Why Choose Video? Part 1

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Why you might consider utilizing video in your courses and the advantages and disadvantages it provides.

By Nate Evans, Manager, Digital Content & Alyssa Bradley, Media Production Specialist

How much video did you watch today?

Think about it for a moment.

Here’s my video-watching journal from yesterday:

  1. I watched the news for 40 minutes while getting ready for work.
  2. I spent 30 minutes on a Zoom call with colleagues at work to get an update on a web development project.
  3. I spent 20-30 minutes watching a variety of entertaining (and not-so-entertaining) videos in my Facebook feed while waiting in line for lunch.
  4. I had a brief 5 minute video call with my wife to catch up with my son after school.
  5. I found a video from Gordon Ramsay on how to cook the perfect pasta for dinner that evening.
  6. I watched a movie on Netflix for 90 minutes at the end of the day.

This feels like a lot, but when I reflected on it, I consistently watched video in some format at regular intervals throughout my entire day. The thing was, it was simple, easy, and free to do.

Video is available everywhere and, these days, it is incredibly easy to create and share video with very little effort using platforms like YouTube, Facebook Live, or a number of other free tools using a smartphone.

This is the world that we teach in.

So it is not surprising to me that many of my consultations with faculty begin with a conversation around video. They usually sound something like this:

Me: “Hi, it is good to meet you.”

Instructor: “Great to meet you, too. So, I’m putting my course online and I think that I should use video in there. Where do we get started?”

Video has saturated our culture, it is often free and easy to consume, and frankly, it can be a great medium for synchronous and asynchronous communication.

That said, making a great video is not free and easy, and that is important to keep in mind if you are thinking about including it in your course.

We have all seen really terrible videos before. They can be shaky, blurry, boring, too quiet, too loud, too long…in terms of teaching, my sense is that some videos are bad because, even though we consume video constantly, we don’t understand how to leverage the advantages of video for our students. So the goal of this article is to understand this medium better, and provide strategic guidance on how to create a great video for your course.

Advantages and disadvantages of video as a medium for learning

Video is Engaging

If one of your goals is to engage your students, video is a fantastic medium to grab your students’ attention to introduce a topic or concept. It is emotive in nature and engages a number of our senses at the same time. However, it cannot sustain high levels of engagement over long periods of time, which is why we usually recommend that you keep your videos 3 minutes or less in your course when possible (the research on this is further described here).

Below is a great example of a course trailer, which is used to advertise SW290: Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Disasters. The intent of this video was to introduce the instructor, Glenn Stutzky, and include students in the story arc and course experience. As you watch, keep in mind that a lot of planning and production went into this short video from the members of the MSU team behind the course, including Keesa Johnson, and Christopher Irvin from MSU IT, and Hailey Mooney from the MSU School of Social Work.

Video is Prescriptive

Video is great at providing a concrete representation of a specific experience that you would like to share with your students. This makes it great for teaching concepts that are rooted in process, or for teaching concepts iteratively. However, unlike written word, video may leave little room for creative thinking or imagination. For example, when a book is made into a movie, which is better? In terms of the vivid mental picture you have created in your mind, the book usually wins. Why? Because the video can never match our imaginations. By its nature, video provides a concrete representation of an experience that is fed to us, rather than allowing us to imagine it for ourselves based on written word.
The Khan Academy Channel on YouTube provides a number of great examples of videos that leverage the prescriptive nature of video: concrete, linear, process. Below is a brief example video on the “Law of Demand” which is worth checking out:

Video is flexible for the viewer, and inflexible for the creator

Video is a flexible medium for your students because it can provide an adjustable learning experience that accommodates a variety of learners and learning preferences. This makes it a great Universal Design for Learning approach to make learning accessible to all of your students.

For example: once you create a video, you should upload it to a service like MSU’s Kaltura MediaSpace or YouTube, which is a modern hosting platform for your content. This will serve the video to your students in a way that works for them, and all of the devices that they use. Additionally, these platforms give you the ability to caption your video content. Captions and transcripts provide your students flexibility in how they engage your content (text or video), and where they engage it (on their computer, phone, or in print).

With this said, video can be an inflexible medium for you as the video creator. Once your video is created, any change to the content can take considerable time because of the post-production workflow. For example, if you need to change a date in your video, you will need to re-edit the timeline, re-export your video, edit your captions and transcripts, then delete the original video and replace it with the new video. If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right, it is!

Making updates to your video content can take a long time, so with this in mind, include timeless content and information and exclude things like specific dates and names that could change next semester.

In the next article, we will talk more specifically about the video production workflow that you should expect, and help you understand if and when video is a good fit based on your course goals. We will also provide you with a battle plan for developing a really effective video from start to finish, as well as a list of MSU resources to help you do it.


Evans_NateNathan Evans

Do the hard things well. #a11y and #ux in the mitten state.



Alyssa_BradleyAlyssa Bradley

Media Production Specialist @michiganstateu. Videographer, storyteller, artist, and nerd who runs on daydreams and caffeine.



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