My Five Top Tips for Creating Video Lessons

Now that the new school year is here many of us will be creating video lessons to complement our live instruction. I’ve been making video lessons for students for years and I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. Here are my top tips for creating effective video lessons.

Keep it short and sweet.

Two five minute videos are better than one ten minute video. Even though it’s the same amount of time, watching two five minute videos seems like less of a chore to students than sitting through one ten minute video. Additionally, by breaking it up into smaller chunks you give your students the chance to think about what they’ve watched or complete a short practice activity before watching the next video lesson.

Speaking of breaking up long videos, last week Screencastify launched a beta of a new video editor (disclosure, they’re currently an advertiser on my website). In addition to the standard tools for cutting and splicing video segments, it has new tools for editing the audio in your video, updated cropping and zooming tools, and a cool tool for blurring objects or people in your video. I made a demo of those tools and you can see it here. The new version will be available to everyone in a few weeks. Sign up here to be notified of when the new version is ready.

Include Highlights, Drawings, or Annotations.

Watch any of my screencast videos and you’ll notice that I have my mouse pointer highlighted to make it easier for viewers to see where I’m clicking. When I’m creating video lessons for computer science students I’ll also zoom in and highlight or circle the line of code that I’m editing.

I also like to use text annotations to remind viewers of what they’re looking at. For example, when making a video about Google Classroom I’ll overlay an annotation that reads “teacher view” or “student view.”

When I taught U.S. History I would use drawing tools to circle or draw arrows pointing to places on a map in my video lessons.

Any good screencasting tool should include options for highlighting your mouse pointer, drawing on your screen, and adding annotations. Screencastify is the tool that I use to do all of that in my web browser.

Turn on, elevate, and look at your webcam.

Even if it’s subconsciously, students want to see your face and know that you’re there. Turning on your camera, even when making a screencast video, can improve the chances that your students will watch your video and pay attention to it. Put your camera at eye level or slightly higher. Doing this makes it easier to make eye contact with your camera which makes for a far better viewing experience than looking up your nose. A better viewing experience is going to increase the odds of students watching your video all the way through to the end.

Create a Call to Action

This seems simple but a lot of people overlook it. Ask students to do something either during the video or immediately after viewing your video. Your call to action could be in the form of a few multiple choice questions that are built into the video. Another call to action could be a prompt for students to try the problem solving method you explained in your video. The point is, you don’t want students to be passive viewers of your video lesson.

The latest update to Screencastify’s video editor includes the option to add multiple choice questions directly into the timeline of your video known as Interactive Questions. Here’s a demo of how it works.

Make it accessible.

Thanks to the influence of my friend Dr. Beth Holland, in the last few years I’ve been more conscious of trying to make instructional materials as accessible as possible to all students. This means making sure materials are accessible on a variety of devices and it means making sure that my videos are captioned.

Fortunately, when you distribute a video lesson via YouTube captioning and resizing are done for you. If you use something other than YouTube, you can still have automatic captioning done for you in Chrome. Here’s a demo of how I created captions for a video that wasn’t hosted on YouTube.

Bonus Tip: Analytics!

After you’ve made a video lesson you’ll want to know if students are actually watching it. If your video is on YouTube or Vimeo you’ll have view counts to look at. If you use a service like Screencastify’s view page, you’ll have view counts without having to upload your videos to YouTube or Vimeo.