So You’d Like to Make a Lecture Video …

Instructors often use the lecture format in their face-to-face classes sometimes also using slide decks (like PowerPoint) – so recording a lecture can be one way of digitizing your learning material and presenting it online. However, there are a number of things to consider before you decide to use this approach. This post will discuss some things to be sure of before and while you develop this type of resource.

Effective Slide Design and Talking Notes

This topic could really be its own blog post (here’s one from UNB on “Lecture Slide Design: Evidence Based Practices”), but if you are using a slide deck, remember the basics and review or edit your slides as necessary before you decide they are ready to be recorded. Don’t clutter your slides with too much text. Choose simple fonts and high-contrast colours (black text on a white background is fine). Create your slides with visual consistency. Only add images that add to your presentation (avoid “eye candy”). Have a peer (or an Instructional Designer!) review the slides beforehand. Also make sure you have good talking notes prepared for yourself, so that you can be confident that you have not left out anything important, while still not reading a script word-for-word (which would likely sound too monotonous or unnatural).

Video Length and Chunking

What is the ideal length of a video for learning? The research varies, but generally agrees that shorter is better for learning engagement, with studies finding between 6-15 minutes as the ideal duration. As videos get longer, learner engagement and attention tends to drop off. For this reason, it’s important to chunk the learning material into manageable portions. It would be better, for example, to present students with five 10-minute videos, embedded with some subheadings and introductory text that provide some context, than to drop one massive 50-minute video in your course.

Modality Variation and Active Learning

Chunking works especially well when students are given opportunities to apply what they have just learned, through such things as interactive quizzes, reflective questioning, discussions, or practice problems. Students also benefit when the learning modality has some variation; in other words, the class involves more than just passively listening to an instructor speaking. Give your students opportunities for active learning by considering when, where, and how students can pause (or break away from) the lecture to test their knowledge, or practice a new concept. Certain video tools (like Panopto) work well for this, as they allow for things like embedded quizzes, links to other websites, or student commenting.

Navigability and Review

Some video platforms (like Panopto, or YouTube) also allow you to add things like chapter markers or navigational menus or links. These can be extremely helpful when students are working through your materials and want to find or review specific content. As an example, see this Crash Course Psychology video (at the 10:02 mark) to see how a helpful review menu with links was added at the end.

Copyright Considerations

If you put an image, figure, graphic, or audio clip into your video — basically anything that is not of your own creation — you need to ensure that the material can be reproduced for educational purposes and that the copyright information has been cited properly. For this reason, it is extremely important to clear all copyright concerns before recording your video! Otherwise this could lead to time-consuming and costly edits or revisions. If you need help with making sure your materials are copyright-compliant, an Instructional Designer or a library copyright specialist should be able to assist. Be sure before you record!


Even if the speaker is showing slides, lecture videos will contain lots of information that will be in the audio track but not in the visual recording. For students who struggle with auditory processing, or who might be deaf or hard of hearing, this can make your lecture video difficult or even impossible to follow. For that reason, it is recommended that a written transcript or captions be provided with all of the videos you produce. For learners that have a visual impairment, it is helpful to orally describe any images or figures that you have included with your video, and if possible to provide the audio track. Some tools, like Panopto, make it very easy to download an MP3 of the audio. By offering the information in more than one modality in these ways, your video will be more accessible for all learners.

Production Time, Shelf Life, and Editability

There is no real way around it. When you add in the time to record the video and audio of your narrated presentation, edit the video, upload it to your chosen platform, and manage any technical complications along the way, producing video is a time-consuming process. The initial time investment means that you want the videos to have a decent “shelf life” and be usable for several years. It can also be difficult to make changes down the road. Suppose next year there is a development in your field, and a comment that you made at the 4:35 mark of your video has to be removed; or, suppose you accidentally missed a really important point at the 2:27 mark of your lecture. These situations are not uncommon, and add to the difficulty of using video for your learning material. Take this all into consideration before your decide that video is the best medium for your learning materials.

Video Platform and Hosting

Decide how you will want to record, and make a test video before you dive in. There are many different options for screen capture and recording, including recording right within PowerPoint, using software programs like Camtasia, or the University of Saskatchewan-supported academic video platform Panopto. You also need to decide where the video will be hosted — for example, on a University server (via Panopto) or perhaps externally (on YouTube). Each choice will have its own benefits and quirks to sort out.

Technical Considerations: Recording Audio

Record using a dedicated microphone rather than the one in your laptop, which will pick up more surrounding noise from your recording environment and computer. A headset or lapel mic can work quite well, so long as it is not rubbing against your clothing. If using a standalone microphone, keep it about a foot away away from your mouth to avoid excessive pops and hissing coming from the pronunciation of hard consonants (like “p”). Choose a recording room that is quiet, without added noise from things like air vents, children, or street traffic. If you are doing a narrated slide video, it should be quite easy to pause the recording between slides as needed, giving yourself time to breathe or take a sip of water before you restart the recording.

Technical Considerations: Filming Yourself

If you are filming yourself in a “talking head”-style video, be conscious of your background environment. Make sure there are no distracting, sensitive, or copywritten materials behind you. Ensure you are recording in a place with adequate lighting. Be conscious of the camera angle, so that you are well-framed (and the camera is not pointing up your nose). Finally, if you are talking to the camera, look at the camera and not the little “picture in picture” image of yourself.


Feature image by mohamed_hassan was originally published at and is available under a CC0 Creative Commons License.