Instructional Videos

by MU Instructional Designers
June 15, 2022
8-10 min read

The video above highlights how instructional videos can enhance student learning and engagement. An effective instructional video has a very specific purpose and audience. Consider these questions:

  • Is my intended audience all students in the course or a specific subset (e.g. students working on a particular project, students who need remediation)?
  • Is my intended audience students who are familiar with some of the content (e.g. already completed assigned reading) or who haven’t had any exposure to it yet (e.g. a chapter introduction)?
  • Is my purpose to model a process (e.g. walking through a tutorial)?
  • Is my purpose to present facts about a topic (e.g. direct instruction)?
  • Is my purpose to present my ideas or personal experiences (e.g. narrative lectures, testimonials, etc.)

Types of Instructional Videos

Here are a few types of videos that could meet the needs of different audiences and purposes:

  • Key Concept Videos or Microlectures1(“just-in-time teaching”). Short screenrecordings, demonstrations, and explanations for particularly difficult concepts are a great study tool that students can re-watch as needed.
  • Online Lectures. Popular with flipped learning, lecture videos can engage students with direct instruction, saving class-time for application or discussion.
  • Introductory Videos. Short, informal, unscripted video introductions can add authenticity and teacher presence, particularly in hybrid and online classes.
  • Video Feedback. Recording video comments to provide feedback on student work can be effective. It conveys tone, adds teacher presence, and saves time from typing, but it’s not a good option for long or multi-part feedback.

Evidence-based Practices

Make videos authentic.

Make videos authentic.

Teacher Presence

Effective instructional videos capitalize on you, the instructor of the course. Videos that look and feel generic are less engaging and can detract from perceived relevance to the course. Here are some effective strategies for increasing teacher presence in your instructional videos:

  • Show your face, don’t just be a disembodied voice. This can mean having your camera turned on in Zoom when showing PowerPoint slides, or talking directly to your webcam without screen recording.
  • Be conversational (even humorous). Sometimes if feels very formal to talk into a camera, but imagine that you’re talking to your students in class and show your own personality.
  • Share personal anecdotes and experiences. This makes your content feel more relevant, and highlights your perspective on the concepts being discussed.

Diverse Perspectives

As previously mentioned, sharing your own experiences and perspective increases authenticity and relevance for students, but to enhance the learning experience even more, consider also adding perspectives that are different from your own. You can record 1:1 interviews in Zoom or with a smartphone in person. You can add video clips from YouTube or Films On Demand that show how your course content can be applied across cultures, identities, and contexts.

Make videos engaging.

Make videos engaging.


Videos with clear organization (sequence, transitions, etc.) help students stay engaged and retain information. When planning out your video, identify key ideas/points and consider how to deliver them in a concise and engaging video. Many instructors prefer just using outlines as opposed to full scripts so that the actual phrasing can be more extemporaneous, while other instructors prefer to write out full scripts that they will read from/perform (this works best for narration only videos, so that it doesn’t look like you are reading).


Attention span is the biggest difference between instructional videos and face-to-face instruction. Chunking video content into brief segments improves student engagement. According to research done by Guo, Kim, & Rubin2, you should keep video clips under six minutes. A live lecture is inherently more interactive as students are receiving and giving nonverbal cues and/or asking questions. When students are more passively watching a screen, that engagement decreases without chunking and opportunities for response/reflection (discussed more below).

Provide options for student response and reflection.

Provide options for student response and reflection.

Providing options for students to interact with material increases the opportunity for deeper learning. When students have to do something with what they’ve just learned it strengthens their understanding and ability to synthesize the information.

Options could include some of the following:

  • Self-grading or practice quiz
  • Guiding questions for reading or watching a video
  • Reflection activity using video/text/audio – does not have to be submitted/graded

Consider the “10/2 Chunk & Chew” rule: for every 10 minutes of content, students should have at least 2 minutes of processing time.3 Chunking material into smaller sub-topics was discussed above with making your video engaging, now this response/reflection piece creates the “chew” time for students to engage with and better retain information.

Model ethical behavior.

Model ethical behavior.

By modeling appropriate strategies for making your video accessible and ensuring copyright compliance, you provide examples to your students and clearly demonstrate the importance of ethical behavior when producing your own content.

Digital Citizenship

Respecting copyright is the responsibility of all content producers, including educators. When you model adherence to copyright guidelines, you are leading by example. One easy way to do this is to use images that are freely available at sites like Pixabay and Unsplash for your presentations. Point out how you cited them (if required) so that students will have a clear understanding of what is expected in their own work.

Remember copyright applies to your work too. How do you want to share your video? Is it meant to be only for your class, or are you posting it to YouTube for a broader audience as well? If you choose to share it, consider using a Creative Commons license.

Another aspect to digital citizenship that you can model in your instructional videos is information validation. When we present information to students, there is an inherent trust that, as educators, we are sharing information from credible and accurate sources. Encourage students to think critically about where information comes from by describing your own information validation process, particularly on controversial topics.

Accessible to Diverse Learners

Consider students who may have different cultural backgrounds. Be careful not to make assumptions about what your students already know based on how they look or how they speak. When creating your video content, be sure to clarify and/or provide background knowledge if you include references to

  • Regional customs
  • Unique vocabulary
  • Figurative language
    • Idioms
    • Symbols (this applies visually too)
    • Metaphors
  • Pop culture events or people

In addition to considering accessibility in the content of your videos (what), consider how to plan for accessibility in the delivery of your videos (how). Captioning your videos ensures they are accessible to a variety of learners, for example, students who have difficulty processing audio information well, non-native English speakers, or those with cognitive processing issues. It’s UDL in action! (UDL Checkpoint 1.2)

Uploading the video to Microsoft Stream or as “unlisted” to your YouTube channel so you can start with auto-captions will make this task less onerous. Or you could use Maestra’s Web Captioner, which is a free transcription tool.

Learn More!


  1. Hua Zheng, “Short and Sweet: The Educational Benefits of Microlectures and Active Learning,” Educause Review. (2022).
  2. Philip Guo, Juho Kim,& Rob Rubin, “How Video Production Affects Student Engagement: An Empirical Study of MOOC Videos,” Association for Computing Machinery, (2014). doi:
  3. Kasia Derbiszewska, & T. Nicole Tucker-Smith, “Supercharge Your Professional Learning: 40 Concrete Strategies That Improve Adult Learning, (2020). Wakefield, MA: CAST Publishing.