Make videos more engaging

17 May 2023

Adding more video content to your teaching material is a good idea. Here’s how to make that video content more engaging.

But first, in case you’re wondering why adding more video content is a good idea: Research on student perceptions tells us that students equate a quality course with one that engages students with course content through short, but interesting and focused media such as pre-recorded lectures and YouTube videos that relate to course content. Pre-recording lectures and having students watch them before coming to class can help keep the lectures short and focused, while also freeing up classtime for more active learning. 


Considerations for engagement 

Style and presence: Your lecture style should mirror how you teach in-person, so incorporate the stories, jokes, or anecdotes that you would utilise in the classroom. However, recording an asynchronous lecture is different than teaching in your in-person classroom -- you are not teaching to a classroom full of people, you are teaching to each individual student (one at a time) who will be watching that video on their computer screen or mobile device. Think of it more like a one-on-one tutoring session. Your delivery does not have to be perfect; while recording, if you misspeak or make a mistake, correct yourself and keep going, just as you would in a live-audience environment. Mistakes can convey your humanity, which will engage students.  

Type of content: Record “evergreen” content. Avoid lecturing on content that might change dramatically in the coming years, that is pinned to current events, or directly references readings or texts that might be updated. Aim for 3-5 years of reuse. Content that will become outdated quickly can easily be addressed using text pages, third-party videos, or within the in-person class sessions.   

Video length: Lecture videos should be no longer than 15 minutes -- 4 to 10 minutes is ideal. However, you do not need to limit your instruction on a particular topic to 15 minutes or less. If you need more time, consider breaking up the topic into smaller lectures by asking a question or inserting an activity. This will keep students engaged and mirror the natural pauses you might take for questions or comments in an in-person classroom.  

Add interactivity: Add interactive “knowledge checks” into videos to move them from passive to active forms of learning. We provided examples of this in previous teaching tips. See Assess more, grade less and Increase Student Engagement with Online Tools

Video type: Avoid defaulting to recording yourself talking over slides. This is a fine way to deliver content occasionally, but there are many other video lecture types to that can be more engaging: 

  • Solo lecture: This lecture has no associated slides or visuals. 
  • Lecture + slides: This is the most common form of lecture. However, if your content does not require slides or if you typically teach without them, there is no need to create PowerPoints explicitly for a lecture video. 
  • Lecture + handwriting: This format allows you to write or draw on a blank page, recording your handwriting as well as yourself. This is particularly useful if you wish to write out diagrams, graphs, or equations. 
  • Lecture + slides + handwriting: Use this format if you plan to annotate your slides heavily. This is particularly useful if you wish to circle things on a graphic or highlight key points for students. 
  • Lecture + software demo: Record yourself screensharing as you demonstrate Excel, AutoCAD, or some other software you need students to use.  
  • Guest lecture: Ask a colleague from anywhere in the world to record a short lecture on their area of expertise and expand the sources of knowledge you provide to your students. Use classtime to apply their perspective to your context. Guests might include experts on a particular topic, practitioners in the field, individuals with a particular experience to share, or alumni of the program who can offer advice to current students and/or insight into potential career paths. 
  • InterviewThe guest lecture option can often be made even better by interviewing them yourself. After all, students want to know you and your views on the topic too.  
  • Lecture + third-party video: We sometimes play videos (such as a YouTube clip or personal recording) during class. Why not play that video while you record your screen, allowing you the opportunity to pause when necessary to add context or your own thoughts to what was just said or seen? This technique can work well when you want to illustrate a concept by showing a couple of quick examples or provide instruction by narrating over a video. 
  • Roundtable: Roundtables are recorded discussions that prompt the viewers (your students) to respond to the content of the conversation. They are best used for case-based learning, socratic discussions, or complex thought problems. Roundtables can help develop critical thinking and reasoning skills or guide students through how to apply a framework. Roundtable videos should always be interspersed with asynchronous questions in order to engage students with the conversation that the recorded professor and students are having. 
  • Simulations: Demonstrations, simulations, model projects, role plays, and more fall into this category. Consider a grapevine physiology course in which students are required to learn proper pruning techniques. Certainly, some in-person instruction would ideally supplement to the online content, but students could first learn the performative aspects by watching simulations performed and recorded by yourself with the help of LTL staff.  


Ready to get started? You can use the Video Lab in Ivey Hall, or record from the comfort of your home or office. Review the Video and multimedia for education page of Te Kete Wānaka which includes tips on using cameras at home and recording your own sound.  

Contact Teaching Quality with any questions!