Creating educational videos helps students learn better — even when classes are in-person. But how do you create educational videos, and how do you know if they’re effective?
Good news! Making great educational videos doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, with the right tools and know-how (and a free template), it can be incredibly easy to create effective, engaging videos that improve student outcomes.
I’ll show you how.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- What is an educational video?
- What makes a good educational video?
- The six steps to educational video success.
- How to ensure your educational video is accessible.
What is an educational video?
An educational video is a video to educate someone on a specific topic or collection of topics.
While instructional, how-to, and training videos are educational, they’re typically more focused on teaching a skill or skillset.
In the higher education (or even K-12) space, educational videos can go way beyond skills and how-to. These videos teach abstract concepts, theory, and much more.
In the context of this article, we’ll focus on videos for use in higher education as opposed to instructional videos or workplace training.
Keep in mind, though, that most — if not all — of the tips and techniques in this article will apply to any type of video intended to instruct or inform.
Why are educational videos important?
When considering whether to make an educational or course video vs. having a live online class session, we should consider the strengths and weaknesses of both formats.
But even classes that are 100% in-person or feature a blended in-person and online format benefit from educational videos.
Live video sessions
While live sessions via Zoom, Google Meet, or other similar systems have their place, they also have significant disadvantages.
Live sessions try to mimic the face-to-face learning experience. They require students and instructors to be in the same (virtual) space at the same time for learning to occur.
This can be a huge disadvantage for students in different time zones, students who must share technology resources with others in the households, or those who may have limited access to high-speed internet.
On-demand video learning
With pre-recorded educational videos, students can watch lessons and lectures on their own schedule, consuming as much or as little of the content as they can. Students can go back and rewatch or review content as needed. That’s great for studying for exams or for students who just need a little more time to consider or absorb important content.
On-demand learning also allows students to better interact with course content through quizzes embedded directly in the course videos, and more.
Meanwhile, instructors can measure student engagement with the content through quiz results and video analytics. Plus, by assigning points to watching videos, instructors can give more incentive to watch and pay attention.
Finally, whether you’re teaching 10, 1,000, or 10,000 students, the content scales to whatever size you need. And, because learners consume the content when and how it’s right for them, there are no restrictions on time zones or geographic locations.
Why educators and students prefer educational videos:
- Maximum flexibility for students and faculty.
- Easily scalable.
- Content can be refined and improved as needed.
- No restrictions on location/time of instruction.
- Complements synchronous learning time by extending content life.
- Motivates students to engage with course content, instructors, and their peers.
- Content can be reused for other courses without having to present live again and again.
- Content can be used in blended learning environments when face-to-face courses are available.
Common types of educational videos
Educational videos aren’t limited to things like recorded lectures. Depending on the need, you can create videos for all parts of your course. These can include:
- Lecture recordings
- Intro videos
- Course/syllabus navigation videos
- Assignment or project feedback videos
- New week/topic preview videos
There are also different styles you can choose from:
What makes a good educational video?
Just like traditional teaching, there’s more to creating a good educational video than just showing up.
Engage your students
Great educational videos — like great in-person lessons — should be engaging for students, keeping them interested and actively listening.
There are many ways to ensure educational videos are engaging, but perhaps the most important way is to ensure you inject your personality. Cold, impersonal video lectures are boring and will almost certainly make your students tune out.
Just like your face-to-face lectures, your enthusiasm for the course content should shine through. Make your students as excited to learn the material as you are to teach it to them.
You can also include things like interactive quizzes to keep students on their toes and video hotspots that allow students to seek out more information on topics that interest them.
Right-size your videos
Common wisdom on educational video length is “shorter is better.” And, while that’s a good guideline, it’s more accurate to say that your videos should be the right length for the subject matter.
Because we may be used to longer in-person class sessions, it’s tempting to do the same thing with video. But to truly leverage the advantages of this type of learning, your videos should be easily digestible.
Depending on the subject, that may be two minutes or 20 minutes.
Keep in mind your students’ cognitive load, the difficulty of the learning content, and the video’s learning goals.
Most importantly, don’t try to do too much. Remember that you can always break up more complex concepts into smaller videos to make them more easily understandable.
Making sure your videos are focused on a single topic or a selection of related topics is directly related to video length and engagement. Videos that try to do too much or that meander from topic to topic are less effective and will cause students to lose interest.
Make sure each video has a clear learning objective, and then make the video that accomplishes that objective — nothing more, nothing less.
Center your students’ needs
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. Any learning content, video or otherwise, should center your students’ needs. What do your students need to know to be successful? But more importantly, what DON’T they need?
This goes beyond pure content. Think about things like how students will consume the content. Will most of them be at a traditional computer? Will they be on mobile devices? Will they listen with sound or rely on the visual aspects?
Knowing what your students need and expect will go a long way toward ensuring their success.
How to make an educational video
1. Start with a plan
As noted above, every educational video should have a learning objective. Once you know what your video should accomplish, create a plan that does it.
Not every video will need to have a high degree of professional polish, but pressing the record button before you’re prepared won’t be as effective as you want to be.
For less formal videos, such as providing feedback on student projects, consider a quick run-through of what you intend to record to ensure you know what you want to cover.
Here are a few other things to consider.
Gather any information you need
The best videos will include visual assets and other elements that help keep a viewer’s attention.
Grab any other relevant resources you might need, such as images you want to include, etc.
Write a script
Nothing ruins a good video faster than a lot of hesitations, ums, and uhs as you try to remember what you wanted to say next.
Having a script also helps you sound more professional and helps preserve your video’s focus.
The best scripts will include — word-for-word — everything you intend to say. Taking the time to write this out before recording helps ensure that you will cover everything you want to without the danger of meandering off into unrelated topics.
Start by outlining the points you want to make, and then write the full script based on that outline.
A script also gives you a chance to practice before you record, which means you’ll be less likely to make mistakes.
Even if you don’t want to create a full script, at the very least, create a list of talking points you want to cover.
Consider creating a storyboard
If your educational video will include camera footage, a storyboard helps you visualize what all your shots will look like before you shoot. It’ll save you time in the long run.
Quick sketches and stick figures are perfectly fine for live video. For a screencast or screen recording, you can use a series of simple screenshots to roughly show what you plan to display with the narration.
If your video won’t use camera video, or if the camera video has already been recorded and you’re simply assembling it into the final product, you probably don’t need a storyboard.
2. Record your voice over
With your script in hand, it’s time to record your voice over. TechSmith Camtasia comes with a built-in, easy-to-use voice recording feature and can be an excellent option.
But I also want to take this opportunity to introduce you to TechSmith Audiate.
Audiate takes voice over recording and editing to an entirely different level by transcribing your voice in real-time — as you record. Then, you can literally edit your audio just like you would edit text in a document.
So, rather than staring at a waveform and trying to figure out exactly what you said and where you can see it right on your screen.
Audiate even automatically flags all your “ums,” “uhs,” and other hesitations so you can easily find and delete them. You can even delete them all at once.
Already have a voice over recorded? Import it into Audiate and it will transcribe it for you.
When you’re done, save the audio file and import it into Camtasia. You can even export the edited text as a transcript or as an SRT file for captions.
I’ve been doing video and audio recording work for years, and I’m quite comfortable using professional audio recording software like Adobe Audition or Audacity, but if I’m doing voice over work, I use Audiate because it’s the best and easiest way to record voice overs.
Note: For some videos, you may not need or want to record your voice over separately from your video. For those videos, I recommend you record your voice over directly in Camtasia.
3. Record your educational video
If your video will include any screen recording, start by clearing your computer desktop of any clutter. Letting your students see more of your personality doesn’t necessarily need to include seeing all your files.
Then, open any software applications you need to show, such as a browser, Microsoft PowerPoint, etc.
Open Camtasia click the New Recording button.
Select the screen you want to record, toggle your webcam on or off, choose your microphone, and toggle on or off your system audio.
Camtasia allows you to record your screen and record a webcam at the same time, so you can show your students your face as you’re lecturing, giving feedback, etc.
Then, select the monitor and/or window you wish to record. You can also record your entire screen if necessary.
Select your microphone and whether or not you need the recording to include your system audio. Then, you can select your webcam if you want to include your face in the recording.
Once you’ve made your selections, click Start Recording, wait for the three-second countdown, and you’re on your way.
Remember, if you mess up or otherwise make a mistake while recording, just keep going. Pause for a moment and restart from the place just before where you made your mistake. You can fix it all in the editing process.
When you finish recording, click the stop button. Camtasia will automatically add your recording to the timeline in a new Camtasia project.
4. Import any other necessary assets
If your video will include any other visuals or assets, such as music, screenshots or other images, or other videos, import them by clicking Import Media and navigating to the folder where your assets are located.
Camtasia can also directly import PowerPoint slides, which is a fantastic feature if your video will include a slide deck.
Then, drag your assets to the timeline where you need them to be. You can always move them around as necessary later.
5. Edit your video (hint: use a template!)
This may sound intimidating, but it really isn’t. Camtasia makes it incredibly easy to edit video. If you can drag and drop, you can do this.
And, if you use a template, it’s even easier.
Templates help to standardize and simplify the editing process by providing a structure. You can adjust the template as you need, but it gives you a starting point that’s far closer to the finished product than editing without a template.
And, if you’re just starting out making videos, templates can help take some of the guesswork out of the process.
To use a template in Camtasia, go to File > New Project from Template. Camtasia will automatically load assets into your media bin and place some on the timeline, as well.
Then, open your screen recording from your library and drag it to the timeline and over over the template placeholder. When the placeholder turns green, you can release the recording and choose “Ripple Replace.”
Then, make any edits you need to. For a more detailed explanation and walkthrough, check out the video above.
And check out this post on 5 Video Templates to Help Build Your Online Course.
Editing videos can mean a lot of things depending on what you need. It can be as simple as making sure your audio and visuals are synchronized to a more complex series of cuts and other actions to piece your various assets together into a coherent message.
6. Share your video
Once you finish editing your video, you’re ready to share. Camtasia allows you to save the file locally or to a network drive, or you can share it to any of a number of popular destinations such as YouTube, Vimeo, Dropbox, Google Drive, Screencast, and more.
Just click Export and choose your destination.
Then, just share the link or upload your file to your learning management system.
How to make educational videos accessible
When creating videos for higher education or K-12, accessibility of the content for people with disabilities is essential to ensure that everyone can access and understand the content.
But here’s a hint: Accessible content is actually better for everyone.
Here are a few tips for ensuring your video content is accessible.
Every educational video you make should include captions. Captions ensure that any words spoken along with any relevant sounds or sound effects are displayed on the screen so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can read them.
Without them, your video will not meet the necessary requirements for accessibility.
But captions have an added bonus: they’re also great for anyone who can’t watch your video with the volume turned up (or who may be watching in a loud environment) or for anyone who wants to be able to read along to ensure they get any relevant spellings correct.
Be sure to use closed captions rather than open captions to ensure students can turn them on or off as needed.
Make a video transcript
A video transcript is a text version of your video. They’re helpful for both people who are deaf or hard of hearing and those who are blind or visually impaired. For viewers with audio difficulties, they can read the transcript directly, while those who have visual impairments can use a screen reader to access the content.
Remember, if you recorded your voice over in Audiate, you can export your captions and transcript directly from your recording, saving you a lot of time.
Create an audio description
An audio description is a narrative track added to your video that describes important visual details for people who are blind or visually impaired. Audio descriptions are usually added during natural pauses in dialogue or voice over to avoid distracting from other important audio details.
If videos are created with accessibility in mind from the start, audio descriptions probably aren’t necessary, as long as important visual elements of the video are described in the audio track itself. Or, if your video is just you speaking into your webcam, you probably don’t need an audio description.
Educational videos help ensure student success
You know that great educational videos improve student outcomes. And now you know that creating the most effective and engaging educational videos for students doesn’t have to be difficult. With a good plan, TechSmith Camtasia, and a free template, you can help your students learn better with video.