Creating engaging and dynamic online content is key to reducing the stubbornly high attrition rates of online courses. I’ve tried various strategies for engaging students in my online courses, and videos have consistently been my best format for getting students contributing to online discussions. Here’s why:
- Humanization. Students feel they know me more intimately. It humanizes the online learning experience for them and builds rapport.
- Storytelling. Students love storytelling. I can use videos to tell them stories from my experiences as a practitioner to bring theoretical ideas to life.
- Personalization. Personalized videos are more relatable for the students. Instead of sharing someone else’s YouTube video, I create my own. I mention students by name and summarize their forum contributions. I do this to create a sense of belonging for my students.
How to improve your educational videos
Here are four tips to consider when creating videos for your students. These are steps that I slowly began to integrate into my videos to make my online course content feel more professional, more engaging, and more personal.
1. Show your face and look into the camera
Sometimes online students go through an entire course without ever seeing their instructor’s face. The lack of human contact for students increases their sense of isolation and contributes to their withdrawal from courses.
To build rapport with my students, I always show my face. I started out using Camtasia to embed my face in the top-right corner of my screencasts. This was a good strategy when I started out because it was simple, required little technical knowledge, and didn’t require me to purchase any new hardware. The one downside was that I was never actually looking directly at the camera. Instead, it looked like a camera was “peeking in” on me reading my lecture slides.
Now, I use full-screen shots of my face talking directly down the camera to students. The talking-head style I use is akin to the talking head you see on the nightly news. I feel it gives a more professional feel and creates a direct line of address. It is analogous to making eye contact with my students: Looking directly into the lens of the camera shows my students I am paying personal attention to them. It gives videos a professional touch.