Covid19 has drastically changed how educators lead and interact with students. Teachers are now being forced to embrace an online delivery format for their courses,. However, providing a quality online experience is much more than simply transferring your classroom content to an online format. It’s about transforming the entire educational experience. Simply put, moving the content and lecture portions to an electronic delivery isn’t enough. What this leads to is a disembodied approach, talking over slide after slide of bulleted information, and leaving little in the way of engaging activities and feedback.
Here are some tips for creating a better online learning experience:
Tip 1: Invest in Audio
You thought I would say video, didn’t you? Nope! One lesson that has stuck with me over the years is that the resolution of the video, whether its 4K, 1080p, 720p, etc. only matters insofar as people can read the text and follow along.
Take the time to invest in and learn about getting good audio for your videos:
Ideally, you want to avoid things like echo, your voice sounding “tinny”, any static or fuzz (wireless mics, I’m looking at you), background noise and heavy breathing.
A large majority of students wear headphones, so be sure to consume and quality test your audio wearing headphones, because you will hear things you won’t hear on open air speakers.
Tip 2: Configure Your (Software) Environment
As someone who creates a lot of coding videos, the small font sizes can be a big problem for many students. If you are using application software, be sure to increase the font sizes so viewers can easily read the content. Personally, I use 16 to 20-point font sizes in videos.
Also, be sure to do the following when recording your screen:
If you are comfortable with your operating system, it can be convenient to create a second user account on your machine that has settings configured for recording. If that is not an option, make a check list so you’re always ready to go!
Tip 3: Learn to Do Post-Production on Screen Captures
Whether you are using a program like Camtasia (my personal favorite) or Screen Flow Pro (Mac), be sure to take the time to do some basic post-production tasks on your video.
Here are a few things you can do to really help your students:
You will find that appropriate use of the above features will greatly increase engagement and the perceived quality of your videos.
Tip 4: Script It, but Don’t Read It
Making a script for a video is a helpful exercise. However, you shouldn’t read the script when you’re recording. Use it as a guideline, but add your own color/ad lib. Let your personality shine through! Show your sense of humor, add interesting stories and examples from your own experiences and try to convey a sense of excitement about the material.
It is obvious to the listener when untrained educators read from scripts. It takes practice to become skilled at delivering content, and it will require many sessions before you get into he right rhythm. The average viewer would rather listen to a natural speaker, even if you miss a minor point or two during the delivery, than hear someone obviously reading from a script and giving a dry delivery.
…but what about those minor points? That brings us to our next tip.
Tip 5: Add Written Content and Reflection Exercises
Video content simply is not enough. There are many different learning styles out there. Too many online courses consist of authors speaking over PowerPoint slides and simply providing those slides to the learners. This is rarely enough to truly educate the listener. In general, videos should be used to introduce content, provide high-level overviews and demonstrate techniques. Written content should dive into the details, provide concrete examples and opportunities for reflection exercises.
Reflection is a key part of the learning process. Students should be encouraged to examine what they learned in the context of what they already know and reflect on ways they can apply this new knowledge to their goals. It also is a great checkpoint for an instructor to see whether the learner can reflect back the information in their own words or if they are parroting the information back (usually a sign of not understanding the learning objective.)
Tip 6: Chunking Content
In online learning, people rarely have the stamina to go hours at a time. Especially, when it comes to passive activities like watching videos. In general, try to keep your videos in the seven to ten minute range and for longer content blocks, break up the videos with exercises or written content so the learner isn’t staring down the chasm of watching two straight hours of talking head. Finding the right mix of content types and pacing is an art and requires getting feedback from the student population.
Tip 7: Eliminate the Cruft
Videos are typically not a place for asides. You need to be hyper-focused on what the learning goal of the video is and ruthlessly prune any content that is not directly related to that goal. That means removing any “nice-to-know” information or content that lead to tangents. If you want to go on a tangent, provide some additional, supplemental content that is separate from the lesson and clearly mark it as supplemental.