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!
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.
Once you have formulated your objectives, 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. Learn more from assignment overview video guide.
- Announcement video: Provides timely updates throughout the course, and provide an opportunity to establish social and teaching presence in the course. Learn more from the announcement video guide.
- 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. Learn more from the demonstration guide.
- Feedback or “Screencast” video: Provides summarizing commentary on student work. This can be done for individual students (one video per student) or as feedback to all (one video for an entire class). Learn more from the feedback video guide.
- Introduction video: Allows an educator to informally introduce themselves to students. This type of video provides an opportunity for your students to learn more about you and your approach to teaching. Learn more from the introduction video guide.
- 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. Learn more from the microlecture guide.
- Microlecture: A brief (under five minutes) video recording that explains a single concept or topic. Learn more from the microlecture guide.
- 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. Learn more from the orientation video guide.
- 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. Learn more from the overview video guide.
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 smart phone.
- A screencast video features a recording of a computer or device screen and audio track. This style of video can be created nearly anywhere with a computer and microphone (or tablet). View CELT’s Screencasting page.
- 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!The benefit of this practice is that students should not have an
- 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, include 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 useful 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 is a useful way to 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. Web content should be designed so that it is compatible with assistive technology. As it relates to our video content, we are primarily concerned with making sure that videos have synchronized closed captions (transcripts are not enough) and audio descriptions.
Before you use a tool to record and publish video, take some time to learn about the available accessibility features. This applies to any third-party applications that are used to add interactive elements to video as well.
Closed captioning is text that synchronously reflects a video’s audio track. Any words spoken in a video should be included 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 in 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 of a video (what is happening on screen). There are currently no free tools available to automatically generate audio descriptions. YouTube does not currently 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 important 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
Creating a video at home or in your office simply requires a device with a built-in or external webcam with microphone (if you use a hand-held device or tablet, make sure you use a tripod), 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) maybe a white board tool, too (ISU community members access to Microsoft OneNote).
Tools centrally supported at Iowa State:
First, record the video using one of these tools:
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. This has several advantages:
- Studio videos do not count against your Canvas file quota.
- Studio can automatically generate captions to your videos.
- Students can choose to stream at a lower video quality when on a poor internet connection.
- Video playback speed can be altered to fit each student’s learning preference.
Learn how to embed a video in a page Canvas guide.
Video Editing and Screen Capture Software
There are a number of other easy-to-use software options for recording your video lecture, including:
- iMovie: For video editing and screen capture (Mac)
- QuickTime: For video editing and screen capture (Windows and Mac)
- Screencast-O-Matic: For video editing, webcam recording, and screen capture (Windows and Mac)
- TechSmith products
Video sharing platforms
From the TechSmith software company:
- The Ultimate Guide to Easily Make Instructional Videos Learn Steps on how to make your own how-to, tutorial, and instructional videos.
- Video Statistics, Habits, and Trends You Need To Know [New Research] Learn how to create instructional and informational videos that get watched.
- How to start making your own videos
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 https://www.onlinelecturetoolkit.com/