online class

Recording Video Lectures

Whether delivering course content live, in synchronous, online classrooms, or in asynchronous, pre-recorded video lectures, instructor presence in video-based communication is important for engaging students, creating a community of inquiry for learning optimization, simulating a “real” learning experience, and providing an authentic personal connection between the instructor and their students.

Types of pre-recorded videos

  1. Lectures – you are talking directly to your viewers, speaking directly to the webcam or using voice-over as you present slides or other content.
  2. Tutorials – the video teaches students how something works. For example, how to use software, an orientation to Canvas, how to do online research, etc.
  3. Demonstrations – step-by-step guides and processes to complete a task or use a particular method. This can also be called modeling. For example, how to read a research article, note-taking practices, or applying a concept to a problem.

Voice-over videos

Kathryn Linder explains that voice-over videos such as a brief, pre-recorded video demonstration, can “benefit both visual and auditory learners” (2017). Flower Darby advises us to use a conversational tone and not just read from notes or slides (2019). Below is a compilation of steps to creating your own voice-over video lectures:

  • Be evergreen – try to make videos that stand the test of time, and can be re-used from class to class, or semester to semester. Don’t reference dates or class-specific information (“this is for the test next Thursday” or “this supplements last week’s lecture”).
  • Be accessible – create closed-captions, transcripts, and use images and visual effects wisely. That is, don’t use an image because it looks cool, use an image that conveys a course concept or enhances a teaching point. (Pro-tip! Google Slides will auto-caption your presentations when you present using Google Chrome Browser)
  • Be aware of cognitive load – don’t overwhelm students with too much information/content in one video, or that pulls the viewer’s attention in multiple directions (such as voice-over narration with heavily text-based slides and too many competing images – see Sangeeta Parashar and Toni Pole’s research and presentation, or this summary of Powerpoint best practices).

Planning and structuring your video

  1. Establish the learning objectives and specific purpose of your video. What do you want students to know or be able to understand after viewing your video? Begin with clear objectives.
  2. Create an outline or script – know exactly what you are going to say, have ready any visuals, slides, websites, or other features you want to show students as your viewers.
  3. Record using Panopto, Zoom, VoiceThread, or Screencast-O-Matic,
  4. Keep it short – most best practices for online video lectures recommend no longer than 10 minutes for each video. (Pro-tip! Shorter videos make re-recording easier. Most of us need to do several run-throughs/takes before we get a version we like!)
  5. Use active learning techniques – what will students do with this information? Should they take notes, write a response or reflection (with prompts)? Can you give them a companion worksheet to complete? Use a guiding activity to keep students active and engaged, rather than just passive listeners.
  6. Try for your best video and audio quality – a steady camera, clear audio, good lighting, don’t have a distracting background, etc.
  7. Have supplemental resources – a companion reading, a relevant website or online resource, or images that illustrate the session’s content, to contextualize the content and be more engaging for students.
  8. Assess – a short quiz, reflective discussion post, short paragraph writing response, or a problem set will help you assess understanding of the content and reinforce learning. This also gives students motivation to watch the video, and keeps them accountable to the content and stay up-to-date. (Pro-tip! Recording tools like Panopto or VoiceThread allow you to embed quizzes or threaded comments to your videos, which can be used to assess (possibly grade) understanding).

Videos with slides or Powerpoints

Richard Mayer’s research on effective multimedia presentations presents 12 principles of good design for deeper student learning (2001). Below we highlight a couple simple points on how to apply these principles when doing a narrated pre-recorded lecture that uses slides.

  1. Intentional slide design – consider cognitive load when revising or writing your slide presentation. Pair your narration with relevant images that elevate the concept or point, leave out all extraneous text or media that does not teach something. Slides should not be just a series of lecture notes or detailed talking points; instead, use slide headlines that accentuate the point of the slide (think, a newspaper headline) asserting factual information to take away.
  2. But students use my slides for notes! – “Learning during the presentation is a different learning experience than self-paced reading” (Smith). If students can just learn the material by reading your slides, then why present it? Lectures should be interactive and dynamic, even pre-recorded lectures. Your voice, inflection, descriptions, discussion, and such, on recorded lectures, paired with intentional images or media, will lead to better learning than just reading from notes.
  3. Accessibility –
    1. Simple layouts and design
    2. No extraneous text or images
    3. Logical flow and structure
    4. Fonts larger than 14pt, sans serif (like Verdana)
    5. Sufficient contrast of background and foreground (text and images)
    6. Ample white space
    7. Use the Accessibility Checker in Powerpoint to check for other design adjustments.
    8. For more on Accessibility with powerpoints, see the resources available at the Digital Accessibility Initiative, including documentation and video.
  4. Use the same principles of good video recording design as outlined above in Planning and Structuring Your Video.

Best Practices Examples from Michael Wesch



Darby, F. and J. Lang (2019). Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes. San Francisco, CA: Wiley & Sons.

Linder, K. (2017). The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide. Sterling, VA: Jossey-Bass.

Smith, G. “Research-based PowerPoint design … are you using best practice?” Office for Medical Educator Development, University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Web. Accessed June 2, 2020.

07.20.22 EJI