Arts Pedagogy Research and Innovation Laboratory

So You Want To Star In Your Own Instructional Video…

Well perhaps that is an overstatement. But maybe you have thought about whether it would be more efficient to record your own material than to seek out “just the right” third party content. With APRIL’s support, some Faculty of Arts instructors are recording their class lectures as part of their efforts to “flip” their classrooms. By posting their lectures online and having students view them from home, these instructors are freeing up class time for more active learning strategies: discussion, practice problems, case studies, project work, and student-led presentations.


It is important to point out that the technology of recording a video lecture is not an innovation that, in and of itself, improves teaching. Many factors will impact the effectiveness of online lectures for learning — especially how they are incorporated into overall instructional design. However, there is some helpful evidence emerging that can guide instructors and videographers in the creation of a good online lecture. One recent study used data from four MOOCs to analyze students’ viewing and engagement behaviour (Guo, Kim & Rubin, 2014). The proxies for “engagement” were how long the student watched the video, and whether s/he attempted practice problems or questions at the end of the video. Here’s what the study found:

  • Regardless of the length of the video, viewing peaked out at around six minutes. Videos under three minutes had the highest engagement rates.
  • Videos where the speaker was up close — a “talking head” type of video — were more engaging. The authors proposed that "a human face provide a more 'intimate and personal' feel….the student [feels] that the video is being directed right at them, rather than at an unnamed crowd.”
  • High quality production didn’t necessarily translate to higher engagement. In fact, study authors proposed that a bit of an amateur “feel” may be more engaging if it captures the lecturer up close and in a more natural posture — for example sitting at their desk.
  • The lecturer’s pacing was more engaging if it was on the faster side, likely because a slightly quicker delivery conveyed the lecturer’s own enthusiasm.

What does this mean for instructors? Simply that producing online content doesn’t have to be a big deal. It is okay to start small, with limited tools. Convert a powerpoint quickly with Screencast-o-matic. Or get out your digital camera and a tripod to try out Lodge McCammon’s FIZZ method to create a more personal presentation.


Keep in mind that you don’t have to replace your existing lectures. Try a short video to reinforce a key concept, or to enrich your existing material.

More Reading

Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement : An empirical study of MOOC videos. Retrieved from