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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:
Table of Contents
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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...
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.
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
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
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.
Use a Checklist to Guide Your Multi-media Production
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.)
Article ID: 599
Last updated: 05 Apr, 2022
Transcript – Ancient Games.docx (143 kb)
PPTOnlineV3.1.pdf (1.63 mb)