Eastern Connecticut State University Knowledgebase

Module 8: Multimedia - How can I make it, find it, and use it in my online class?

Article ID: 599
Last updated: 5 Apr, 2022

Multimedia: How can I make it, find it, and use it in my online course?

Learning Objectives

Video, audio, and images are important to include in an online course to provide alternative means of communication for students who may have reading difficulties or simply learn easier through visual and auditory channels. Media you create also provides an additional channel for teaching presence and reinforces that you are a human being and not just a name on a screen.  By the end of this module we hope that you will be able to:

  1. evaluate third-party video for engagement and applicability
  2. weigh the pros and cons of creating your own videos and if you choose, make an engaging, reusable video
  3. create presentations that are engaging and use tools in addition to or instead of PowerPoint

Table of Contents

Multimedia: Using Video in Online Classes

How should I use videos?  

It depends. It depends on your learning objectives, your content, your activities, and your students. If you want your students to be able to do something that someone can demonstrate, then video would be the best option.  If your content involves specific places or cultures, video can help to make them real to your students in ways that pictures and words on a page cannot.  If parts of your content are especially challenging to your students, walking through these rough points with diagrams or a virtual whiteboard can provide clarification.  If your students have difficulty engaging with the content, videos can offer a more approachable way in.

The following is an example of an engaging video to begin a section. IU Media Arts and Sciences lecturer Mathew A. Powers (Links to an external site.) collaborated with author John Green and his production company and School of Informatics alumni to develop this video on the history of games. The video is part of a larger series stemming from his class History of Video Games course (Inside IU article). (Links to an external site.)

Transcript - Ancient Games Video (File can also be downloaded under Attachments at the bottom of this article

Considerations for video

You have options to use video like the one above, developed by others and repurposed in your course, or to make your own videos. The following are considerations for using "found" video and the following page discusses considerations for making your own videos. 

How well does the video align with your class? Is it something that will directly help students reach a learning outcome or is interesting but not directly applicable. If it's not supporting a learning outcome but you still want to include it, placing it in an "Additional Resources" or "If You'd Like to Know More" section. Traditional-aged students are more likely to explore additional video resources than additional readings. If only part of the video is applicable it is good to let the students know that they should only focus on a particular section. If you have put the video in Kaltura you can use the Create Clip feature to trim off the sections you don't want to include. 

Just like any other content, you need to consider if an external video is at the right level for your students, e.g., YouTube. Do they have the prerequisite background knowledge to get out what you want them to get out of it? Students will tune out if they don't understand what the speaker is talking about - especially if they use jargon, acronyms, and other technical terms the student doesn't know. If you still want to use it, consider annotating the video in VoiceThread or VideoAnt (Links to an external site.) (if it's on YouTube). You can also explain unfamiliar terms using comments on the media page or prefacing the video with an explanation if you're embedding the video in a Blackboard content area. If you have a student who needs accommodation they will work with your campus's disability services office for captioning and/or audio description of third party video. 

If you want to use video from a DVD or tape or from a non-public source, make sure to contact the J. Eugene Smith Library reference desk at (860) 465-4699. If the video you would like to use is from your textbook publisher (for example, from an instructor's resource DVD that one might show in class), ask your publisher representative for permission to put sections of the video online. Normally publishers do not have an issue since it will be behind the walls of Blackboard and your students are purchasing their book. However, if you change textbooks, don't presume that you still have permission to continue to use the video. 

What makes videos engaging?

Once you've found videos that could be useful for your class, how do you evaluate which ones are good and which ones are less so? They don't need to be TED Talks or Kahn Academy videos to be effective and engaging but if your students can't understand the speakers, see what's going on clearly, or are constantly distracted by poor production quality they may not get the information they need.

Reviewing Videos: Release your inner movie critic

Go to YouTube and find a mix of videos on your course topic. Searching for channels that aggregate videos from multiple sources like this one on Developmental Psychology (Links to an external site.) or this one on Inorganic Chemistry (Links to an external site.) is an easy way to find a variety.  Watch several videos taking the perspective of a student and think about the following questions. 

  • What elements of the video engaged you with the video content?
    • Audio elements
    • Visual elements
    • Speaker presentation elements
    • Video production elements
  • What elements of the video distracted you from the video content?
    • Audio elements
    • Visual elements
    • Speaker presentation elements
    • Video production elements

Reviewing other's videos is a good way to understand what works and doesn't work to keep a viewer's attention and aid in understanding in ways a textbook cannot.  

A group of IU Southeast faculty reviewed several videos from other faculty on YouTube as part of an orientation to online teaching class offered by the Institute for Learning and Teaching Excellence and they came up with the following themes. (And, remember, these recommendations apply to videos you make as much as they do to videos you find.)

  • Speaker enthusiasm helps maintain interest. Vary voice volume so it's not monotone. Be confident!
  • A quick pace is good but not so quick that the student can't follow (especially important when the presenter has a strong accent).
  • Showing is better than telling when possible, use visual aids and make sure your lighting is good so they can be clearly seen.
  • Minimize distractions such as other people, unrelated or confusing visuals, and noises such as mouse clicks, fans, etc.
  • Avoid zooming, switching between cameras, and other camera movements as they can make some people "seasick."
  • Talk to the camera, not the lectern or the computer.
  • Avoid video that doesn't go beyond the textbook.  Reading slides (especially with lists of bullet points) is not helpful or engaging

The bottom line is, does the video keep your attention? If you were dozing or multitasking while the video was playing the odds are good your students will be also.

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Multimedia: Making Your Own Videos

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 (Links to an external site.) 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 (Links to an external site.) 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 use it is also good to think about the format of the video in addition to the length. Research based on MOOC videos (Links to an external site.) 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 an online class. 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 for online courses 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 class 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 a live class, online students 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 Kaltura or do some additional editing 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 (Links to an external site.) 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) (Links to an external site.) 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. (Links to an external site.)

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 (Links to an external site.) (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.

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 (Links to an external site.). 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. 

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Multimedia: Presentations and Interactive Media

Designing Presentations

Watching a presentation where the instructor simply reads the text on the slides is like going to a conference where the presenters read their papers.  A large section of the audience could have read the paper faster and likely with greater comprehension of the content and less inclination to multitask or doze.  If you are going to invest the time and effort into creating a narrated presentation, take advantage of its visual nature to do something you can't do with a document.

There are two main places to start when thinking about presentations: visual design (see Visual Design for Usability) and multimedia learning theory.  Mayer's evidence-based multimedia learning theory is based on research showing that people learn more deeply

  • when the same information is not presented in more than one format such as reading text directly from a slide
  • from words and pictures than they do from words alone (spoken or in text)
  • from graphics and narration alone rather than from graphics, narration, and on-screen text
  • when cues are added to highlight key information and organization
  • when extraneous text, decorative graphics, extraneous audio such as animation/transition sounds are eliminated.
  • when narration is in a conversational style

This blog post pulls together an overview of these strategies from Mayer's book  (Links to an external site.)for a quick read. 

One additional aspect is Active Processing as students must actively think about what they hear and see in order to integrate it with prior knowledge or adapt their current understanding to take into account the new information. This connects to the Active Learning Module which helps you to think about what students can do to encourage meaningful consideration of content and principles. 

Considering accessibility of presentations, presentations saved to Kaltura will also be automatically machine captioned but it is still a good idea to keep a copy of your script with your visuals in case there is a need. If you are using complex visuals think about how you would describe the visual to someone who couldn't see it and keep those notes. They will help the Assistive Technology and Accessibility Center on your campus provide clear visual descriptions.  

Visuals and Audio


The downloadable reference Online Presentations Guidelines and Best Practices Overview


Transcript provides a short version of things to keep in mind as you think about your presentations. (Files can also be downloaded under Attachments at the bottom of this article


As Mayer notes and the above video shows, narration works best when it is conversational.  While writing a script is highly recommended, be familiar enough with your script to be able to read it without sounding like you're reading. The ECSU faculty who reviewed video examples also noted that many of the videos they watched had speakers who sounded bored or tentative. Lack of enthusiasm shows just as much on a presentation as on a video and if the screen is mainly text attention will wander early and often.

While many people find it uncomfortable to listen to their own voice on a recording, it is important to do it at least the first few times. You may not be consciously aware of verbal habits that may be distracting to your student. Umms and aahhs and wells, as well as pens tapping, or computer fans blowing or HVAC noise that you've grown used to can become a focus for listeners, distracting them from the message you are trying to convey. 

Eliminating extraneous audio doesn't mean eliminating all other forms of audio. Audio clips serve as examples, to emphasize a point, or to bring other's voices into the story.  Music clips can be used to set a tone or suggest a place and time. As with video, using background music can be tricky to make sure the volume is low enough not to distract or mask the narration.  In addition, individuals with certain hearing impairments have an extremely hard time understanding speech over any music so be sure to keep a copy of your presentation without the music if a student needs an alternative version.

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Multimedia: Video and Presentation Planning Checklist

Use a Checklist to Guide Your Multi-media Production

Download the checklist from this page as a pdf (File can also be downloaded under Attachments at the bottom of this article

  • What should your students be able to know and do after watching your video?
  • What course learning outcome does it support?
  • Prepare your script (Don’t forget to write for the ear!)
  • What visuals support your script? 
    • If you’re recording video you may not need many visual aids but you do need some. How can you show your students what you mean without using blocks of text.
    • If you’re recording a presentation you’ll likely have a slide deck. Review the Best Practices for Using PPT in Online Classes (Links to an external site.) and revise or remove slides that contain text directly from your script.  If that eliminates a majority of your slides you may want to consider making a presentation that includes video of you.
    • Make sure your images aren’t distorted and in the proper height/width proportion.
  • Organize your script and visuals into a storyboard (If you’re using PPT, put your script for each slide in the notes area for that slide.) 
  • Add a title slide to the beginning to identify the video and yourself.
  • Run through it and time yourself.  If it’s more than 10-12 minutes look at what you can cut and give them in a text note by the video or think about breaking it into two videos.
    • Don’t try to make it shorter by talking faster. Around 150-160 words per minute (a conversational pace) is appropriate for instructional video, any faster and there will begin to be comprehension issues.
    • Remember to pause after anything that you think your students will need a moment to process.
  • If you’re recording on your own:
    • Do you have microphone that records your voice clearly without any buzz or hiss?
    • Do you have lights placed in front of you, not behind you?
    • Is your webcam positioned high enough so that you’re not recording upwards?
    • Are you wearing solid colors?
    • Did you remove anything from yourself and your area that would clank, hum, whir, or squeak? (This includes large pieces of jewelry and pens or pencils if you like to tap them on the desk.)
    • Did you check what is behind you? A cluttered background can be distracting so keep it as clear as possible.
  • If you’re recording in a studio:
    • Are you wearing solid colors?
    • Did you remove anything from yourself and your area that would clank, hum, whir, or squeak? (this includes large pieces of jewelry and pens or pencils if you like to tap them on the desk)
    • Are you wearing comfortable shoes?
    • Are you wearing something that the microphone pack can clip on to like a waistband, a pocket, or a belt?
    • Did you bring your script or send it to the videographer in advance if you want to use a teleprompter?
  • Practice.  Really.  Very few people get a version they like on the first try and the longer your video is the more chances you may need to start over.
  • Record. Try to be as comfortable as possible and let your enthusiasm for your content shine through.
  • Watch your own video. This is important.  You may be doing distracting things or have a distracting vocal tendency that you never noticed. If the person in the video is continually tapping a pen or saying “so” or “well” at the end of every sentence or rocking back and forth, soon the student will focus so completely on the distraction that they won’t be able to fully concentrate on the content of the video. You’ll also
    • Hear if you sound like you’re reading as opposed to talking to your students.
    • See if you are looking at the camera or at anything else. Looking at the camera means you’re looking at your students while you are talking to them. If you engage with them they are more likely to engage with you.

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Multimedia: Resources

Additional Information

Fair Use Checklist

Readability Checker (Links to an external site.)

Hibbert, M. (2014). What makes an online instructional video compelling?  (Links to an external site.)Educause Review


Guo, P. J., Kim, J., Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Learning at Scale, Atlanta, GA: ACM.

Mayer, R. E. (2014). Cognitive theory of multimedia learning. The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning, 43-71. (Redux of Chapters 4-8) (Links to an external site.) 

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Article ID: 599
Last updated: 5 Apr, 2022
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