Teaching with Video

Video has been used in higher education teaching and learning for many years, and instructional videos are increasingly used in online and hybrid courses. Whether you’re developing a face-to-face, online or hybrid course, though, it’s important to understand that it’s not the medium, but the instructional design underlying the video that helps students learn. One set of design principles that we use in the Office of Open Learning are Richard E. Mayer’s (2012) multimedia principles.


In this video, Prof. Mayer, an expert in the design of educational multimedia, describes a few multimedia principles relevant in developing effective instructional videos:


  • Videos should be simple and focused (coherence principle);
  • Have text that is placed close to a graphic, not far away as in a caption (contiguity principle);
  • Have voice or narration in sync with what you’re seeing (temporal contiguity principle); and
  • Long explanations broken into more manageable segments (segmenting principle)


In online and hybrid courses, videos are often used to record lectures and provide direct instruction. Empirical studies have shown that online videos that are shorter and feature talking heads or use Khan-style tablets are more engaging than pre-recorded classroom lecture videos (Guo, Kim, & Rubin, 2014).


You can also use videos to support active learning through case studies, interviews, digital storytelling, student presentations, and more. We can show you different kinds of instructional videos that are available, help you decide what kind you’d like to develop, and what might work best for your students and context.


For example, you may want to record a short, talking-head video to introduce your course and establish a strong sense of “instructor presence,” which is a key factor related to student engagement and perceived learning from videos (Hibbert, 2014). In this case, you might use the green screen so we can insert relevant images behind you in the final video.




Or, you may want to try recording a short, Khan-style tablet video that students can find more engaging in online courses than slide presentations (Guo, Kim, & Rubin, 2014).

You can even try the lightboard, an illuminated glass board on which you can write or draw with fluorescent markers and present slides at the same time, that lets students see your facial expressions and gestures!




If you are planning to DIY your own videos or audio recordings, here are some handy hints and tips to help you get the best results. Most of the time, the simplest possible setup will work best for the majority of projects. This page [*link to recommended hardware page] lists some of the equipment we recommend. If you have ideas about what you want to do in your online or hybrid class, but are not sure how to go about it, contact the Office of Open Learning and we can help you figure out what you need. Let’s look at some of the important considerations.


As a general rule, audio quality is very important when recording learning materials and you should use the best quality microphone you can afford. It doesn’t need to be studio quality, but it also shouldn’t be the cheapest you can get. We also recommend against using the in-built microphone in your laptop as it likely will not produce the results you and your students are looking for.

If you are planning to record a mini-lecture in your home office, then a podcasting-style microphone sitting on your desk is usually the best option. It should be on a stand so you don’t have to touch it (which can lead to unwanted noises). You can also wear a wireless or wired Lavalier microphone attached to your shirt to capture your voice. The wireless option is also useful if you need to move while recording (for example, if you were recording a video outdoors, or walking through the equipment in a lab). If you need to film something of this nature, it is probably better to get the professionals involved.


Webcams have come a long way recently and do provide good quality (you frequently see video interviews on news channels recorded with webcams for example), as do phone cameras. For most things, you probably don’t need to buy a very expensive webcam or external camera (depending in what you want your students to see). Most webcams and phone cameras now record in at least 720p or 1080p, with many phone cameras recording at 4K. All of these are more than adequate for recording a video of yourself giving feedback, or introducing the course for example.

If you are looking to do complicated physical demonstrations, with a high level of detail needing to be seen, you will need higher end equipment and possibly help. A conversation with one of the OOL staff can help you determine the best way to achieve your goals.

Video format and quality

What is the right video format and quality for a video to be used in an online course?  The MP4 format is one of the most popular and usually has smaller file sizes than other formats. It is also compatible with both Mac and Windows devices (not all file formats are).

What about the quality? Generally it is recommend to record in as high of quality as your equipment and software allows.  You can always reduce the quality later if needed, but can’t increase it from a low quality file.  Using an external hard drive (preferably a solid state drive if budget permits) to store your files is a good idea, as video files are very large and will fill your laptop hard drive very quickly.  Most streaming services (such as YouTube) will allow the viewer to pick the quality they wish to view in, so uploading a high resolution file is a good idea.

720p (dimensions of 1280x720) is likely high enough quality for most applications, but if you can record in 1080p (dimensions of 1920x1080) or higher you should, as this will help you get the highest level of detail possible for your learners.

Once you have your video recorded, it is time to edit it. There are a number of good free editors out there. Check out our list of powerful free tools (*link to Free Tools page) for basic and advanced video and audio editing. Remember you can also come to see the OOL staff, who will be more than happy to help you with your video projects to enhance your online or hybrid courses.


  • Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement. L@S ’14 Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning @ Scale. New York, NY: ACM (pp. 41-50). https://doi.org/10.1145/2556325.2566239


  • Hibbert, M. (2014). What makes an online instructional video compelling? EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2014/4/what-makes-an-online-instructional-video-compelling


  • Mayer, R. E. (2012). Multimedia Learning (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.


  • O’Donoghue, M. (2011, Dec 1). Prof. Richard E. Mayer - On the role and design of video for learning [video file].  Retrieved from https://youtu.be/S3fYg6OuTIA