[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hether you teach online or face-to-face, video is a great way to welcome students to your course, set the tone for the week ahead, and summarize major points at the end of the week in the form of a wrap-up. While regular weekly video presence provides an opportunity for you to connect with students outside of the classroom, the notion of producing weekly introductions, weekly wrap-ups, a course introduction video, and instructional content videos can at first seem overwhelming and time consuming. But once you understand the differences in video types and purposes, you will see that videos can be added to courses without significant extra time and effort.
A course-introduction video welcomes students to the course and provides important information to your students about your teaching style, your expectations, and how students can be successful in meeting the course objectives. While the course syllabus is important, avoid reading directly from the syllabus in your video. Including an entire video overview of your course syllabus may lead students to believe they have satisfactorily engaged with this information without having read the document. Further, the course introduction video should not mimic the first full day of class. Instead, the video should be welcoming, reflect your teaching persona, and brief—no more than 3-4 minutes in length. A good course-introduction video focuses on the student’s future success, not the syllabus.
Some faculty jot down a list of bullet points they need to cover in their video, while others prefer to develop full scripts. If you prefer to compose a script for your video, do not read directly from the script while on camera. Instead, use the script to guide your talking points. Your course introduction should be warm and welcoming, as this is one of your first opportunities to forge a connection with your students.
Weekly introduction videos
The use of weekly introduction videos is a great way to set the tone and agenda for the week ahead. These videos can help students get organized by building a mental model of what’s expected and how this week’s work fits within larger course concepts. Again, the key is to keep these videos brief and no more than 3–4 minutes in length. Do students need to start thinking about a project ahead of time? Should they acquire necessary signatures for a service learning experience early in the semester? Reminders such as these examples are also worth mentioning in the weekly intro and can help students stay on track for success.
Don’t invest a significant amount of time editing your weekly introduction video. In fact, you should aim for a short, one-take video and only make edits when you’ve completely lost your train of thought and needed to start over. Speak casually and naturally. Try not to get hung-up on filler words (um, ahh, ok) in your speech pattern, as students are only going to watch the video once or twice and move on to your coursework. Resist the urge to add fancy effects, graphics, or music to your video, as these extras will take up your time when creating the video and your student’s time when watching the video.
Weekly wrap-up videos
A weekly wrap-up video provides students with feedback on how they, as a class, performed that week. Students need some form of validation for their efforts, and a wrap-up video is one way of ensuring students they are on the right track. Some of the most engaging courses I’ve taken during my graduate course work were from faculty who recorded their introduction and wrap-up videos as the course was being taught. These just-in-time videos seemed more authentic—and the faculty more sincere and approachable—than the prepackaged videos that were obviously scripted and pre-recorded prior to launching the course.
Depending on the ebb and flow of your week, you might consider posting your wrap-up video on Friday afternoon to give your students an extra nudge as they head into the weekend. For example, was this week’s discussion on the mark or were there a few difficult concepts that would benefit from further clarification? What were the major points covered? What expectations are students meeting? What expectations are they not yet meeting, but still have time to satisfy? And what questions have you been answering this week during office hours or over email? These are all great topics to address in a weekly wrap-up video.
Record intros and wrap-ups throughout the semester
Weekly introductions and wrap-up videos should be just-in-time recordings, and thus the easiest method to use is a simple webcam shot from your computer. You can also use a standalone camera or a cell phone, but use a stand to avoid shaking.
Courses change—several times—during the design process and you may not yet know what the final version of your course assignments and projects are going to look like. Recording weekly videos too early in the design process often leads to cutting out chunks of irrelevant information or project specifications which have since changed within your design. When this happens, the video appears disjointed and faculty often try to make up for this by typing the missing information directly above the video on the course website. This means students are looking in multiple places for project or course specifics, making the video ineffective and unnecessary.
Record instructional content prior to the semester
Unlike the weekly intros and wrap-ups, instructional videos are reused each time you teach the course, and so should have better production content than your weekly roundups. They can be in a variety of formats, including webcam, digital storytelling (narration over imagery), or animation, and will likely require multiple takes.
When recording instructional content, a best practice is to omit specific dates, references to major holiday breaks (i.e. “Fall Break”), or page and chapter numbers within your textbook (they may change with the next edition). Smith (2014) refers to this as “enduring vs. nonenduring content” (p. 58). By omitting nonenduring content from your videos, you can reuse your instructional content videos the next time you teach. It’s much easier to backspace over text than re-record a video!
Finally, many faculty avoid video because they know that they cannot create a video that is on-par with what they see on TV or at the movies. But students do not expect those standards from faculty. Today’s students are accustomed to watching low-production videos during their leisure time from amateur video bloggers or their friends on social media. If you do your best with the equipment you have, your video will be valued by students who appreciate your presence, your unique insight, and your supportive contributions to their learning.
Smith, Robin M. Conquering the content: A blueprint for online course design and development. John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
Sarah McCorkle is a second-year instructional technology doctoral student at Ohio University’s Patton College of Education.