Top Tips for Using Video In Your Online Courses

According to novoed, the completion rate for online courses stands at an abysmal 13 percent.

If you are a subject matter expert who wants to share your knowledge with your audience or a course developer, you will want to do something to make sure your courses don’t end up being a piece of statistic. Right?

I’ve got a solution for you: Incorporate videos in your courses. They are great instructional tools and up the engagement value of your course. But the trick is to produce ones that appeal to your audience.

Here are four tricks of the trade:

1. Aim for the right length

Today’s busy learners don’t want to wade through frilly introductions and fluffy content (read: irrelevant information) to learn. They want the answers to their questions right NOW.

Kaltura’s State of Video in Education Report of 2016 lists the best practices of using videos in eLearning. The report emphasizes that the right duration of an instructional video is instrumental in making for an engaging and memorable learning experience.

So what should be the ideal length of an educational video?

According to the findings of a study carried out by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, most online learners prefer that instructional videos be less than 15 minutes in length.

The following are some tips to help you keep your videos short and crisp without compromising the quality and volume of the information you present:

  • Cut to the chase. Skip lengthy introductions.
  • Ensure that you present the most critical piece of information right at the beginning.
  • Introduce the context and additional information after you have presented the critical content.

You can look up this resource for more on the right length for tutorial videos.

2.  Reach out with your presence

As human beings, we all crave connections. Your learners are no different; they readily respond to you as an instructor and believe you to be an expert if they see you deliver the content on the screen.

Videos provide you with the opportunity to create faculty presence within the learning environment. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the talking-head videos:

  • Use humor and wit to break the ice. Humor also takes away the seriousness and apprehension associated with complex and challenging learning matter. Note: Ensure that the humor you use is appropriate to the subject matter and does not offend the sensibilities of your audience. However, if in doubt or if you are not confident of pulling off humor, skip it.
  • If possible, add personal context to the subject matter. For instance, sharing your professional stories will not only add a personal touch to the video but also help learners learn from your experiences.
  • Get over your shyness or fear of appearing in a video. Remember that you are an expert, and your audience is keen to learn from you.
  • Going back to point one, if you are going to make talking-head videos: KEEP THEM SHORT!

3.  Incorporate Interactivity

Your learners have grown up with the Internet. They have easy access to engaging content, dished out to them using a myriad of media and a bevy of interactive styles. And if the content does not hold their attention, they can choose to click and move away to a different website.

The writing on the wall is clear: Don’t expect your audience to put up with boring, passive videos.

Sure, having the instructor appear on the screen and speak directly to the learners creates engagement. But there is also nothing more boring than a video where the only activity is a talking head. It won’t be long before the learners tire of seeing their instructor staring down at them and talking, and talking.

So, to keep your audiences from drifting away, you have to make your videos interactive. Here are some tips on how you can create interactivity and interest in a talking-head video:

  • Supplement instructor commentary with multimedia footage. The intention here is to add diversity in the way the content is presented.
  • Incorporate b-roll to breathe life into a talking-head video. B-roll adds context to the narrator’s commentary and diversity and interest in the look of the video. Adding b-roll can be as simple as capturing the narrator in his office or writing on a whiteboard.
  • Create “pauses” within the video, and turn these into opportunities for the audience to reflect on the subject being taught. Pose questions to get the learners mulling over what they just learned.
  • Incorporate a branching scenario where learners will be required to choose between multiple options and see for themselves the consequences of their choices. This strategy lets learners interact with the video and keeps them wondering what to expect from their choices.

Here are some more tips on how to add oomph to an otherwise plain talking-head video.

4.  Create high-quality videos

Here’s a disclaimer. Your audience does not expect you to churn out IMAX-quality graphics in your videos. They will forgive you if you don’t shoot your videos on $3,000 cameras. They just want to know what you will teach them.

But here’s the truth. The quality of the video can make or ruin the learning experience. Shaky or too-homemade visuals create a jarring experience that also distracts from the content. Footage shot in poor light does not reveal the details of a situation or a process, making the video instructionally ineffective.

So here are some tips on how to shoot high-quality videos without expensive gear:

  • Gather the right equipment. This would be a camera that can record HD video (a smartphone with this feature will do too), a tripod, microphone and preferably one that can be clipped to the tie or the collar of the narrator, adequate lights, and audio- and video-editing software.
  • Make sure that you place the camera or the phone on the tripod or some stable, solid surface or rest it against the wall to avoid shaky shots.
  • Choose a location devoid of excessive background noise. Use a clip-on mic to ensure the narrator’s voice is not lost amidst the noise. High-quality clip-on mics are available in camera stores, but the basic ones that come for under $50 suffice too.
  • Check for lighting conditions. Shooting in natural light helps you avoid the costs of hiring and installing artificial lights. However, remember that shooting in full sun can cause over-exposure and produce high-contrast images. Shoot in indirect natural light, like the light that filters through the window or the leaves of a tree. The golden hour of shooting still images and videos is during the early morning or early evening hours.
  • Turn on the “landscape” mode if you are shooting on an HD smartphone.
  • Shoot close-up shots of a person (from the shoulders upwards to the top of the head) when he is speaking. This creates audience engagement and also ensures the speaker is audible.
  • Avoid out-of-focus shots.
  • Avoid shots that are either too dark or glaringly bright.
  • Listen in for the distracting “hum” and “buzz” during recording, and correct accordingly.
  • Make sure dialogs and voice-overs sound crystal clear.

The right video can dramatically impact the instructional effectiveness and aesthetic appeal of your online course. These, in turn, improve course completion rates, teach your audience to transform their lives for the better, bring in positive feedback for your efforts, and attract more students.