Making a good educational video

Designing an educational video is not easy. It presents a new learning environment that many of us are not familiar with. So what makes a good educational video?

I’ve recently tried two methods of recording lectures. I wrote briefly about this before. After two years of recording lectures with the same cohort (first year I used screen capture and the second I used a camcorder to get myself and the slides in) I asked the students what they thought of the two methods. It was unanimous; everybody preferred the camcorder method, with the presenter and slides filmed simultaneously.

This feedback from the students got me thinking about my own experiences. I’m a geek. I love to learn. And as a result I’ve watched a lot of online lectures; iTunes U is my favourite app on my iPad. I could watch a lecture on a topic and have no idea what the lecturer is talking about. But I’ll keep watching…UNLESS its a screen shot!!! I’ve been wondering why this is. The information is the same. The presenter is the same. Both are being recorded live during a lecture so both are “realistic”.

And then I realised one day whilst watching a screen recording; my eyes had nothing to do. Yes, there’s text, but once you’ve read it then your eyes can wonder. You stop looking at the screen because you’ve taken it all in. You keep you’re ears listening though. But then you see something in your surroundings. Your eyes focus on this. Your mind starts focusing on this. And then you fade out of listening and only hear the lecturer speak.

It is this point, where the audience stops seeing and subsequently listening, that we need to keep away from.

So how long can we keep the visual unchanged, without losing the audience? I don’t know. But I think it’s based on a number of factors, primarily (a) interest of the audience within the topic and (b) the ability of the presenter to entertain with just their voice.

To have the greatest chance of this not occurring then, we need to keep the eyes entertained. We need to keep movement occurring on the screen. Not for the sake of movement, but for the sake of information and learning.

There are a number of ways this can probably be done. I’ve been using live recording of a lecture using a camcorder to allow both the presenter and slides to be in view. Technological advances can aid us in this, IF we don’t want to get ourselves in the video. I have seen some great computer animations used for demonstration purposes. Something I’m interested in playing with is the use of the iPad and apps like “Explain Everything”, which allow you to record the screen and your voiceover. Within this app you can draw, import images, move images around, all whilst screen recording is happening. This allows you to keep things moving on the screen, with the target of keeping BOTH the eyes and ears focused.

One method I am not sure about is the video in screen capture method. This has the screen capture, but in a corner is a video of the presenter. Normally this is focused on the head and shoulders of the presenter. I don’t think this works. There is no reason to watch the presenter. The video is too small, and too focused on a small portion of the presenter to allow for any information to be gained from this; you aren’t requiring the eyes to maintain their focus on this. But if you can get the whole presenter in, with their actions, without the image getting too small, then this should work just fine.

What have you tried before? What have you learnt to be the optimal type of educational video?

Keep both the eyes and ears focused and you’re well on the way to holding your audience’s attention.

6 responses to “Making a good educational video

  1. Hi. I’ve had some experience with this and have written a bit about it too. I figure that the visual needs to add something., tied in with Meyer’s research on multimedia instruction. You might like to look at my post about this: I’ve found I can fit a whole 50 minute lecture’s worth of material into about 10 minutes.
    You will notice in my videos that there are no screen shots of the presenter. To me this does not add any information. The discipline of having to provide meaningful visuals has led to some really helpful diagrams.
    See if you agree on my YouTube site: The videos on types of data, and choosing the test I am particularly pleased with.

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