There’s a reason the “M” in MOOC stands for “Massive,” as in Massive Open Online Course. With an open invitation to attend, the class size is anything but finite. Now, online courses can come across as impersonal, even if the group is a standard 20 to 25 students in size. So, what does that make an MOOC?

Fortunately, we’re in a technological age where connecting teacher to student is much easier, regardless of where either is on the globe. A professor’s option to use video in her lectures has erased the impersonal stigma of online classes. Students can now not only listen to what their professor is saying, but watch what they’re doing, too.

There are a few things a professor should know before she adds this option to a lesson plan, however.

Here are few tips to get you started on shooting video for your online courses.

1. Keep Your Videos Relatively Short to Hold Your Class’ Interest

When you’re giving a lecture in standard fashion, in a big hall in front of a room full of students, you’re somewhat bound to however long it’s supposed to last, whether it’s a half hour, 45 minutes or a whole hour. Your students understand they’re going to be there for the lesson for the duration.

If you’re using video, you have much more flexibility when it comes to the timing of your lectures — take advantage of that! If you have 30 to 40 minutes of content you want to present, consider breaking it up into five-minute “microlectures,” as the shorter bursts might be easier for your students to digest.

“No one wants to sit through 30 minutes of talking heads!” says LearnDash CEO Justin Ferriman. “If you have a blended class, insist on having students respond to videos via a writing assignment or by having a group discussion.”

Ferriman also suggests having students respond to videos with a writing assignment or a group discussion. Also, he says you can have them watch a case study, work as a team and present what they found, as this can be done virtually, too.

2. Make Videos Accessible Later

We have no doubt your video is going to be great and that your students are going to absorb everything on the first viewing. Just in case they don’t, however, make it easy for them to download the video for later viewing. More importantly, make your videos available in more than one spot; the easier it is for your students to get a hold of your video, the more likely they are to watch it.

“Make sure the videos are downloadable from multiple e-locations like your school’s intranet, on your Facebook groups page or even on YouTube,” says Christopher Pappas, founder of The eLearning Industry’s Network, the largest online community of professionals in the eLearning Industry.

“This way, your audience can watch it as many times as needed from the privacy of their home or while working outside (of) the company’s premises, to refresh their memory without having to reread the entire … course.”


3. Make at Least Part of Your Video Interactive

If your video is just you (or someone else) talking the entire time, you might as well just hold your lecture in the classroom. A good way to keep your audience engaged is to add an interactive element to the video. The interaction could be something as simple as allowing students to offer feedback. You could also ask questions or include quizzes that relate to what your video is about.

eLearn Magazine also suggests making the video presentation a social affair. Writer Veronica Phillips said the training courses she’s done in the past have included polls and an expert-moderated blog to accompany the video presentations. The combination let students discuss course material with others and ask questions about the skills they just saw demonstrated.

4. Leave Time for Editing

When it’s time to release your video lecture to the class, it should be pitch-perfect. Make sure you leave adequate time between recording and when you plan to make it available to your students. Remember, you don’t have as much leeway when it comes to stumbling over your words as you would in the classroom.

“The ear is forgiving when a course is taught live,” says Edutopia’s Ainissa Ramirez. “But in a MOOC, when a student’s only connection to the material is your voice, you’ve got to make sure that words are clear, correctly phrased and free from distractions.”

5. Here Are a Few Ways to Make Your Video Feel More Personal

University of Rochester student Philip Guo, MIT Ph.D. student Juho Kim and edX VP of Engineering Rob Rubin conducted a study and published a paper on how video production affects student engagement. One of their findings was students found videos produced with a more personal feel could be more engaging than one produced in a high-tech studio.

One suggestion the researchers had was to film in an informal setting, such as an office, to give the lecture an office-hours feel. Plus, filming in your office rather than a big-time studio can reduce production costs significantly.

The study also found these methods could help make your video more engaging:

  • Keep your videos short. Engagement tends to drop after six minutes.
  • Use a combination of slides and talking heads. Videos that intersperse an instructor’s talking head and PowerPoint slides are more engaging than videos with just slides.
  • Bring the enthusiasm. Students found videos where instructors spoke fairly quickly and enthusiastically were more engaging. Remember, students can pause and rewind if they missed something.
  • Recognize the difference between lectures and tutorial videos. Students engage differently with each. Focus on first-time watching experience for lectures, and add support for tutorial videos (rewatching, skimming, etc.).


6. Shake Up the Format

Your video doesn’t have to be in the standard, talking head lecture format to be effective. In fact, Online Learning Insight’s Debbie Morrison came up with five alternatives to the talking-head lecture. One of those alternatives is an interview: You could shoot yourself interviewing a subject matter expert on the topic you were planning to give a lecture on.

If you wanted to get the students more involved, you could make the interview live. Just use a video conferencing platform such as Google Hangouts. While the interview is going on, students can send questions that the interviewer can relay to the guest.

7. Mind Your Surroundings

If you’re planning to give your lecture the real classroom feel and use a chalkboard or whiteboard, just make sure your video audience can read what you’ve written on the board. Video content management company Panopto suggests having a camera dedicated to your board so your audience can easily monitor it and what you’ve written and you as well.

Panopto has a multi-camera option to make it easier to capture what’s on your board and what you’re doing and saying at the same time.

You may also want to consider wearing solid colors (patterns and stripes can come off as distorted on camera) and also wearing a wireless microphone so everyone can hear what you are saying, Panopto says.

8. Easy Does it on the Special Effects

This is a lecture or a tutorial you’re presenting, so you don’t have to worry about adding a lot of fancy bells and whistles; you’re audience isn’t expecting it. You do want to find ways to keep the video moving along besides with your voice, however. In that case, you can always include a simple doodle, which serves two purposes: It can help deliver your message and provide some comic relief.

Just remember when you’re adding text to give your students enough time to read it. Give them about 30% more time than it took you to read it to be on the safe side.


9. Be Prepared

This isn’t always as easy if you’re doing a live video presentation, but if you’re going to record video to be shown later, your lecture should be 100% buttoned-up, or close to it.

So, write out a script, practice reciting it and stick to it. tTis will help keep you from wandering too far off track. A good tip from the University of Alaska Fairbanks is to use a prop or talk to another person while shooting. Chances are you’ll sound more like you’re talking rather than reading.

On the technical side, use a tripod or at least put the camera on a stable surface to avoid the “shaky camera” effect, they advise. Use a good microphone, too; the sound quality won’t be as good if you try to shoot this with your smartphone. Also, do multiple takes; they’ll most likely get better the more times you go through your script.

10. Be Yourself and Have Fun!

Being on camera can be a little nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time. Now that you’re armed with these tips, though, you have enough information to knock your online course video out of the park.

One of the key things to remember is to try to sound as natural as possible when reading off of your script. The last thing you want to do is sound stiff. Go slowly so people can understand you, but fast enough to keep their attention.

And if you want to go a little further with your preparation, here are a couple of additional resources to help you out:

  • Jan Ozer at has an excellent guide to creating and promoting an online course.
  • The full paper Guo, Kim and Rubin wrote on MOOC video production and audience engagement can be found here.


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