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3 Tips for Educators Getting Started With Video Lectures

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There are real benefits to asynchronous instruction with video. It is never a certainty that your live classroom performance of a lecture will go as planned, but a well-prepared, delivered lecture recording is a sure thing and amenable to incremental improvement. Lecture videos can be used in a “traditional” online class, letting you direct your energies toward more individualized interventions or facilitation of student discussion. They can also be used to flip a face-to-face classroom, freeing up class time for reinforcement of key concepts and applications of the newly acquired knowledge. Your suite of lecture videos can also be used by your colleagues, allowing you to guest lecture on topics of your expertise without requiring your physical presence.

Before firing up the camera, consider some advice that may provide helpful perspective to improve how your students experience your videos.

Know Yourself

You, the teacher, are the talent—the star of the show. As with your experience teaching face-to-face, you’ll teach most successfully as your genuine self. Don’t seek out accomplished teachers on video to imitate: Instead, look within to find the ignorant student you once were before you gained your expertise. What captured your imagination and inspired you to devote your life to your discipline? Can you rekindle that fire for another generation? Putting yourself out there on video may feel awkward and intimidating, but trust in your students’ earnest willingness to learn from you. After all, an unwilling student won’t bother watching the video.

Know Your Audience

Your students characteristically lack expertise in your discipline. Draw upon your teaching experience to recall moments when you saw light bulbs turn on. What analogies or examples work year after year? The hardest part of teaching asynchronously is the lack of audience feedback. You likely learned much of what you know about teaching from your first few classes at the start of your career, measuring trial and error on the faces of those students. It may help to imagine teaching to some of your favorite previous students and, if you need to, place a small toy near the camera to serve as a proxy student— the little fellow might even force a few smiles out of you. It may also help to have a non-expert review your first few videos before you can continue with confidence that you’re teaching to the right level.

Know Your Content

Seek opportunities to teach in ways made possible by asynchronous instruction. While you’re accustomed to teaching in a single long take, you have absolute flexibility to use any editing techniques in your lecture videos. For example, you might record your lecture in front of your favorite tree a few times during different seasons of the year and have the foliage blossom, peak, and decline in the background as you teach, if that lends to your content. The phone in your pocket most likely has a built-in, high-definition camera; use it opportunistically if you see something you could insert into your lecture videos. You don’t need to always be on camera in your home office. Take the students out into the field and teach them wherever it makes sense for your topic. Do get your face time in, though. It’s a good way to connect personally with your students, and I believe regularly showing your face results in more civil behavior in course forums and other public virtual spaces.

Finally, prepare your content deliberately. A general rule is to have your content broken down into topics specific enough that you can cover them well in fewer than 8 minutes. Many concise, focused videos are better than one very long video covering many topics. This is another advantage of asynchronous teaching: Your teaching pace is freed from the constraints of classroom scheduling.

Producing high-quality curricular video is a major time commitment. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Trust that you will iteratively refine your videos over time as you find value in your investment into them.

[This article appears in the November/December 2017 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "So You Want to Teach With Video."]

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