Teaching with Technology

Recommendations on how to create videos to encourage student engagement

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

At the first Association for Computing Machinery conference on “Learning @ Scale,” researchers Guo and Rubin presented an empirical study on how video production techniques from videos affects student engagement (2014).  Their study analyzed viewing data from 6.9 million video watching sessions gathered from four EdX MOOC courses in order to identify best practices for online educational videos.  They used the data to measure engagement by investigating “how long students watched videos, and whether they were able to answer post-video assessments.”  It is one of the largest empirical studies investigating how video techniques influence student engagement.

Results from the study help identify a number of key characteristics that seem to make online educational videos more engaging for students.  Below is a list of their findings and a few recommendations on how you may incorporate these practices into your video design. They are as follows:

  • Shorter videos are much more engaging. Try chunking video lessons into short, 6 minute segments.  Chunking videos can also be accomplished by making shorter videos and by creating pauses within a longer video.  Use the pauses to have students answer review questions and prompting them to return to the video after they have answered the question.
  • Videos interspersed between an instructor’s talking head and slides are more engaging. Consider using video capture tools (like Tegrity) that allow the instructor’s head to be present at various times within the video.  Switch between slides and the instructor at key moments throughout the video.
  • Videos with a personal feel are more engaging than high production studio recordings.  Do not worry about recording videos in a high-quality studio, but be sure to make videos free from distractions.  Choose an informal setting that also allows you to capture audio free from extraneous noises.
  • Drawing tutorials are more engaging than PowerPoint slides. When recording demonstrations, introduce motion into your recordings by using a computer tablet.  Similar to the video recordings created by Khan Academy, the continuous “visual flow” of the tablet-based recordings combined with the instructor’s voiceover encourages sustained student engagement.
  • Instructors who show high enthusiasm and speak fairly fast are more engaging. Be yourself and bring out your enthusiasm for the subject while you are recording.  Instructors do not need to worry about making the perfect recording.  Focus on presenting the material in a natural cadence that demonstrates to students how exciting your course material can be.
  • Students engage differently with lecture and tutorial videos. Students tend to watch lecture and tutorial videos differently.  Researchers discovered that students watch tutorial videos an average of 2-3 minutes, regardless of their length.  However, students re-watch tutorial videos more frequently than lecture based videos.  Their findings suggest that students jump throughout tutorial videos in order to re-watch relevant parts.  In contrast, students expect lecture videos to be a continuous stream of information that is optimized for “first-time” viewing.  Therefore, construct videos with some consideration on how students may watch them.  For example, when creating tutorial videos, consider adding titles for each step in order to accommodate for skimming and re-viewing.

Whether you are recording videos for an online course or creating supplemental material for an on-ground course, consider these suggestions to help encourage student engagement.  And, as always, please feel free to schedule a consultation with someone in the Reinert Center to discuss ways to engage students with video-based course content.



Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014, March). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning@ scale conference (pp. 41-50). ACM.