Videos in Online Courses: The Evidence, Theory and Tools

— Suzanne Homan

Suzanne Hohman

Suzanne Homan

Earlier this semester, Jeanne Slattery and Randy Potter shared eight suggestions to help others begin their own online teaching video adventures. These spot-on suggestions were derived from their own experiences preparing to teach online, as well as their analysis of  both teaching and technology videos.

Creating teaching videos may at first seem difficult, but consider the value of adding them to your online course. Starting with the more obvious advantage, videos help create an instructor presence. Seeing and hearing an instructor can go a long way towards motivating students and helping them feel connected to you and the content: all of which contribute to the learning process. In addition, many students find it useful that videos can be replayed as often as necessary. Jeanne’s mid-term evaluation illustrates her students’ attitude to her use of video. According to Rose (2009), surveyed online students indicated that instructor-made videos helped them “understand the material better.”

There are also several learning theories which support video as an effective instructional tool. The constructivist learning model is frequently associated with multimedia learning: the navigational nature of video enables learners to control what content they view, as well as the pace they go through it (Zhang, 2005). Situated learning theory is used to describe the capability of video to help students make connections between content and real-life situations (Choi, 2007).  The cognitive theory of multimedia learning assumes that learners have a limited capacity to process information and considers how information’s format can affect learning (Mayer, 2001). Multimedia theories help us understand how people learn in a digital environment, as well as how to effectively design multimedia instruction to maximize learning.

In other words, videos should not simply replicate what you do in your face-to-face classes. As Jeanne and Randy described, your videos should be mapped out first. Consider what you want students to learn and how video might convey the point better than text-based material in an online environment. How might you incorporate assessment activities that align with your instructional videos?

Tools Available

Overwhelmed in thinking about how you might get started? Fear not! Depending on what your goal is, the Learning Technology Center (LTC) offers many video strategies and supports a variety of recording tools. The following is a list of recording options available to Clarion University instructors, along with some guidance on which tool is best suited for different needs. For in-the-classroom recording, please consult the LTC with regard to audio and video considerations, as classroom designs vary.

These options are available for synchronous recording (i.e., students join the instructor for online class meetings at the same time, although from different locations):

  • Mediasite Live. This tool allows you to record a face-to-face classroom session. The recording process captures the classroom video and audio sources (e.g., instructor, document camera, computer/SMART Podium, laptop and microphone), but must take place in a designatedMediasite classroom. Recordingsare accessed via URL using Clarion University credentials.
    • Benefits. Recordings can be used for online sections of the same course and can be reused in later semesters. Recordings can be viewed on mobile devices. Technical support is provided to operate and monitor recording event.
    • Limitations. Classroom recording must be scheduled. Video access requires additional login.
  • Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing. Record a live, online session with participants. Because it is a web-based conferencing tool, Collaborate is also ideal for guest presentations. This tool captures web cam video and microphone input. In addition, all interactionsare captured (e.g., chat, whiteboard content, file transfer library, multimedia library, application-sharing, and web-tour). This capability makes Collaborate a comprehensive recording option.
    • Benefits. This tool allows for the most two-way interactions between instructor and students. Faculty can record in the privacy of their office or home, and minimal technology is required. Recordings can be archived in your D2L course for convenient access,  published in multiple formats, and reused. Recordings can be viewed on mobile devices.
    • Limitations. Requires some user training. Instructors must be connected to internet. Recordings can take time to process.

These options are available for asynchronous recording (i.e., recordings are accessed on the student’s own schedule):

  • Mediasite Live. Same as above.
  • Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing. Same as above.
  • Mediasite Desktop Recorder. Record still images and slides, orscreencast from your desktop with narration and webcam. Videosare accessed via URL using Clarion University user credentials.
    • Benefits. Minimal technology is required. Record in the privacy of your home or office. You can record offline and upload later. Recordings can be viewed on mobile devices.
    • Limitations. Video access requires additional login.
  • Office Mix (pilot). This free Office 2013 add-in (Windows only) allows you to narrate and annotate a PowerPoint presentation and use your webcam if desired. You can also convert your presentation toan mp4 and upload toD2L.
    • Benefits. Minimal technology is required; video format is universal.
    • Limitations. Need a pen tool or touchscreen to facilitate annotation if desired.

A final point to consider: we kicked off the Instructional Technology Equipment Loan program last fall. We have a variety of equipment available for short-term loan including Windows 8, Android, and Apple tablets; Chromebooks; and a Windows 8 touch-screen laptop. We can talk to you about software and hardware to meet your goals and let you test-drive them before you purchase your own. The portability of these devices allows you to capture video anywhere. While the equipment is only available for short-term loan, that loan can be extended depending on demand.

Please stop in or call the LTC (104 Egbert), a division of the Center for Computing Services, to discuss your recording goals. We can help you get started with the option that’s best for you, as well as assist with an instructional video design that will align with your course goals and learning outcomes.


Choi, H. (2007). The effect of context-based video instruction on learner satisfaction, comprehension and retention in college courses. American Journal of Distance Education, 215-227.

Mayer, R. (2001). Multimedia learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rose, K. (2009). Student perceptions of the use of instructor-made videos in online and face-to-face classes. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5, Retrieved from

Zhang, D. (2005). Interactive multimedia-based e-learning: A study of effectiveness.  American Journal of Distance Education, 149-162.

Suzanne Homan is a tech support analyst/instructional designer with the Learning Technology Center. Prior to joining Clarion University three years ago, Suzanne was an instructor of Computer Science at the University of Pittsburgh, Titusville. She also has eight years of experience as an Instructional Technology Specialist/technology support in K-8 and 15 years communications and design experience.

This entry was posted in Teaching, Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s