In this blog post, I want to share with you 5 tips from Karen Costa’s (2020) “99 Tips for creating Simple and Sustainable Educational Videos: A Guide for Online Teachers and Flipped Classes” that will help you create more effective and engaging videos in the post-COVID era. If there’s anything that 15 months of the pandemic has taught us as educators, it is to be kind to ourselves and to our students. Hundreds of instructors have taken the “Level-Up” course offered by The Teaching & Learning Commons to learn and re-think strategies to teach online more effectively. While this course offered an immense amount of information about how you can make your online courses more supportive and effective, the decision about which strategies to incorporate is always entirely up to the instructor.
Tip #1 is “Satisfice”. Not satisfy, but satisfice. Costa (2020) mentioned “satisficing is a concept from the field of decision-making theory, developed in the 1950s by a theorist named Herbert Simon (1956). The theory argues that we should make decisions by choosing a path that will provide adequate results.” Now, I’m sure many of you have done exactly that early on at the start of the pandemic when you suddenly needed to teach online. You needed to pick and choose what you would do to put your materials online, perhaps changing your activities or instructions to achieve the same learning goals & alignment without reworking the entire course (you wouldn’t necessarily wish to redevelop it from the ground up). This is the same idea with making videos. You don’t need to shoot for the moon when creating videos. In fact, if you do you may not get there. Instead, shoot for the tallest tree. You’ll still get a pretty good view. In other words, do not shoot for perfection. Instead, take small and imperfect steps. Students love videos that are not scripted and not “Hollywood.” If one of your colleagues is making perfect educational videos (in your eyes), learn from them! Stop satisfying and start satisficing.
For those instructors who have created many videos throughout the year(s), the next two tips are for you. Most of us have a Moodle course and have probably organized course materials in a way that works for you, either in a weekly format or a tab format. Whatever it is, you have a system that works and hopefully by doing so will lessen the cognitive load of students when navigating the course. Tip #2 is to “locate videos within course content.” Costa (2020) describes this as a very simple and effective strategy and a nice way to get students motivated for the upcoming week. A simple video introduction placed at the beginning of the week would help students focus on what to look for in that week. Placing it at the end to summarize what students have learned would also be effective.
Similarly, if you’ve split your course content by topics or sections, you could place them in their respective sections as well. Learn more on how to publish videos into your Moodle course. The key here is to be consistent with your videos, just as with your other course content. Start by adding one video to each section as a starting point. The next time you teach, you could consider doubling up. But as tip #1 suggests, don’t shoot for the moon.
This next tip will feel a bit contrary to the last. Instead of being organized and consistent, we are going to throw it out the window. Tip #3 is to “try on-the-fly videos.” Assuming you have already worked out a plan and that you are already creating consistent videos for your course, let’s throw in a curve ball and take consistency out of the equation for a moment. At the end of the day, teaching is not all a straight path. I’m going to take the example from Costa’s (2020) book here because I think it’s relevant. “You begin teaching and reach week 4, when all hell breaks loose. You are getting e-mails every 30 minutes from students who are confused about the upcoming midterm paper. Or, you review your students’ recent quiz grades and realize that no one in the course understands a critical course concept.” What do you do? You probably know where I’m heading, create a video! This is a great teachable moment. This video may not be part of your regular organized planned videos like the rest, but it can be an excellent teaching tool to help your students understand that concept they didn’t get. (And saves you replying all the emails from students with a single video).
As we head into a new normal, the educational landscape will change. More students and faculty alike are looking for more of a blended approach to learning. This also means less face-to-face time in the physical classroom and perhaps more online instead. The question lies what video has to offer when we consider many modalities of communication. Tip #4 is “Go the distance.” With both distance education and online education, there is a need to fill this distance between students and instructors. This space or distance is best described with Moore’s theory of transactional distance. Costa (2020) described it as “the idea that when learners and teachers are not in the same time or space, profound differences occur in the teaching and learning experience.” Videos is an excellent way to bridge this transactional distance. Imagine your online course without a single video, and with the students only communicating with you via text. Do you sense the transactional distance inherent in that relationship?
Now picture if you only had one introduction video, welcoming the class, and setting out expectations. Can you picture students watching and listening on their couch, waiting for the bus, on their lunch break at work? With that one video, you just brought your students closer to you. You’ve lessened that transactional distance. As you we go into this new normal, what are some ways videos can help bring your students closer to you?
The final tip I leave you is that we’re “In this together.” Now, I’m not a biology major but Costa (2020) uses the concept of symbiotic relationships to describe three types of relationships between organisms: parasitism, commensalism, and mutualism. “In parasitism, one organism is helped while the other is harmed (e.g., a tick feeding off your dog). In commensalism, one organism is helped, and the other is neither helped nor harmed. This is a more neutral relationship. Finally, we arrive at my favourite: mutualism, a relationship in which both organisms benefit.” As you create more educational content, especially videos, this requires more time and effort (at least initially). It is important to realize through this model of mutualism that while you are helping students become better versions of themselves, this work should also benefit you, the instructor, as well. It should not always be the faculty member sacrificing themselves on behalf of the learner, as that will only lead to burn out.
As you continue this journey of making great educational content for your learners, take a step back and give thought to the mutual benefits of what videos can do to help build this relationship with your students. Shoot for the trees and not the stars. Try to be consistent with what you produce, but know that ad hoc videos are helpful when they serve a learning purpose. Don’t be afraid to take small steps. If you need assistance along the way, your educational media strategist is here to help you along your journey.
Costa, K. (2020). 99 tips for creating simple and sustainable educational videos: A guide for online teachers and flipped classes (First ed.). Stylus.