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Six Great Uses of Video

Producing polished educational videos requires a basic understanding of the essential principles of video.

Even if you’re used to lecturing frequently in your face-to-face courses, the truth of the matter is that such videos - particularly those that are extremely long and lack any visual materials - are not a good use of the medium. Students can arguably get the same level of learning content by reading a document, even a transcript of your lecture. Below are some suggestions for categories of video that are a great use of the medium and can showcase your knowledge, talent, and enthusiasm.

There are six high-level categories of educational videos that are particularly effective uses of the medium:

  1. Module introductions
  2. Announcements
  3. Process illustrations
  4. Intellectual exchanges
  5. Real-world connections
  6. Equivalent alternatives to existing content

Module Introductions

One particularly effective practice in online courses is the addition of module introductions. These introductions give you the opportunity to establish much-needed context, both for the course materials within the module itself as well as within the course in general. They should introduce students to the instructional content they’ll encounter in the coming module, explain why they’re being asked to consume it, and illustrate how it builds on concepts they’ve already learned.


BestUses_Announcements_100w.pngIf you're comfortable recording videos on your own and familiar with how to post them quickly to your course, posting cohort-specific video announcements can be an effective way to showcase the "man behind the curtain," so to speak. It’s important that these be recorded "just in time," so it's clear to the students that the announcement itself is specific to them and their course. Doing so will help ensure that students will find the video engaging and personally applicable.

Process Illustrations

It’s extremely valuable for students to see the component steps in a process. This allows them to observe a variety of things, such as how experts solve complex problems, cause-and-effect reactions, and visualizations of abstract concepts. Be sure to explain your thinking when appropriate and not just present without context.

Intellectual Exchanges

Students benefit from seeing how experts interact with each other, and how their statements are sometimes worthy of vigorous debate. These kinds of exchanges model critical inquiry and what it means to have a civil debate in your field. Observing experts discuss a multifaceted issue can provide more methods to explore a topic rather than simply presenting one perspective. Consider intellectual exchanges in the form of debates, interviews, round tables, or your own video responses to publicly-available videos that you can edit into your own.

Real-World Connections

Providing connections between course material and the so-called “real world” is something you should do throughout your class whenever possible: tie your course content to the real-world. Research on students’ motivation indicates that doing so can enhance their sense of the relevance of what they’re studying (Norman, Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, & Lovett, 2010). Videos that underscore the relevance of your material are a powerful use of the medium, and help your students understand how it might apply to their future education, career, or life in general.

Equivalent Alternatives

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an instructional design framework that encourages instructors to design materials to address as many learning styles as possible. One principle suggests that providing alternative representations of instructional content can help address more learning styles. For example, if you have a piece of written instructional material, you can ALSO offer a video. But remember: in order for it to be an equivalent alternative, it must have the same educational value as the original. A good target for video-based equivalent alternatives are “pain points” in the course: points where you know the students have struggled previously and would benefit from multiple approaches or explanations.


Using video can be a great option for students in online courses, but it should be used judiciously. Not only can it be time-consuming to develop a video, but there are accessibility concerns to take into account, particularly when filming videos where you’re showing something. Be sure to discuss everything you’re showing so your videos are as accessible as possible.

One premise links all of these effective uses of video: they allow you to establish presence in your course. While presence is a topic with considerable depth in educational research, the important point is that videos allow students to actually see and hear you, and offer opportunities for you to demonstrate your expertise and enthusiasm. That can be compelling, particularly if your course is exclusively online (i.e. when students aren’t meeting with you in person).


CAST. (n.d.). Providing UDL resources for colleges and universities. Retrieved from

Norman, M. K., Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., & Lovett, M. C. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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