After you have identified the appropriate use of video for your course or lesson, define the scope of the content. Defining scope is important in terms of providing your students relevant and connected content that is not too granular or wide in terms of scope, otherwise students will have difficulty building a mental model and connecting content.
Be clear and explicit regarding the goal for a video, and eliminate tangential or digressive information that doesn't contribute to that goal. Identify follow up questions or activities for students to answer so that you can assess their understanding of the material.
Besides being brief, working memory has a very limited capacity. It can hold about “7 plus or minus 2” chunks of information (Miller, 1956). Likewise, even the most engaging video content is a largely passive processing experience for the viewer, and over time their attention may wane. Therefore, rather than presenting a continuous unit, chunk the complex lesson into smaller, more manageable segments (3-5 minutes long) that focus on a single objective and which are presented one at a time (Clark & Mayer, 2011). This will help your learners maintain their attention on the topic as well as process it more effectively in their working memory.
Segmenting a complex topic or lesson into more manageable and consumable chunks also provides the perfect opportunity to engage your students with questions that check their comprehension and reinforce their memory. Lastly, make sure the sequence within a video and between videos is logical and well connected so that students build an accurate mental model of the topic.
Chunking has several advantages:
- Allows the learner to engage in essential processing without overloading the learner’s cognitive system (Clark & Mayer, 2011).
- It makes videos easier to navigate.
- It provides natural breaks to introduce interactive assessment or review.
- It makes it easier to utilize your content in other courses where subjects overlap.
Remember that one of the key strengths of an online video is the ease with which students can re-watch it to concentrate on areas where they are having difficulty. Burying specific content inside of lengthy, multi-subject videos undermines that use.
Keeping videos visual seems intuitive, but it is a good deal more work than many people initially account for. Slides may be simple, containing only bullet points from the text of the lecture. Even when they contain more detailed imagery, they are often static. A single slide may remain on screen for several minutes or more.
The video format strongly highlights this lack of visual information in a way that in-person lecturing often does not. It’s important to think through your content and determine ways that you can illustrate your concepts consistently and actively. Choose only imagery that is relevant and not extraneous to the instructional material. Even simple measures, such as dividing a lengthy text slide into pieces or building out a complex diagram element by element, can improve your students’ engagement with video content.
Natural speech contains a large number of hesitations, pauses, and stutters. Editing out these errors after the fact is time-consuming and tedious. Heavily scripted speech is much cleaner, but unless you are an experienced actor, it can come across as cold or stiff. Some hesitation is fine, but the best solution, whether working for a full script or merely from an outline of your content, is to practice the material before you record. A little extra rehearsal--even for material with which you’re already familiar--can go a long way towards keeping your content engaging.
Recording in isolation is a very different process than teaching in the classroom. You’ll want to speak clearly and loudly and maintain a professional appearance. One major difference is that you won’t receive feedback from your students as you present, and this can be difficult. Be sure to maintain your energy and enthusiasm.
For all intents and purposes, the camera is your student. Speaking to a lens rather than an actual, attentive person is a major adjustment, and though it will get better with time, when you begin try to imagine that you are speaking to someone. It may be helpful to bring someone to the recording session to act as an audience, but remember that viewers are extremely sensitive to the position of your eyes, and if you are looking to someone off-camera instead of them, they will quickly notice.
Take a moment to listen to your environment. Background noise can be an annoyance and distracter in the video. Avoid external noise such as people talking, rattling keys, ringing cell phones, papers rattling near microphones and doors opening and closing.
Pacing for video content will also be different from your classroom experiences. Speak naturally and conversationally but not too quickly. Remember, students need to process your voice and on-screen visuals. There will be fewer questions, fewer digressions, and generally more focus. Don’t be concerned if material that has traditionally taken you a full hour to cover in person runs much shorter in a video. It is better if the video is shorter, more focused, and concise. However, keep in mind that the very elements you’re missing--feedback, questions, discussion and assessment--will need to be recreated or reimagined, either in person or with other technologies. Address common questions students normally ask in class or common misconceptions within the script of your video. Conversely, don’t allow the uninterrupted pace of the video content distract you from spending the appropriate time on especially difficult concepts.
Clark, R., & Mayer, R. (2011). E-learning and the science of instruction. (3 ed.). San Fransico: Pfeiffer. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books/feeds/volumes?q=978-0-470-87430-1
Mayer, R. E. (Ed). (2005). Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Miller, G. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. The psychological review, 63, 81-97.
Moreno, R. & Mayer, R.E. (2002). Verbal redundancy in multimedia learning: When reading helps listening. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94 (1), 156-163.