January 19, 2023

5 Ways to Use 5-Minute Videos to Revolutionize Your Online Classroom

Note: This content is produced from sessions presented in Anthology’s Winter 2022 Digital Teaching Symposium.

Video Recording Basics

You don’t have to be a Hollywood star to revolutionize your online classroom with custom-recorded videos. As instructors, we strive to ensure students feel connected to us, their classmates, and the content of their online class. A unique way to accomplish this is by using short instructor- and student-led videos. With just a little bit of effort (and confidence) instructors can employ personally recorded videos in a variety of ways, and these videos will serve to both enhance curriculum and increase student engagement.

First, let’s put aside any performance anxiety you may have. The beauty of these videos is that they work best when they are authentic. This means they don’t have to be professional quality videos that are flawlessly “performed’ or look rehearsed. These should be informal videos that showcase personality and genuine caring for the class members. Just talk. This tactic is as much about creating relationships as it is about achieving course objectives. For a class that takes place in front of a monitor, making connections and allowing members to know each other as real people is invaluable. A stuffy and rehearsed video may come across as robotic and will be far less engaging than a conversational video that captures your character.

Second, don’t think that you need some fancy equipment and a professional soundstage to complete your recordings. For these purposes, recording tools built into your LMS (Panopto, Kaltura, etc.) or free tools such as Screencast-O-Matic or Screencastify will get the job done. As far as location, get creative! Speak from your office, your classroom, your living room, or maybe a spot that relates to the curriculum. Pick a place where you feel comfortable, and your viewers will feel comfortable too. Just make sure you have good lighting and you will be ready to go.

Now that you’re feeling a little more at ease, let’s take a look at five examples of how you can use videos to enhance the course experience. Then, in case you need a little more convincing, you can peruse feedback I have collected from students. No one says it better than they do.

Idea 1: Course Navigation Tutorials

Any instructional designer will tell you that ensuring students know how to navigate your course is the first step in creating a quality experience. What better way to do this than with a course navigation video? A simple five-minute screencast will not only enable students to find pertinent information but will also put them at ease with the design and expectations of your course. Every admissions team at a college or university begins by giving students a tour of the campus and classrooms. Your online classroom should be no different.

  • Tips:
    • Use a video recording tool that has the option to show the cursor on screen recordings. Seeing the cursor navigate the screen makes the videos much easier to follow.
  • Student Feedback:
    • “The organization of this course was amazing. From day 1, I was shown where the required materials were found. This automatically reduced some stress.”
    • “The instructor was great at initially teaching how online learning methods and the Blackboard® Learn classroom work.”

Idea 2: Instructor Video Announcements

In addition to posting a welcome announcement that introduces yourself to your students, weekly instructor announcements are a best practice in any online course. These weekly touch points are a great way to wrap up previous content, preview upcoming content, and relay any other pertinent course information. Using video to craft these announcements adds an extra layer of personality and engagement to your course. Online classes can make students feel disconnected. Recording a unique video for your classes every week reminds them that you are a real person who is truly invested in their progress.

  • Tips:
    • Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine. Bring your pets in for a guest appearance. Use props. Go outside. Being yourself is memorable, so above all else, be authentically you!
  • Student Feedback:
    • “The weekly video announcements made it more personable and more interactive which gave it more of a human touch.”
    • “I loved the weekly videos. For an asynchronous class, I found these especially important. It gave the class a personalized feel.”
    • “I think the videos were a great way to feel connected and stay informed. It was something I looked forward to seeing every week.”

Idea 3: Course Microlectures

Delivering content in varied ways is vital to a well-rounded online experience. One way to accomplish this is by recording microlectures. Designed to be about 5-7 minutes in length, microlectures chunk material into manageably sized pieces and become a source that students can use for both instruction and review. Microlectures are also an opportunity to give course content your own perspective and flair.

  • Tips:
    • Before class/module: Use microlectures to introduce material or share a relevant story.
    • After class/module: Use microlectures to reinforce concepts, answer common questions, or add additional/supplemental information.
    • For Review: Revisit past microlectures for content area reviews.
  • Student Feedback:
    • “My professor employed a tactic that I thought was really helpful. As we are a strictly asynchronous course, she posts weekly videos for us to aid in our understanding and is proactive in her approach.”

Idea 4: Video-Based Discussion Responses

Bring a new twist to a best practice. Instead of a written response to a discussion prompt, ask students to video record their thoughts. Not only does this bring interaction to another level, but pair it with written replies to class members and you have engaged multiple learning styles. Plus, giving students the opportunity to verbalize and casually discuss their ideas can make discussions even more engaging and boost the connectedness of course members.

  • Tips:
    • Whether you choose the recording tool built into your LMS or let students choose their own, be sure to give resources to aid with the process. For example, if your institution uses Panopto, record a video in your student view showing how to make the recording and how to submit it as an assignment.
    • Try video responses for assignments and journals too!
  • Student Feedback:
    • “The video discussions were helpful because saying the information out loud and listening back to myself speak helped me to remember the information.”
    • “I have never been a fan of replying to discussion posts, but I found it way easier to reply to the video posts. The answers feel much more personal, and you are able to see and feel the emotions of their words and thoughts.”
    • I liked the different learning options available — especially the different opportunities to complete discussion questions through video. I am an extremely slow and unfocused reader, and this option was very helpful.”

Idea 5: Video Feedback for Assignments

When feedback is limited to the written word, it can be difficult to properly convey our meaning and, unfortunately, our tone. Using video feedback not only gives us a chance to provide more detailed and personalized feedback, but also offers us the opportunity to give a much-needed pep talk or offer words of encouragement. The human touch can’t be underestimated, especially with a struggling student. When providing clear and effective feedback is challenging, consider a video. Spoken explanations can be impactful and a screencast delineating where an assignment went astray can be invaluable.

  • Tips:
    • Depending on your LMS, you might have the option to record video feedback directly from the grading panel. Using another recording tool and uploading an MP4 works great too.
    • Some video feedback options that are built into LMSs do not have an option for closed captions. If you need accessibility features and your tool is inaccessible, consider using an outside tool like Screencast-o-Matic and uploading the MP4 to the feedback box instead. Don’t sacrifice accessibility.
  • Student Feedback:
    • “The video feedback I received for assignments that I completed was the most helpful feedback that I received in any class throughout the entire semester.”
    • “The [video feedback] was very nice to have since the course was completely online and it helped make it feel more personal.”
    • “I loved the video feedback from my professor as we got to see her personality come out and not just words written online. She was able to explain things which was super helpful.”

Final Thoughts

Have fun and be creative, but don’t feel like you need to put on a show. Giving students the opportunity to see the real you far outweighs any elaborate production. At the end of the day, we want our students to remember and engage with the material, and nothing is more memorable or engaging than being authentically yourself.

Julianna Woite

Julianna Woite

Instructional Designer
D’Youville University

An instructional designer at D’Youville University, Woite has always been passionate about designing engaging and pedagogically sound online classes. She specializes in helping instructors create an engaging online presence and is a strong advocate for the use of humor and pop culture, both online and in traditional on-ground classes. Woite, who has over fifteen years of online teaching and course designing experience, also serves Medaille University as an adjunct faculty member in the MSED program.