Teaching Using Video

The University of Sheffield suspended face-to-face teaching from Monday 16 March 2020 and all teaching has moved online. Please refer to the Coronavirus Information & Advice page for the latest updates.

Introduction

As educators all over the world race to adapt their teaching to the current situation, thoughts inevitably turn to using video as a method of delivering lectures and other learning materials. This guidance is designed to cover all the key information you need to create effective video for learning and teaching whilst working remotely. 

Updated: Friday 22 May at 12.00


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Creating videos at home


Does it need to be a video?

Like any other material provided on a course, videos should meet or enhance specific learning objectives. You should consider if a different format would be more appropriate - for example, an article, podcast or discussion. However, it is important to consider that the current conditions severely limit the interaction between you and your learners. In this context, videos can be an excellent way to create a sense of community in the absence of face-to-face contact. Some reasons for using video for learning include: 

Connection

  • Introducing yourself and the module
  • 'Checking in' throughout the course

Learning

  • Explaining difficult concepts or concepts which can be easily misunderstood - this could include working through maths/physics problems for example
  • To enhance a lab or field trip experience 

Discussion and Feedback

  • Explaining exactly what will be required for assessment - especially given the current circumstances
  • Explaining how what they will be learning in the module is different from previous experiences
  • Prompting discussion
  • To provide student feedback in the form of a screencast

Making accessible videos

New web accessibility regulations came into force in 2018 and apply to all new video content that is produced. It's worth bearing in mind improving the accessibility of your course content not only helps students with disabilities to access your materials, it also improves the learning experience for students who might want to engage with the content in different ways. 

Accessibility considerations for creating video

Your videos must have subtitles and/or transcripts. Transcripts should also be accessible so that they can be read by screen readers. Kaltura, the University's digital media hosting platform, can generate captions for any video or audio file that is uploaded. 

Any visual elements should be audibly described by the speaker, including references to objects, graphics and names and titles if they appear on the screen. Visual elements should have sufficient colour contrast.

You should consider where your learners are based and what implications this may have for their internet connectivity. Your learners may not have as good an internet connection as they do when on campus. Also learners may not have access to a computer or laptop and may engage with all materials using their mobile phone.

It may be better to provide learning materials in smaller, bite-sized chunks as this can help with slower internet connections (including uploading videos). It can also help some learners to process information.


The pedagogy of presenting

A live teaching scenario allows for improvisation, comments, questions, jokes and a reading of the room. Prerecorded video allows for none of that, so you need to make your video presentation as digestible as possible. Here are some important things to consider.

Script your video

Prepare what you are going to say ahead of time. You could script your video in its entirety and read it from a teleprompter app (there are loads of free ones available in the app store) or a web application such as Cueprompter.com.

If you’re not comfortable with reading everything word for word then cue cards or topic headings could be enough to keep you on track. You could also use a Word document or even a PowerPoint presentation to create cue cards/headings.

Keep it short

Data on video engagement suggests that attention spans tend to wander around the 6-minute mark. Obviously, you shouldn’t truncate your learning materials, but it can help to bear this in mind when considering how your learners will engage with the material.

Could your lecture be split into smaller chunks? Could you make a number of shorter videos defined by chapters or topics rather than a single lecture? This approach has a number of benefits:

  • Filming a few short videos instead of one long video reduces the pressure to get everything right in one go.
  • Learners can engage at their own pace.
  • You could mix the content with other activities such as quizzes or discussions.
  • It puts less pressure on bandwidth, which may be an issue for learners with slower internet speeds and it’s easier to upload shorter videos too.
Strike the right tone
  • Maintaining a professional air when recording a video for your students in your own kitchen is difficult. Ideally, you should try to balance friendly and formal.
  • If in doubt, aim for friendly rather than formal. If you try to be too formal, your delivery is likely to be rigid and less engaging.
  • Try to stay in character. If you behave (and dress) as you normally would when delivering a lecture, you are more likely to come across well.
  • Create a dedicated teaching space. This can be a corner of a room set aside for recording your videos (your camera is unlikely to pick up the entire room so it doesn’t need to be big).
  • Dressing the space can create a more professional environment, as well as a connection with your audience. For example, a shelf of relevant course materials or a well thumbed copy of a book your students will be familiar with. This can help to focus your delivery and create a sense of familiarity, shared purpose (for you and your learners), as well as consistency across multiple videos.

Improving the quality of your videos 

These are some simple things you can do to improve the quality of your videos.

Camera position
  • If filming with your mobile phone, use landscape rather than portrait orientation.
  • Whatever type of camera you’re using you will want it to be as static as possible - avoid the urge to have family or friends hold the camera. If you must have a handheld camera, using a ‘selfie-stick’ or bracing the camera against a static object (such as a door or shelf) will help to reduce unwanted movement.
  • The camera should be at the same height as your eyes. If you are using a laptop with a webcam, avoid tilting the screen up or down to adjust the viewing angle. Instead, reposition the entire laptop higher or lower (on a stack of books or shelf for example).
  • Position yourself so that your upper torso and head are visible, not too close or too far away from the camera. Most cameras, laptops and phones will let you see yourself when filming to help you set up the frame. Once everything is in position, turn this option off if you can - you’ll likely look at yourself rather than directly into the camera if you don’t.
Location
  • Choose an area that’s as quiet and free from distractions as possible.
  • Try to avoid having things moving around in the background.
  • Don’t film yourself against a window (see Lighting below).
  • Try to leave a gap between you and the background (ideally a few meters) and avoid sitting against a flat, plain background. This will help to add depth and help you stand out. Sitting at your bookcase or desk is a firm favourite, but make sure to have a quick tidy to avoid showing anything personal or distracting.
Lighting
  • Aim for consistent lighting. Avoid using natural light as your primary (i.e. brightest) light source - natural light changes a lot and differently lit clips can be quite jarring when you come to edit them.
  • Avoid having bright lights behind you (including windows). This will create a silhouette or halo effect around your head, or if the light is bright enough, obscure you completely.
  • Aim to have at least one light in front of you and/or above you.
What to wear
  • Avoid wearing complex patterns or designs; especially horizontal and vertical stripes, logos and slogans.
  • Wearing a colour which contrasts with the colour of the background can help you to stand out. For example, if the room you are filming in is mostly white, wearing black clothing will help to separate you from the background.

Getting technical

If you have some experience of filming then feel free to experiment and use your own kit - however, a good quality video is achievable with familiar devices most people already own.

Camera

Most mobile phones and digital cameras have a video function good enough for making simple teaching videos. There is usually an automatic mode which will set the focus and other settings automatically.

Sound
  • The onboard microphone on a mobile phone or laptop is usually good enough to record your voice. You’ll need to find an acceptable balance between audio quality and the position of your camera so it is worth trying a few variations before starting filming properly.
  • If you have a separate microphone you can use then it should be positioned as close to you as possible - almost certainly closer than where you’ve set up the camera.
  • You could use a desktop microphone or a headset/headphones with a built in microphone. The ‘hands free’ headsets earbuds you get with most smart phones would be fine for this.
  • Use a second device (another mobile phone for example) to capture the audio. If you’re using this approach, remember to clap or bang the table after pressing record on both devices - this will give you a reference point for syncing.
Lighting
  • Any household light, lamp or even a torch can be used to light your videos. If possible, use more than one.
  • Unlike professional cinema lighting, domestic lights are not easily controlled beyond on or off. However, the brightness of lights can be manipulated by moving them closer or further away, or bouncing the light off walls/ceilings.
Editing
  • Although Premiere is a professional video editing program, you can use it to do basic video and sound editing just as easily as you can with any other video software. The Creative Media team have produced a range of resources to help with making videos using Premiere. You can find the Creative Media guidance on Premiere here.
Uploading
  • You can upload video after logging in, by clicking ‘Add New’, then ‘Media Upload’ from the top menu.

Presenting and demonstrating 

Remember that you don’t always need to be on camera, and you don’t always need to explain everything verbally - sometimes it’s just better to see it. Consider these alternative approaches, which can be useful for everything - from giving a quick overview to working through problems, and even demonstrating lab techniques.

Screencasts

A screencast is a recording of your screen, normally with narration. It is a very simple and straightforward way of producing content, and a great way to get started in making your own videos. Because you can record anything that you can show on your screen, there is a very wide range of content that you can create. Generally speaking though, screencasts are generally used to:

  • Record presentations such as lectures, by recording your PowerPoints or Google slides as you speak over them.
  • Record the use of software applications that you need your students to learn, such as statistical packages, computer aided design tools, geographical information systems etc.
  • They are very useful for delivering lecture type content online, and preparing students for more interactive and synchronous online sessions that you might conduct using Blackboard Collaborate.
  • As with video, your screencasts should follow the guidelines in sections on Accessibility and Pedagogy above.
Drawing, writing and demonstrating

You can easily capture drawing, writing and techniques. You will need to position the camera so that it can capture the area in which you intend to write or demonstrate.

There are a wide range of stands, clamps and tripods available which can be used to hold your camera or phone in position while you draw, present at a whiteboard, etc. A stand can be easily improvised with everyday objects such as a stack of books and/or blu tac.


Accessing further support

If you need more guidance when filming your own content, the Creative Media team offer a range of tutorials and support to help you on your way. This covers everything from the practicalities of using equipment to the basics of editing.

There are also some helpful notes on providing video for students from the University of Wisconsin.