Creating Instructional Videos: Why? How?

With "flipped learning" and, more recently "blended learning" being the buzz phrases in the education world, it occurs to me that a major component of these types of instruction is having the capacity to create an instructional video. Making a video has become easier with the influx of built-in video apps and extensions for phones, tablets, and computers. But before I get into the nuts and bolts of how to create a video, the more important question to address is "Why?".

I can think of four solid purposes for creating an instructional video:

1. Flipped Learning Projects

What is a flipped class? from Faculty Innovation Center on Vimeo.

Flipped learning is a series of instructional videos designed for students to watch at home, with the expectation that students bring what they learn with them to collaborate, have discussions, and create with the newly learned information. Before considering this idea, make sure that you understand your students' capability to have home access to the videos that are made. If access is limited or non existent, you must commit to creating opportunities before or after school for students to watch these videos. With this type of learning, the classroom space becomes a space for creation and collaboration, with extra time for teachers to give one on one instruction and create opportunities for differentiation.

2. Introductions/Directions/Demonstrations

Within the class time, recording yourself introducing a new unit or set of directions could be a great way to eliminate repetitions. Students miss school days frequently, so "what did I miss?" is a common question that takes time away from your class. You can create a consistent system within your class where your students will have firsthand information about the work done that day, accessible 24/7. Wouldn't it be great if students had an easy way to get caught up without having to wait until they returned to class?

3. Contributing to the World

As most people do, I go to YouTube to see if their is a video about a particular topic. One of three things happen after this search. I either find the video that I want, I find a video that is similar to what I want and not quite right, or I don't find anything at all. In those moments where the perfect video is already there, it doesn't make sense to make another one. However, when the perfect video doesn't exist, that is the perfect opportunity to contribute something meaningful to the global community. Who knows? It may even go viral! Regardless of whether a hundred people or a million people see it, the point is to contribute. The world is a better place when we all contribute and help each other.

4. Modeling for Students 

It's time for another buzz phrase: Student Centered. If none of the other purposes are pulling at your heart strings, this one is the most likely to get you excited about video creation. It comes down to this: This is a skill that students need in today's digital world. Who better to teach them how than us? Creating a positive model for students can have enormous benefits, not only short term, but also in the long term. In a student centered model, giving students a skill like this will allow their voice to speak in ways they could never dream.

Best Practice for Creating a Video

So, now that we have the reasons down, let's get into the nuts and bolts of how to make one.

The first step in this process is to identify the right method of filming for your purpose. There are several ways to go about filming:

  • You in front of a webcam. (simple directions)
  • A video of your computer screen (presentations and technical directions)
  • Filming a set up demonstration (for a lab, cooking, or any other type of demo)
  • A mixture of any or all of the three (broadcast, episodic format)
Expensive equipment is nice, but not necessary for any of these filming styles. 

So now that you have determined the method of filming, the second step is to select a tool for filming. I am going to recommend easy and free ways to film these videos. If you want to film yourself or your computer screen, the free tool that I would use is called Screencastify (honorable mention: Nimbus). 

The Screencastify google chrome extension allows you to record your webcam, your screen, or both in your chrome browser. Best of all, when you finish recording, it automatically saves into your google drive, which you can then rename, organize, and share however you wish.

For a video demo, you will want to either have a camera person to hold the camera (smartphone, tablet, actual video camera) or use a tripod to keep the camera very still and at the proper angle. If you are using your computer for screenshot videos and another device for a demo, you will also need to edit the footage from each together. There are a few free video editing programs out there, including iMovie for iOS, WeVideo for ChromeOS (limited to a 5 minute video in free version), and VSDC Free Video Editor for PC just to name a few.   

Once you create and edit your video, how will students see it? Determining an easily accessible delivery system is important for making sure your video is useful. There are several ways of delivering material to them. You could upload it to your YouTube channel, upload it to your Learning Management System (Google Classroom, Schoology, etc.), upload it to an approved social media account, or embed it in a class blog or website.

The last step is to figure out all of your setup ahead of time. If you are doing a screencast, make sure no personal information is visible on the screen. You should also close down any extra tabs or just record one tab so that the rest of your desktop is not seen. In order to save time when recording your videos, practice what you will say or right down a script if your face will not be on camera. If you are doing a demo, walk through the steps until you feel comfortable. A well rehearsed video always sounds and looks better.

In the end, what matters is that the students get the information they need in a clear and concise way. 

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