Quick tip guide for video in the classroom

Scott Schopieray & Daniel Trego

We are often asked about what recommendations we have for using video in the distance learning classroom, whether it is a fully online course, a temporary remote teaching need, or just simply augmenting your face-to-face course with some video materials. In all cases there are a few suggestions we have that remain constant.

Types of video

If you are thinking about using video in your courses you are likely thinking about using it for one of the following reasons:

Streaming a lecture – Lecture streams are often video of you giving the lecture in a face-to-face course and recording it for later review, or one which you have produced as part of a hybrid or online course. Lectures can be video of you, your screen/a whiteboard, or a combination of both. Lectures that include a combination of slides, whiteboards and you are often most engaging for students.

Showing a video – With the large number of streaming options available video can be streamed to students in a number of ways. If a video is able to be linked into your course you can provide a direct link to it from the streaming location. If the video is not freely available you may wish to contact the MSU Library for assistance with obtaining rights to show it, or look into using a subscription to a streaming service as a part of your course materials. Please note: some services (e.g. Youtube) do not work in parts of the world due to firewall blocking, please contact your local educational technology support if you are not sure whether the service you plan to use is available. 

Demonstrating a concept or software – Video can be a great learning tool for demonstrating a concept (e.g. a math problem or connection between characters in a novel), or for demonstrating how to use software or particular functions of a piece of software. These videos can include slides, whiteboards, or they are often screen recordings of the software on your computer. 


No matter what we are using video for, to help improve our chances of students staying engaged keep video clips short – between 2 and 6 minutes. Studies that have been done recently have shown that after 6 minutes student attention drops off significantly and rapidly when they are viewing instructional material. Shorter videos near the two to three minute Mark were shown to be more engaging than those at the 6-minute like. A 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 82% of the top news videos from the prior year were less than 5 minutes. It’s generally a good rule that no video should be longer than 18 minutes, which many familiar with the TED series will recognize as their limit for all speakers, and a University of Wisconsin study found that student preference was for videos to be less than 15 minutes. 

So What is the Optimal Video Length?

Optimal length for instructional videos is 2-6 mins, no video should be longer than 15-18 mins

This is also a consideration for video creation. It is much harder to record a longer video without making any mistakes, which can result in unnecessary additional editing time. 


Below are a few recommendations for integrating video into your classroom. This is not an exhaustive list, rather it is a start and we welcome additions based on your experience.

  • Videos that have some camera changes are often more engaging than those that are one camera angle the entire time. Think about changing between your image and a set of slides, or perhaps a whiteboard or document where you are referencing other content.
  • Do some work ahead of time, think about how your longer video might cut into 2-3 shorter videos to allow students to digest the content
  • Find a place to record your videos that is relatively free of noise. Many faculty find that a basement location works well.
  • If you have a headset with microphone or a desktop microphone make use of that instead of relying on the built-in computer microphone. If you do not have a headset be sure you are aware of keeping your head within 1-2 feet of the computer.
  • When demonstrating something it’s best to speak at a steady, but slower pace. Model your pacing off TV news anchors or radio hosts. Many students replay video at 1.5x-2x speed if they need to view the video faster.
  • Captions are a necessity with any video, not only do they help those who need assistive technologies but studies have also found that most students make use of captions when they are available.
  • Position your computer/webcam in such a way that allows you to naturally be able to look into the camera. Viewers feel more engaged when they perceive that they are being talked to directly. 
  • Strong backlights can create dark shadows on faces. When setting up the computer, make sure there are no windows or bright lights directly behind you. Best practice is to face a stronger light with a darker background. This will help students be able to see and read your face along with hear your voice.  

Need Help Thinking About What Tools To Use?

What Capture Tool is Right for You? Here a quick guide to thinking about what lecture capture options at MSU are right for you.

Recording with Quicktime and Posting to Mediaspace (Mac only) is a short guide to making a recording with Quicktime Player and posting it for students.