Video strategies

Keeping your students engaged in lecture can be difficult at the best of times. Poorly created videos can be distracting and may cause student learning to suffer. When students view your videos, they are engaging in a passive learning experience. During a lecture video, you may ask them to pause and jot down ideas or notes, but doing so is up to them—you can’t see whether or not they do as you requested. You also can’t see confusion, enjoyment, or frustration in their faces. As such, what your students hear needs to be polished and complete to help keep them engaged. Below are helpful standards and options for creating engaging videos.

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Time and length

Break lectures into topical segments of approximately 7–12 minutes; not to exceed 15 minutes. This allows students to digest every part of the lesson, quickly revisit what they may not have understood, and it provides a meaningful place to pause if they need to return to the lesson later. This can also be invaluable if you need to update a video later. It’s much easier to re-record 10 minutes than 50 minutes! Don’t be afraid to create multiple videos for a single topic—perhaps your topic breaks into four 15-minute videos very nicely, or maybe it’s more like five or six 10-minute videos.

Audio considerations

Great sounding audio makes a big difference in the quality of a lecture video. It’s difficult to listen to even a short audio clip when the sound quality is bad. There are many things to consider before recording a lecture, all at low cost or free as lendable technology through the @One’s Lendable Technology program.


The built-in microphone

The first microphone is the one you probably already have: your mobile device or a laptop. All modern mobile devices and most laptops come with a built-in mic. Built-in mics are usually not great, but they are not bad. They can get the job done under the right environmental conditions.

The soundproof booth

A built-in microphone will get the job done, but it’s better if you can control the environmental noise when you are recording. The best option is to set up an environment that mimics a soundproof booth. Here are some tips on how to soundproof your office or home space. The idea here is simple: maximize your voice and minimize all environmental sounds that your microphone can pick up. This is how you control the environmental conditions to maximize the quality of your recording. As such, you’re doing two things at the same time:

  1. Preventing echo, or a reverb effect. Since sound bounces off smooth surfaces like walls, hard floors, ceilings, etc., your voice will echo slightly back into your microphone losing its warm tone. A soundproof booth eliminates that echo by absorbing the sounds so the microphone only picks up your voice one time.
  2. Eliminating or reducing significant environmental noises that you may not be able to control (the buzz of electricity or the ambient sounds of the room). Your microphone may still pick up additional sounds, but they will be greatly reduced.

An Internet search for “mini recording booth” shows several sites with DIY plans or optional purchases. The cost of a DIY “booth” can be under $50.

USB microphones

It’s important to note that the term USB defines the connector, not the microphone. What you’re buying is a higher quality microphone that easily plugs directly into your computer via the USB port.

USB microphones were made specifically for the type of work you’re doing at a very reasonable cost. Really good USB microphones sell for well under $100.

Unidirectional microphones

The unidirectional mic alone is a great improvement in sound quality. Unidirectional Microphones are microphones that only pick up sound from a specific side or direction of the microphone. Thus, if you are speaking into a unidirectional microphone, you must speak into the correct side in order to get good quality on the recording.

If you’re buying a new USB microphone for recording, make sure the device is unidirectional, or has the option of unidirectional recording.

Reading from a script

As with poor audio quality, when video content is disorganized, meandering, and incomplete, it is very difficult to watch and retain information. Reading from a script works well for voice-over-PowerPoint videos, and writing your script in advance will provide you with the opportunity to edit your lecture for clear and concise content before recording. Reading from your edited script will also help keep the “uhhs” and empty silence to a minimum.

A side benefit of reading from a pre-written script is you now have an alternative format to provide to students that may have a different learning style, as well as a quick and easy way to caption the video. Whether you are captioning your own videos or requesting captioning services, having an accurate script will save time and money.

Additional audio tips

  • Print your script in a readable font at a size that’s easy to see. Pin it to the back of your DIY sound booth. Consider pausing so you can edit out any noise from turning pages if you have a multiple page script.
  • Turn the mic (stand-alone) slightly at an angle to reduce direct breath. If using a headset, position the mic slightly under your chin.
  • Taking a bite of an apple can help reduce mouth noises.
  • Record in short yet smooth segments. Click Pause between segments and take a moment to read ahead, gather your thoughts, stretch, clear your throat, etc. It’s also easier not to get parched or out of breath.
  • Keep a glass of water nearby and have a sip between segments.
  • Try smiling or at least thinking happy thoughts while recording. Our mood comes across in our voices, so you want to sound positive without sounding over-enthusiastic.

Recording options

There are a number of options that are supported at the University for recording lectures or on-screen content. Click the links below to explore the different options.

Editing existing video

You may have longer videos that you’d like to pare down for easier consumption (such as lecture videos that were recorded during the pandemic). Here are a few steps to follow when editing your videos:

  • Watch your entire video to determine if and where it can be phased into sections.
  • Only edit/cut dead air and places in the video that will not make it look or sound choppy.
  • Do not edit parts of the video where people are talking on camera (unless you have experience and are confident you can prevent it from seeming choppy).
  • Enhance the viewer experience with added symbols, arrows, text, highlights, etc., if desired.

When editing, try not to go overboard with special effects and transitions. This can reduce engagement or they can become barriers to learning when people focus on the effect and stop paying attention to the content. A few effects can be helpful, but there’s a limit when it becomes too much.

Interactive video quizzes

Take engagement further and create an Interactive Video Quiz with Kaltura. Interactive video quizzing allows you to embed questions at any point in a video. These questions are attached to the video and “travel” with it in any of your WebCampus courses. As students watch the video quiz, the questions will appear at the chosen points. Quizzes can be graded, when paired with a Canvas Assignment, and grades are automatically recorded in the gradebook.

Considerations for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and accessibility

Video can be a great way to convey information quickly and effectively to many people, but keep in mind that it’s not a preferred learning method for some. Varying instructional approaches and activities help, and so can things like including a transcript and captions. Here are some tips to help your video content work well for the largest audience possible:

  • As mentioned above, reading from a script can be helpful for staying on topic and provides an alternate method for students to learn the material.
  • Make sure your videos are captioned. Not only is it a requirement, captions are synched with the video and are easier to follow than trying to read a script and look up or pause a video.
  • Paint a picture with words, and don’t rely purely on visual information to convey content. Saying “I’ll give you a moment to read the slide” doesn’t help people with certain visual impairments. Instead describe what is on screen while indicating the importance. This can help everyone understand important points and avoid misinterpreting graphics.