Brief, Imperfect Videos

Brief videos are the most underutilized humanizing element in online courses. Have a smartphone? That's all you need to get started.  I don't believe videos need to be perfect. Instead, they need to be meaningful and make relevant connections for learners. Video is also an exceptional medium for easing anxieties, building trust, and supporting your students' learner variability.


Fabiola Torres uses video postcards to take her students places and let them know she's thinking of them when she is away.

In this video, Denise Maduli-Williams demonstrates use of the iOS mobile app, Clips, to send her students some mid-week motivation.

This is from my Let's Get Real series. I sprinkle these videos throughout my course modules to convey learning strategies and my teaching philosophy.

Amy Merkel demonstrates using Adobe Spark to introduce herself.

Matt Mooney provides an example of a bumper video used at the start of a module to clarify a sticky topic. Made with Adobe Spark.

Michelle Macfarlane demonstrates the use of storytelling  with Adobe Spark.

More Tips

  1. Have a plan before you record. Videos should be brief. Before you click record, take time to identify your topic and key points. Make some notes for yourself if it's helpful. This will get easier with practice, I promise!
  2. Be sustainable. Ideally, you don't want to have to re-record every video every term, right? So, plan for longevity. Avoid referencing information that is likely to change. For example, don't include phrases like "next week we will," "I've been teaching here for __ years," or "welcome to fall semester." While these details are valuable, include them in a written introduction just above the video on your course page. This way, you can easily update the written information without re-recording.
  3. Don't be a robot. If you are having a bad hair day or say "um" too many times, that's ok! Your students want the real you.
  4. Share selectively. While we are emphasizing the importance of sharing the real you, each of us needs to be cautious about oversharing. Be cognizant about your background. Don't show information that allows viewers to know where you live, for example (like street signs or house addresses).
  5. Think beyond "lecture." Expand your use of video by recording guest lecturers or coordinating conversations with subject matter experts, telling stories that connect your curriculum to real life, and brief 2-3 minute introductions to new modules/topics.
  6. There's more to video than a talking head. Invest in a screencasting tool (like Camtasia or Screenflow or get started with a free tool like Screencast-o-matic). Sign up for a free Adobe Spark or Animoto Classroom account and get creative!
  7. Sharing is caring. Create a YouTube channel and share your videos with a Creative Commons license. You will be making a valuable contribution to teaching and learning.
  8. Need a more tips? I highly recommend Karen Costa's book, 99 Tips for Creating Simple and Sustainable Educational Videos.