Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. Hansen, Associate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education
In this week’s episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses best practices and quick tips for adding video or other multimedia assets to the online classroom to enhance student learning.
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Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.
Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining me today. We’re going to be talking about seven tips to use video and multimedia in your online teaching. I love this topic because anything that includes multimedia or video makes that whole class so much more engaging for your students.
These seven tips I’m going to give you today will be:
- Personalize it.
- Make it evergreen.
- Keep it short.
- Focus on one topic or concept in each asset.
- Show what to do.
- Make it accessible.
- Streamline your process.
Now before I dive into these seven quick tips, I’d like to define one word that I’m going to use a lot today. And that is the word asset. An asset is anything that you’re going to include in your online teaching that could be a chunk of information or a resource. So, an asset could be a small video segment, it could be a PDF, it could be a worksheet. It could be a tool, an interactive element, any of those sorts of things. An asset is that individual piece.
And the first tip I’d like to share with you today is to personalize it. Your students are looking for your presence throughout that class, and they really want to know you. They want to know who’s teaching them. They want to trust you. And they want to feel like they’re part of your class. So, if you personalize your assets, it’s wonderful to see you in those.
If it’s a video, record yourself. Don’t worry about perfection. It doesn’t have to be overly professional and perfect. Keep it conversational and friendly.
If you’re on camera, make your appearance inviting and think about your background. For example, if your office is in your bedroom, don’t film yourself in front of a messy, unmade bed with laundry everywhere. Check the background and clean it up. You could always use Zoom with a fuzzy background and that’s going to make it all better.
And, of course, when you’re being filmed or when you’re on video or audio, speak clearly, use simple language. If you use any jargon, idioms or acronyms, be sure to explain those.
Use good lighting and a microphone that produces high quality audio and limit distractions. Now a lot of devices you might use today already do these things. Even a good smartphone will give you great audio for something like a video. So, consider that it doesn’t have to be super expensive, and you don’t have to run out and buy the latest Blue Yeti microphone. But you can try to improve these over time, if you do want to upgrade your audio or your video.
If it’s a screencast, include your image on screen as you’re narrating or talking to your students, or your narrated voice at least to guide your students. And if you include your own thoughts and opinions on the topic that you’re teaching about, make it clear what is part of the curriculum, and what is part of your own thinking. This is especially important to make it obvious when students need to think for themselves about a topic and also when students need to think for themselves on a topic, and when they also need to be able to critically think so they can differentiate between what’s just your opinion and what is really essential.
Make it Evergreen.
This word evergreen just means what it sounds like. It needs to last. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making a video that you want to include as part of your lesson content. Unless it’s a weekly announcement you’re only going to use once, don’t talk about today’s date, or the time of year. Create it in a way that allows you to reuse it the next time you teach this class. This will save you time and effort.
Be sure to include whatever details and context you need to keep it relevant in the upcoming sections of the class so that even if you change out another part of the course, that content is standalone and is complete.
Provide transcripts and captions. When you’re making a video, you want to include this as part of your process so you avoid having to do more work and add it later.
There are a lot of tools out there and services that provide fairly accurate captions. Now, you can get these in zoom Kaltura on YouTube and a lot of other tools. You’ll want to check the transcripting or the captioning to do some minor editing, though, because it’s not always perfect. And we would hate for students to completely misunderstand just because we didn’t check those captions and clean them up.
Keep it Short.
Keep it short, especially if you’re creating something on video, five to seven minutes total per segment is the maximum. Some people out there will tell you go ahead and make a video up to 10 minutes long. That really is pushing the envelope here for a student’s attention span. It’s easy to update and revise a chunk of video later. If you keep the segments five to seven minutes or fewer.
You can also maintain your students’ attention better, and you give them time to process the information from one piece of content to the next. This is a really good thing when you have working adults in your class. If you have short five-to-seven-minute segments, they can watch one video on their lunch break, they can fit another video in on their afternoon break.
Whatever it is, they’re going to be able to get through this content better when it’s in smaller segments. And they’ll be able to learn the content that way. So, think about student attention span and also that maximum time per segment.
Focus on One Topic or Concept in Each Asset.
If you put just one topic or concept in each asset, this gives your students better choice as to where they want to start. They can pick and choose from the assets you give them. And they can go in an order that makes sense to them. It also gives them the chance to view in smaller bits of time, as I previously mentioned, like a lunch break or an afternoon break whatever they have available.
And, of course, it’s going to be more comprehensible when it’s just one topic or one concept. If you really need to give your students an overview of how those concepts fit together, that could be its own asset, its own standalone piece that sort of weaves the elements together. So, think about how you can chunk the content and break it down into these different assets you might create.
Show What to Do.
Show what to do, both as content and as introduction to any multimedia that you’re going to use. You can share your screen, there is a lot of screen casting software out there that makes this a lot easier. Screencastify.com is just one of many. I like to use Kaltura. But you might have your own favorite.
Keep slides light and limit the text. If you have a PowerPoint or a slide deck of any kind, here are a few tips to make it even better, so you can show what to do in a way that makes it simple and comprehensible for your students:
- Use high contrast between colors on any slides.
- Keep the font easy to read with simple fonts that have consistent thickness all throughout the lettering.
- Make the text big enough to easily read.
- If you include any motion and animation that is necessary for your topic, explain it and use it. But if it’s unnecessary for actually understanding the content, just avoid it.
- Fancy slide transitions are not helpful.
- Include images, graphics, illustrations or animations with descriptions for accessibility.
Learn how to make your PowerPoint presentations accessible using these practices as you build out the slides. Be sure to check out the transcript of this podcast, because I have a lot of links to websites that are going to help you improve your accessibility in presentations and other types of media you’re going to include.
Make it Accessible.
If you develop a solution that meets the needs of all users with and without disabilities, then you’re doing something we call Universal Design. And creating accessible assets as part of your process is a great way to go. There are a lot of tools available online to help you with this.
There’s a website called Section508.gov, which is a great place to start. If you’re using documents, PDFs, presentations and spreadsheets, there are a lot of tips, tools and strategies available to guide you online.
If you have images as part of your assets, check the alternative text decision tree. It’s available at W3.org. And it helps you to understand what kind of alternative text you might need for decorative images, functional images and informative images. Always think about this when you’re including some kind of picture or drawing or something like that to illustrate in your classroom.
Now if you’re using diagrams, think about how that content can be a screen reader friendly. This can be something we overlook, and we need to pay attention to it when we include interactive or media elements. I’ve got a great example from a website linked in the transcript notes from this podcast, so check it out.
And in video or interactive media, if you have any text displayed in the video, and if it’s necessary to understand the video, be sure to describe that text for those who are visually impaired and also used captions and transcripts to support learners.
Lastly, there are a lot of tools online that will help you test your videos and media assets for accessibility. I’ve got a link to one of those resources in the podcast transcript. So, take a look.
Streamline Your Process.
Whenever you’re creating videos, audio content slides, or any kind of interactive media, keep track of your process. Make it a system that you can easily repeat and find ways to accomplish many of those steps at one time.
One example of this might be to have video options that automatically provide captions. Or you could just write a script for yourself upfront and use that script to record the video. It could even be an outline that you flesh out afterwards.
When you streamline and simplify the process you’re using, you make it a lot easier to do this in the future. And if it’s too complicated and takes too much time, you’re not going to want to repeat it. But adding these kinds of elements into your online classroom enriches the learning experience for everyone. And students really enjoy seeing and understanding the content better when you illustrate it, you show a video about it, you explain it in audio, and all of that. It’s worth doing even though you want to take the extra steps that it does take to make it accessible for everyone.
And then once you’ve got a process that works for you, consider sharing what you’re doing at a professional conference. Like you could propose it at the Online Learning Consortium’s OLCInnovate conference in the spring, it’s held every year. And it’s a great place to share ideas for doing multimedia video, and other interesting practices in our online teaching.
They have a lot of opportunity to share things that you’re doing to enhance accessibility for all learners as well. So, if you’re branching out in these areas, and you’re really working on that, that’s something you could share that the Innovate conference also. And then, of course, OLC has a fall conference called OLC Accelerate, which is another great place to propose your sharing and share your strategies with other people.
Thanks for being here today to listen on the seven tips for helping you include videos and multimedia in the online classroom. We have a few other episodes on video and multimedia, which are linked right here in the transcript. So, take a look at the transcript notes. And you’ll find links out to those other episodes just in case you want a deep dive on video creation or multimedia assets further.
- #47: Tips for Adding Audio, Video, and Multimedia to the Online Classroom
- #39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online
- #24: How to Make Videos for Your Online Class
Until then, thanks for being here. And I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.
This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best switches this coming week in your online teaching journey.
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