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How to Create Useful Videos for Online College Courses

How to Create Useful Videos for Online College Courses

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By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University

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The use of videos is growing on social media and on college campuses. Online college courses are a perfect venue for short videos from the professor introducing the students to the course, for general announcements and for one-on-one discourse with students as a replacement for a typed reply to a weekly discussion question. Videos are also useful for brief sit-downs with students about what they did right or wrong on their weekly research assignment.

During a recent visit to a local college library, I saw students, faculty and even the librarians using quick video headshots just to say hi or to pass on some bit of information.

Dropping in on a meeting of old faculty friends, I found teachers talking to students using Zoom as part of an impromptu conference call. Later, I saw new students and faculty exchanging funny images using the photo app Flipgrid.

The First Video Establishes a Relationship

Online courses at the university include a weekly discussion session on a topic linked to that week’s learning objective. But there is also the lighter, fun introduction of each student, where the faculty has a chance to exchange greetings with students and talk about mutually familiar topics.

This is where the faculty has the upper hand in establishing that special relationship with their students. The faculty member should examine each student’s introduction to find something they have in common. For example, a student and instructor may have lived in the same town or have a shared hobby. For the teacher, it is basically letting the students know you are real. Careful reading of student introductions can lead to lifelong friendships. There are former students who email faculty members years after they graduate just to thank them for some career-altering advice.

The Next Video Should Be Instructional

A short video on what is expected of that first written paper is essential for student success. Students will improve their writing skills when you explain the importance of reading the rubric, paying attention to the writing standards, and offering advice on some of the trickier problems, say, of making a PowerPoint presentation.

One area of special concern to online students is the proper use of citations and references, especially when they quote a passage from a book or an article. Make a short video on how to write that citation. You may find that students will learn faster and better from the video than from a link or detailed description on how to write citations.

You might also want to create a short video on those special days of the year, such as Constitution Day, the D-Day anniversary or Thanksgiving. The number of videos does not have to be more than two or three for each eight-week online course.

With most of my students being in the military, such events elicit from them stories they want to share or just a simple thank you for remembering our veterans.

Use that short video to ask them to email their questions to you or confirmation that they saw the video. It is all part of the engagement that faculty members try to perfect each week in their online classes.

While making a video can be fun, it can be confusing. If you are the type of person who can talk for hours, then you probably won’t have a problem talking live into your laptop or other camera. However, if you are not used to making a video, take the time to write a script of what you want to say. That script can be just a list of topics. Or it could be the entire message you want to convey to the students.

Put a Bit of Humor in Your Videos

Often, students are under a lot of stress as working adults in an alien environment that demands a bit of perfection in writing, conducting research, and posting sensible comments in the weekly discussions with other students and faculty. So, make it fun. Bring a laugh to them.

If you find a short video of some unusual human interest item in the news, such as a truck filled with watermelons losing its load, an advertisement showing herding cats, or a military video showing a truck dropping out of a cargo plane with a parachute that does not open, use it. A laugh gets a lot of traction, especially if you find funny videos related to the learning objectives.

Many videos are free to the public. Make sure you are using videos that are not copyright-protected. So, check before you borrow someone else’s work without permission or without paying the appropriate use fee.

The next legal aspect concerns the federal government. You must also write a few words describing what you are talking about in your video. This is where that script can be useful. Your video will be posted in the discussion section of the online classroom, in the assignment section for written papers, or as an email or announcement to students. You must write some version of exactly what you are saying in that video. That is the law.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act helps those with disabilities, whether they are in a wheelchair, blind or deaf, to be able to read about your video material. All students should be able to enjoy engaging with the faculty through video as well as the written word.

How Do You Make That Video?

Videos of yourself can be shot in a studio setting or from some fun spot. Some instructors take the videos seriously enough to set up a room with a camera and lighting. Plan carefully to have the proper lighting to show your face the way you want to be seen. A formal studio approach could include the background as part of the message you are trying to send. Think of what you see on the TV news as examples to emulate.

The easiest way is to turn on your laptop camera and start talking from your home office. The home office is usually full of artifacts, pictures and awards.

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Video Making Should Be Fun

The use of video for engaging your students is more than just business, it is fun as well. You will find that students enjoy seeing their professors on the screen, knowing that they are not some artificial intelligence system or robotic piece of software grading their comments and papers. These video engagements improve the feelings of the students and make them partners with the faculty in the lifelong process of education.

 About the Author

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at American Public University (APU). He was program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management and Government Contracting. He was Chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Hedgepeth was the founding Director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics from 1985 to 1990, Fort Lee, Virginia.

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