Teacher Tips for Video Production

Having done my B.A. with a major in film production and working as a multimedia teacher, I frequently get asked from other educators for tips or assistance for shooting videos or creating a film production unit.  My previous education focused more on cinematic theory or an auteur style approach, where as more recently I have been looking at film and video from an educational perspective. As I have worked through my master’s degree two valuable video production resources that stand out are Lancellotti, Thomas, and Kohli’s (2016) study Online Video Modules for Improvement In Student Learning (2016) and Richard Mayer’s Research-based principles for designing multimedia instruction (2014).   Both of these pieces offer suggestions for creating effective educational videos and break away from the traditional cinematic approach that I learned previously.

These days I often produce short videos for my students if I have to be away and they have a substitute, or to provide support for a difficult task that can be hard to remember.  A couple of examples would be how to connect and set up a digital audio interface and microphone, or how to select the right audio inputs while using recording software. Most of the time I use Youtube, and you can see some of my content under the “Videos” section of this website.

Drawing upon the two sources above and my own experiences, I have come up with a list of tips for teachers who want to produce their own educational videos.

  1. Keep the videos short and try to avoid multiple concepts in the same video.  Lancellotti, Thomas, and Kohli found that this helped students by not having to sit through an entire lecture just to review with piece of information.  I like to keep my videos under 6 minutes if possible.
  2. Keep your subject/content in frame and in focus. If you need to, find someone to help you shoot.
  3. Take a quick look online for basic photographic composition tips such as the “Rule of Thirds” or a quick look at some basic film perspectives. Using these can help your videos look better. It can be a good idea to make sure that you fill the frame (not a lot of head space and not cutting off the top of the subject).
  4. Don’t be a perfectionist.  You can work on videos endlessly but you need to cut it off at some point as long as you have met your goal.
  5. Try your best to have clear and audible sound.  This means that you need to be in a quiet room and/or using a decent microphone.  I have purchased lavalier microphones online for under $30 that have worked great.
  6. You don’t need to have an expensive camera, almost any current smartphone from the past five years is fine.  Most laptop webcams are decent as well. There are many screen recording software programs out there for your phone or even for Google Chrome.  
  7. If you are showing how to do something, actually show yourself doing it.  It is better to show the actions rather than just telling people to do them.
  8. Make the videos accessible on any device through an internet connection.  If you host your videos on a platform like Youtube, students can access them from just about anywhere.
  9. You do not need to produce a video for every single topic.  Make your videos as needed and over time you will develop a library.
  10. Avoid irrelevant and extraneous content.  This is inline with Mayer’s “Coherence Principle”  which is based on research showing that students performed better on a transfer test  when watching a video that did not give irrelevant but interesting facts, when compared to one that did.
  11. Highlight the essential material, this can be done with an outline, heading, underlines, etc.  This can help students learn more efficiently and is supported through Mayer’s “Signaling Principle” that was identified through a number of experimental tests.
  12. Speak, don’t just print text on screen.  Mayer’s work identified that people learn more deeply from a multimedia message when the words are spoken rather than printed.
  13. Be on screen yourself.  Don’t be shy, set up a camera and record yourself either in “selfie” mode or with a tripod.  Mayer found that deeper learning occurs when the video is more in a conversational style with a human voice, and better yet when who is on screen displays human gesturing, movement, eye contact, and facial expressions.


Image used under Pixabay license.

Image by DWilliams from Pixabay

Lancellotti, M., Thomas, S., & Kohli, C. (2016). Online video modules for improvement in student learning. Journal of Education for Business, 91(1), 19-22.

Mayer, R. E. (2014). Research-based principles for designing multimedia instruction. In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.), Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. 59.

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