Making your (educational) videos better

Red River College was kind of to invite us to a professional development session on the topic if improving your educational videos. There were 5 takeaway points that are worth remembering before you start recording.

Delivering classes remotely, instructors need to provide students with activities and materials to work through on their own that furthers the live class and helps students to achieve the learning outcomes. That additional material can take many forms: discussion boards, textbook reading, online articles, or videos (your own or from outside sources).

In making your own videos, keep these rules in mind:

  1. Plan
    • take the time to think through what you want to cover, what’s the purpose, and how will you get there? Lay out the material you want to cover and think about the approach you will take.
  2. Make it relevant
    • stick to that week / day / topic, keep to what the students need to know at this time and about this topic
  3. Keep it focused
    • stick to what you to cover and don’t wander off into the weeds, you want the video to be short and on point so keep it to the topic at hand
  4. Make it personal
    • connect with your class, with the world around you, so that the students see the video as something that is special for them. Can you tie in a comment from class or from the discussions?
  5. Keep it simple
    • there is not need to be elaborate and fancy, keep it simple and things will go easier.

We have no idea of how long we will be continuing to deliver in a remote fashion, but even when we return to face to face delivery, there may be value in continuing to add additional content to our courses. Videos can really help with that, just reflect on what you want to include.

What does the future hold?

Does anyone have a crystal ball they can lend out?  It would be nice to know what the future is bringing for teaching!  The next year is still very much up in the air; 2021 will start off the same as delivery now for PACE.  All classes will be delivered remotely, but as we get into spring term it’s hard to say where we will be at.  At some point, we do have to resume face to face delivery, but what will that look like?

It’s worth taking a look at how Manitoba high schools are handling this.  The UW Collegiate, for example, has split their high school classes into two groups.  When group A is in the classroom, group B is watching the class live through Zoom; the next week the class switches and group B is now in person and group A watches on the internet.

If that comes to us, how will you engage with students that are both in person and on camera?  It’s worth giving some thought to as at some point, we may have to teach our classes this way.  This article from Inside Higher Ed offers some tips: click here. (thanks to Stevi for the article)

I want to stress, I have no idea if we will adopt this model or not, merely bringing it up as it is worth thinking about as an instructor.  The future is going to pose challenges for teaching at all levels, giving some thought to how changes will impact your topic and style is worthwhile to stay up ahead of the curve and give students the best experience possible. 

Making The Most of Discussion Boards

As we continue to learn and adjust to virtual delivery, it is common to add discussion boards to our courses.  These are a good way to have students demonstrate their understanding of ideas, to engage with peers to expand their knowledge, and build community.  At the same time, they can seem sterile and forced, so what can be done to improve that? 

Break up your class into smaller groups

Especially in our large programs, it can be a difficult, even overwhelming, to have each student make a post on every topic and then comment on all the other posts.  Consider breaking up the class into groups; each group can then discuss the same question or different questions.

With our learning management system, it is possible to put students into groups, with each group having it’s own private discussion board. That would allow students to have different discussions on the same question, and the students cannot see what the other groups comments are.

(Students can be in multiple groups so this ‘discussion board’ group can change over the course and does not need to be the same as a group project if one is being used.)

Alternatively, labelling the discussion post as being for “Last Names Starting A – L” would have all students able to read the posts, but limit the commentary only to those students whose last name is listed in the title.

Bring the Discussion Back to the Classroom

Instead of just keeping the discussion in the online environment, come back to it in future virtual classes.  Sum up the discussion, give a shout out to students that did well, call on students to expand on their answers and share their train of thought.  

This can help give the discussions ‘life’ and make them more than just online commentary.

Mandate the Use of Names

As students respond to their peer’s discussion posts and comments, require students to acknowledge each other by name.  This helps builds a sense of community, encourages students to learn their classmates’ names, and can help keep discussions civil. 

As all our classes are online right now, it is really important to build a sense of community. Students do not just learn from the instructor, they also learn from each other.   Additionally, with the exception of some of our part time courses, our students are all in cohorts that will go through the program together, keeping them connected and engaged at a personal level is important. 

What ideas do you have for making discussion boards more poignant? 

The ideas presented here are built off of and inspired by comments made on the Cult of Pedagogy podcast, episode #149, click here to listen.