Social Distance Learning, or So You Want to Record Your Lectures, huh?

I have been Recording and “Flipping” my lectures in some variation for almost a decade. This is all completely anecdotal but I have developed a few guiding principles. These principles come from my limited data in student completion, testing data, and student surveys. Then there is also the informal observations in which I have learned some of the tricks students have developed to get around the recordings. I would be glad to hear what improvements you all make. For most of my recordings I have used iMovie but there is also WeVideo and an open source option called OpenShot Video Editor. To record the actual video there is Screen-cast-o-matic or Screencastify.

Guiding Principles

  1. Keep It Short
  2. Keep It Thematic
  3. Make Your Point and Get out
  4. Get rid of your verbal tics
  5. Don’t just be a talking head

Principles In Detail

Keep It Short

This is a layered principle. First, individual videos should be around 2 minutes (!) and this is paired with Principle 2. Second, the individual videos can be organized into themes. For example, as part of an American Revolution Unit I created a Declaration of Independence section that was under 10 minutes and broken down the lecture into 5 smaller themed sections. I created a YouTube playlist which allows the students to use a “QWIQ” method to take notes.

In an in person lecture I would expand on these concepts and add some personal stories but recorded lectures are a different beast! Students seem to want to get in and get out!

Keep It Thematic

Each of the 2 minute segments should be based around a central theme. Give the shorter themed video a Title that describes the theme as well. This will allow the students to know what to expect in the video. If you are using the QWIQ method it will allow them to turn the Title into a Question that the video will hopefully answer.

Make Your Point and Get Out

In an in person lecture I will tell a lot of stories and often get into a lot of current event tangents. There are jokes and sometimes students even laugh (not often but they will at least let me know they appreciate I’m trying). In a recorded lecture though students have the opportunity to be distracted by many things. Make your point, let the students get the information, and get out. Find other ways to make your personal connections.

Get Rid of the Verbal Tics

I say “Um” and “does that make sense?” WAY TOO MUCH! In my 3rd or 4th year of recording lectures a student mentioned this to me and I started reviewing my recordings before publishing them. It was embarrassing! I started to edit these out. Then as I started recording new videos I would consciously try to avoid these which is hard to do. Thankfully if you are recording 2 minute videos then it is not a big deal to stop and start over if you start to fall into bad habits.

Don’t Just be a Talking Head

A district news person once told some of my students making National History Day documentaries to “say cow, see cow”. She meant that when the students talk about something in the narration then they should show a picture of that topic in the documentary. I tried to use this principle in my videos. Using iMovie I found primary sources and pictures that would support what I was talking about and let those sources linger on the screen. This takes a while and might not be feasible in the current crisis but this allows students to make new connections to the content. It also means that they don’t have to look at your face for hours at a time.

Suggestions

  • Stack your recording device on some books. Look up at the camera. Trust me you will look ALOT better.
  • Sit on the front 1/3 of your chair when you record. It makes you sit up straight and look less frumpy. It will also help you speak more clearly.
  • Think about your background.
  • Think about your audio. Background noise will be louder than you think. Investing in a decent mic helps.
  • Try not to overscript but have a plan.
  • Put a “RECORDING DO NOT DISTURB” sign on your door. Trust me – the moment you feel great with your recording someone will walk in halfway through.

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