Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. Hansen, Associate Dean (interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education
Video has become a staple of our everyday lives. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides an inside look at the best ways to use video in your online classroom.
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Dr. 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 Online Teaching Lounge. I’m Bethanie Hansen. And I’m wondering, have you thought about what might happen if you were able to answer your students’ questions in the online class, the very moment they needed your answer?
If you’re teaching an asynchronous class, this can be a big challenge. It’s been said though, that it’s better to be a “guide on the side than a sage on the stage,” to lead your students most effectively in their learning. In the blended asynchronous online course, when you guide students through that LMS content with a personal connection. This can be both challenging for you to take the time and make the quality that you might want, but also, it’s going to be a benefit for your students.
You might approach your teaching, creating lecture style videos that talk about the subject and teach in a more traditional style. But today, we’re going to talk all about the way you can use video to be a guide on the side all the time for your students. Because they’re going to access those videos, anytime of day, and in all kinds of places throughout your online course.
This is such a benefit to you because it builds trust with your students. It allows you to take moments when you’re not under pressure to record a brief narrative explanation or interaction and post it wherever you would like in that online classroom. Today, we’re going to talk about online video for your online course, and a few tips for you to help make quality videos and just get started. We’re going to also tailor this to something specifically you’re thinking about right now. And that class you teach the most.
Consider Videos as a Recorded Conversation
So, I’d like to propose, first of all, not creating lecture-style videos alone. Now if you want to do that, that’s a great thing to do. We all love to hear someone teaching versus just reading it. But these videos I’m talking about today are much more personable. It’s like you’re there in person having a conversation with your students. And this is going to have a lot of power, and a lot of purpose.
There’s some research out there that suggests that using your videos for welcome videos, lecture content, discussion questions, instructions for assignments, and extra help in the areas of the content where students might have questions or tough topics are covered, all of these things are good.
Creating Videos Can Help Students Learn More and Enjoy the Class
In some research that I reviewed, students gave some feedback on instructor videos and 78% of them said that it helped them better understand the material when their instructor was there on video explaining it. 86% of the students said it contributed to their satisfaction in the course, that’s a pretty high number. 92.7% even said it helped them understand more about their instructor and feel more connected. And 91.5% of the students said they wanted more instructor generated videos.
Now you might not fancy yourself a videographer or a person who wants to be on a lot of video. But trust me, your students don’t need you to be perfect or a polished professional media person or personality. They really just want you just like you would show up in the classroom, with your stories, your comments, your explanations. It can increase your students’ grades to have videos where you’re there, in your presence and also talking about the course; 3.2% increase in grades were measured in the study I looked at. And there was also a 5.8% increase in the comments that the instructor was an effective teacher. And who wouldn’t want to be a more effective teacher? So, this is a really helpful thing, video.
Consider Where Students Can Benefit Most from Your Videos
It’s going to bring a lot of positive things; it’s going to bring a lot of positive results for you and for your students. So again, I’m going to list all those places you might consider adding video. Welcome video, which could go in your announcements or on the course homepage. Your weekly lecture, which is the lesson area of the course.
In discussion questions, you could have your video in the prompt, or you could have it in your posts, there are a lot of options there. Instructions for assignments, that could be in whatever section you introduce the assignment, and it could also be in the announcements where you refer to the assignment. And, as needed for complex topics, which could be in all areas of your course.
Now I’m not suggesting you saturate the course. At first just try a few places and see what happens. We’re going to cover how to create explainer videos or interesting videos of various kinds.
There are some examples I can talk about, and then also how to consider where you might put those videos in your course. And what you’re going to look at to decide, are they working for you, are they getting you the results with your students that you’re hoping to see.
Try A Few Tips for Strong Video Creation
The first thing I’d like to suggest is what a video must be. And all of us come to this idea with different assumptions and different understandings. But a video can be short and concise, it does not have to be five or 10 minutes. In fact, we lose our students’ attention spans when we have our videos too long.
A good video is short and concise, and it describes something or tells what it is, what it isn’t and how to do it, or why it’s important. It can be simple or complex.
It can be on a variety of platforms. In fact, I saw a session at a recent conference, that was about making TikTok videos, that’s not something I’ve ever considered. I haven’t even been on the platform TikTok. But if you have, you can see why it might be interesting to students to have a short Tiktok video. You can use TechSmith, Snagit, or Camtasia, or Canva, or Kaltura. There are a lot of things you can use to make your video.
All you need is some kind of program on your computer with a camera, and a video capacity or a cell phone that records video and audio. And it can be with or without animation or captions or headings or graphics or whatever you’d like to include. Now, when you’re including a video in an online course, of course, we need to think about compliance for all kinds of learners. And captions are important to include. But the initial video recording software may or may not have captioning capacity; there are a lot of ways to get captions added after the fact. So don’t let that hold you back.
Try It Out for Your Own Course
Now I want you to think about one specific situation. Think about one assignment on which your students struggle the most in that class you teach the most often. When you think about this assignment, what’s the main objective? What are the typical challenges and problems?
What is needed most for students to do well on that assignment? Now, we’re not just talking about formatting or APA or MLA or Chicago citation style. What I’m talking about is, what do they need to be able to talk about, write about, demonstrate, show knowledge around? What is really needed from your students in that space? And what actions do students need to take to do a great job?
As you’re thinking about this, I’ll suggest three things you can do to get their attention, keep their attention and call them to act in some way. That first area, getting their attention. In the video, you’re going to think about what is most difficult for them?
In media, we call that pain points. What do they really struggle with? If they were to write a question in the question section of your class to you, what would they be telling you or asking you?
What do you notice when you’re grading their papers or their assignments? What typical problems do they face? And what might they miss, that maybe it’s even a pet peeve you have of that assignment or that topic? What is it that students routinely struggle with?
At the very beginning of your video, get their attention by talking about it. Let them know directly, just talk to them in a conversational manner. And let them know. An example might be something like this, “Hey, I’ve noticed a lot of my students writing great things about the music they’re listening to. And they’re not using the music terms we teach in our class. So, it’s a big problem on the essay due Friday, when you’re writing it, to not use the music terminology. That’s one of the areas we’re trying to master in this class. So, I’m going to coach you today on this short video to help you use music terms more appropriately in your writing.”
Now, that’s my way of getting their attention. What’s your way?
Think about that assignment you’re worried about, and discover what you can say to them to get their attention. And you want to do this in your own personality style. My personality, I like to be a little up and down with my dynamics, my volume and my energy. And I really like to get excited about things. You can be different than this. You could be more focused; you can be more serious. You can be more consistent across your tone and your dynamics. Whatever is normal for you in daily conversation, that’s what you should do to get their attention in the video. Don’t try to be someone else, or pretend to be someone you’re not. Be natural.
Secondly, keep their attention. One of the ways to keep their attention is to build trust and credibility with your students in the video. You do this by talking about specific details, mentioning specific things that you know, as an expert in that academic area. Tell them how you’re going to help them meet the goal in the video and what happens when students submit their work without watching the video, what the consequences are, if they’re not solving this problem. And that could be something like they’re gonna miss an important piece of learning that’s part of the class. They’re not going to be able to talk about the subject matter intelligently, they’re not going to be able to demonstrate the work they’ve put in, something like that.
And lastly, in your video, call them to action, tell them what they can do. Now that they’ve watched this video, tell them what to do next. Give them some specific action they can do right now on that assignment or that topic, or whatever it is you focused on. Give them some specific details of when to do it and how to do it. So, for example, if the assignment’s due on the weekend, you can tell them, “Even if you’re not doing the assignment right now, take five minutes to stop and write down your ideas in preparation for that assignment.” Give them some details to wrap up whatever it is you’re talking about, and a sense of urgency like now’s the time to put the effort in. To get that done.
I really encourage this framework of three pieces and three major details in your video. We don’t want to overwhelm students and we want to keep it short. Adapt your assignments to the needs of your unique learners. As you’re talking about it in that video, if it’s about an assignment, you can do that by chunking the content into specific topics.
And these might even be separate videos. In my case, maybe I’m going to make a short video about how to use music terminology in the video. And maybe I’m going to make another short video about how to format and turn in the assignment, and those can be separate.
You might also focus on the course objectives and learning objectives, and tie everything you’re talking about to why they need to do it; especially adult learners need to know why so they can engage properly and really value what you’re asking them to do.
In any video, use everyday language, I would suggest eighth grade language, avoiding jargon as much as possible, unless you have academic terms you’re focusing on. In that case, define your academic terms, and then use them regularly and refer back to them.
And one way to make a great video without having to read a script and sound really planned and not conversational, one way is to build a bubble map. Just write it out with a focus, some key points and a few details. This will help you avoid word for word reading on your videos and help you be a little more natural and sound like yourself. Your students will like that, and they’ll engage more, too.
Keep your videos short. I recommend either a one-minute video, a two-minute video, or on the longer side the five-to-seven-minute video. And you need some captions before you post it in your course. You can investigate your captioning possibilities in the program you decide to use. You can also look in the LMS; a lot of learning management systems now have caption possibilities when you upload a video. And you could also talk to your classroom support at your institution to ask for help.
And think about your background. Always have a clean background. If you can’t have a clean background, consider putting up a sheet or a green screen behind you. Or at the very least, you could just go into Zoom and use the blur setting and record your video right there with a blurry background.
Have some good lighting, where you have your face lit pretty well and excellent sound quality. Now you don’t have to go out and buy a new microphone, most cell phones have great sound quality. You want clean audio that doesn’t have noises going on in the background. If you have a family member that’s making dinner, that might not be the best time to make your video. If you have a barking dog, take the dog outside, whatever it takes to get those noises reduced. They’ll be able to hear your voice better on the video and the quality will improve a lot.
Now think about where you’re going to place the video, you could put them in the spot where your students most likely have challenges with their assignment. Think about those places they’re going to be when they’re studying, and when they’re in the middle of that work. As you’re thinking about where you want to put your videos, remember that students really do have places they most often visit in your course. And they need some help at certain places as well. What are the typical student gaps and learning patterns in your online class? And where do these emerge in the course content? This might be the best place to put your videos, whatever you’re going to focus on.
Now lastly, there’s some data you might want to use to determine whether your videos are useful. You could put the videos in any place you want to, and if there’s a way to measure click rates or the amount of content students have viewed, you’ll be able to know if students are actually consuming your video content or viewing your videos at all.
One thing you could look at for a general understanding of how students are consuming your videos would be end of course surveys. An end of course survey is not a direct measure, but students might write some comments about your videos to let you know whether they enjoyed them, whether they found them useful, and whether they liked them.
You can take a look at your average assignment grades from before you started using videos to after, you can also look at the average course grades your students are achieving to see if the content you’re posting is helping them to perform better in the course and on the assignments.
There is another metric that we use in our university called UFWI rates, and this will be drops, unsatisfactory grades earned, like D’s and F’s, withdrawals and incompletes. If you have that kind of data, you can take a look at before you started using the videos and then after, and do some comparisons.
You can of course also look at the percentage of the content viewed or completed. And you can send informal surveys to ask students, what are they getting out of these videos? Are they helpful? And do they have any suggestions for additional videos?
If you’re going to use an external video platform like Vimeo, there’s additional statistics outside your LMS that could be used. And then if there’s another way to measure the watch time, like if they actually watched the entire video, then you’ll know not only did you get their attention, but did you keep their attention long enough for them to watch the entire thing?
As I wrap up this podcast with you today, I just want to encourage you to view video as a personalized approach to talk like you’re having a conversation with individual students. Just use your natural speaking pattern and be yourself. If you make an error, finish the video and share it anyway. Students love to see you as a human being, not something perfect off a shelf. Try some public speaking tips for clear messages like getting their attention, speaking to pain points, keeping their attention by sharing trust and credibility in there. And also giving them some direct actions, they can take at the end of the video. Remember to avoid perfection, aim for basic bare minimum videos.
They don’t have to be stellar or incredibly perfect. B-minus level work on your part is enough. Students will love it and they’ll love seeing you in these videos.
And lastly, take a look at your own content and decide does it actually look and sound like you? Does it seem authentic and real? If the answer is yes, chances are your videos are going to be wonderful to use with your students. I hope you’ll try some of these strategies and give it a real good effort to add some video content throughout your courses. And also, just try short, relaxed, simple videos. They don’t have to be very sophisticated at all just you talking to your students with your real personality and your real presence showing up. I hope that you’ll enjoy doing that and look forward to hearing back from some of our listeners using the form at BethanieHansen.com/request to share how this is working for you. Best wishes 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 wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.