5. Provides insights regarding the videos students have viewed within the Canvas course.
Learn how to embed a video in a page Canvas guide.

Related tools

Video editing and screen capture software

There are a number of other easy-to-use software options for recording your video lecture, including:

Video sharing platforms

How can I make my video lectures effective and engaging?

The impersonal, text-heavy nature of many online classrooms makes it challenging for instructors to engage students with course material in an interesting, meaningful way. But, for students to benefit from a video lecture, they must be willing to watch it.


From the TechSmith software company:

Interested in creating your own lightboard?

Video Creation, by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Iowa State University is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. This work, Video Creation, is a derivative of The Online Lecture Toolkit developed by the site, Online Learning Toolkit (retrieved on May 13, 2020) from