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The Power of Weekly Group Video Recordings in Asynchronous Courses

By Danielle Geary / November 2021

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E-learning in higher education has become ever more popular, especially in the last two years. Learning modalities and technology now offer dozens of ideas on how to teach online, but still, two things often seem to be missing: instructor presence and efficient grading and feedback [1, 2]. And even as colleges and universities embrace e-learning, student engagement continues to be a challenge [3]. As we know, students can be a rather passive audience, but I have found that they become much more active in group-conversation video recordings in which the instructor is not present but does provide feedback upon review of the recording. I’ve developed two kinds of weekly recording activities over the last two years that greatly add to student engagement and learning. Make them a weekly part of class, and voilà… everything changes.

While student and peer evaluations help measure the effectiveness of my work, I also learn from the trial and error of new ideas. Group video recordings have been a game-changer in my asynchronous courses. I believe that part of the success of this particular methodology is that the students appreciate the effort. They know I’m not stagnate, that I’m always trying new things, and that I’m willing to do so. The other part is simple; they benefit from group interaction and collaboration with their peers while at the same time understanding that the conversation will later be viewed and graded by the professor. Weekly group video recordings have proven to be a powerful addition to my pedagogy. I teach foreign language, but you can modify the following ideas for use in other subjects.

The Use of “Pause Now Videos” in Beginning Courses

I made up what I call “Pause Now Videos” for beginners in my asynchronous online courses and have found them to be monumental in engagement, learning, and peer support. Pause Now Videos are not a software or application, but rather a term I coined for this kind of video. Every week, students follow along in a mini-class group of three in a group recording, using a video I record of myself teaching a lesson and giving directions. What makes Pause Now Videos different from the typical instructional video is that students use the recording as if we are all in the room together. They record themselves watching and completing my pre-recorded video. They follow my lead to practice pronunciation, review grammar, learn about culture, and complete short conversations. For example, when I say, “pause now to complete this activity,” students pause the video at that moment and complete the activity that is on the screen. When they are finished, they click on the video to start it again and continue the mini class. When I say, “repeat after me,” I say a word and wait a second or two for them to repeat it before I say the next word, and so on. Of everything I’ve tried over the past couple of years, Pause Now Videos have been the most exciting because I can see my asynchronous students and they can see me. I post and assign the videos five days before they are due and they are always due on the same day of the week. Groups choose a day and time each week to keep a regular schedule. Here is an example of the instructions I post for this assignment:

MINI CLASS #10: INSTRUCTIONS & VIDEO - Due by Monday, 4-12

Below is the video you'll be following for the mini class this week. Follow these instructions:

  1. Allow 50 minutes for this mini class. You may need a full 50 minutes to complete the video.
  2. Make sure I can see your faces in little squares, like you can see mine.
  3. Everyone should open an online dictionary and have the tab ready on their screen to find words easily.
  4. Note that groups of three MUST hit the 40-minute mark on their recording to earn full credit. Groups of four MUST hit the 45-minute mark on their recording to earn full credit.
  5. If you somehow finish with time to spare... quiz each other on vocabulary and phrases from the chapter.
  6. In the event that the clock hits 52 minutes and you're still working... you may stop even if you haven't completed the video. I understand that you have other classes and other things to do.
  7. Play the video (in the comments below). Remember that you will have to share the screen in Bluejeans so everyone can see it. Make sure it's big enough. In the video, I tell you exactly what to do. Just follow my lead. I'll say things like, "Repeat after me," and "Pause the video now to do this activity." Everyone will go through the video together, like a class.
  8. When you are done, copy/paste your video link in CANVAS. The assignment is: Mini Class #10. Make sure I can open the video. :) One person can post for the group. 

Examples of “Pause Now Video” Segments

You can use any kind of technology to make a lesson for your Pause Now Videos: Google Slides, Thinglink, Padlet, or even a simple PowerPoint. For the actual recording of your screen, use a free recording software like Screencast-o-Matic or Vimeo. Create a short video (8–15 minutes) of yourself using your favorite technology to teach a lesson. Keep in mind that for every couple of minutes you talk, the students will talk for several more. In the end, the recordings that they submit will be three to four times the length of the video that you create. The first key is to talk to your students as if they were in the room with you. Say things like, “Repeat this formula after me,” “Write this down,” “Pause now to practice this skill. Join me again when you’re done.” The second key is to give detailed directions. For a chapter on food, for example, I might show a picture of food on the screen and say something like, “Here is a picture of food. Everyone, take two minutes to write down the food items that you see in the picture, by memory only. Write in Spanish. Don’t speak. Just write. Then share your lists and see what you missed. Take 5–6 minutes to do this. Pause now. Resume the video when you’re done.”

In the picture below (see Figure 1), to complete a reading and vocabulary activity, I’d say something like, “For this activity, you’ll be matching student personalities with a potential profession. Take turns. First read the personality description aloud in Spanish. Then determine what it says. Then choose the best possible profession from the options on the right. Work together. Help each other. Take 6–8 minutes to do this. Pause now.”

Figure 1. Dr. Geary guides students in a speaking activity and reviews keywords to ensure understanding. (Page from Lord, G. and Rossomondo, A. Contraseña: Your Password to Foundational Spanish 4.0. LingroLearning, New York, 2021.)

[click to enlarge]

For the list of vocabulary words in the screenshot below (see Figure 2), I would say something like, “Here’s your new vocabulary. Let’s work on pronunciation first. I’m going to say each word and then wait a couple of seconds for you to repeat after me. You will all talk at the same time, as if we were together in a classroom; I say the word, you say the word, etc. Let’s do it!” Then I would proceed to say each word with about two full seconds between each one.

Figure 2. Dr. Geary has students repeat (after her) new vocabulary for practice and reinforcement. (Page from Lord, G. and Rossomondo, A. Contraseña: Your Password to Foundational Spanish 4.0. LingroLearning, New York, 2021.)

[click to enlarge]

In the picture below (see Figure 3), you can see an example of what the mini-class looks like for grading. I see my mini class group of three students on the left of the screen, and they see me on the right (previously recorded). This provides a class-feel, which is difficult to foster in asynchronous courses. You can see that my hand is moving. I’m speaking just like I speak when I’m in the classroom, with smiles and hand gestures. For this one, I’d say something like, “There are nine verbs. Everyone, take turns for each conjugation. Let me get you started with the first one. I say, ‘yo construí,’ John says, ‘Tú construiste,’ Mary says, ‘ella construyó,’ etc. until you get through all of the pronouns. Then go to the next verb. Take 7–8 minutes to do this. Pause now.”

Figure 3. Dr. Geary sees her students on the left side of a split screen for easy grading (Page from Lord, G. and Rossomondo, A. Contraseña: Your Password to Foundational Spanish 4.0. LingroLearning, New York, 2021.)

[click to enlarge]

The Use of Conversation Recordings in Advanced Courses

In my advanced asynchronous courses, students record themselves working together while speaking only in Spanish as they complete an item list. I get to see improvements in their confidence and speaking skills on a weekly basis. Again, I feel like the keyword is recorded. I have learned that students put forth more effort and talk much more when they know they’re being recorded, which leads to more practice of the target language and in turn more fluidity. For advanced students, I either give them a list of items to complete or I create a Thinglink for them to complete. In advanced classes, I change the groups half-way through the semester to allow for different language levels as well as different personality types. It’s also a way for students to meet more people in the class. Here is an example of the instructions for one of these activities (I have translated them into English for this article):

Study group # 3 * 60 minutes of Spanish Practice ? Copy/paste the link here.

 ----- >> NOTE: To earn points for this activity, you must speak for a minimum of 55 minutes. If you somehow finish early, you can practice your vocabulary or choose any topic to talk about to make it to 55 minutes. :)

Discuss the following:

1) The first 10 minutes: P.176–178 Go through the words taking turns. Mark the words that seem more difficult than others. 
2) The next 20–25 minutes: P.196­–198 The news of the day. Go through the text and discuss the reading. Take turns every two sentences.
3} The last 15–20 minutes: Video! Watch this video together and then answer the questions below, in conversation: to an external site.)

  • How much are 200 Mexican pesos? Is it a lot?
  • What did the people in the video seem to spend their money on?
  • What would you do with 200 US dollars if they appeared out of nowhere?
  • What if it was $ 2,000? Would you do something big?
  • In the video they use the word hypothetical. What does it mean? It's a good cognate. :)
  • They also use the phrase "good vibes." Olé! What does it mean? Look on the internet. It’s a great expression.
  • One person in the video talks about pulque. What is it? Look on the internet to see what it is. What do you think?

The picture below is an example of what this mini class looks like for grading (see Figure 4). I see my mini class of three students on the left using their Spanish to complete the reading activity on the right. While students in advanced classes do not see me in these videos, they do see me regularly in the modules as they complete other assignments.

Figure 4. Advanced students work in an online mini class just as they would in a traditional classroom in small groups.

[click to enlarge]

Grading and Feedback of Group Video Recordings

Reviewing group videos is work, but I find it productive and enjoyable. I get to see my asynchronous students working on activities as if they were in class. I see their faces and learn a little about them as they talk and smile, make gestures, laugh, and nod. If they have questions, they can leave them for me in the textbox, and I can answer them. Of course, I don’t watch every minute of every video. I watch enough to see that they are on task, gauge progress, and find a few errors. I try to stay light-hearted for the most part. I make sure to add comments like “haha” and “how interesting!” whenever I can to make a connection and show my personality. Occasionally, those little words turn into a fun back-and-forth conversation that builds rapport. I also make corrections and add a couple thoughts to their conversation, and praise when it is due. And since there are three students in a group, I grade three students at a time, which is very doable for the number of students that I have.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

While I am completely sold on this methodology, there are some things you have to both keep in mind and keep up with in order for this to be successful. Here are some tips:

  • Post the videos and directions several days ahead of time. Students need time to get together.
  • Use groups of three whenever possible. Three is large enough to give the activity a class feel but small enough to make finding a time to meet feasible. Also, if someone in the group drops, there are still two students who can work together. Sometimes a couple groups of four are inevitable.
  • Give detailed directions. Make sure students know what to do and what is expected.
  • Include time requirements on every item in the activity.
  • Include direct links to outside pages if used.
  • When groups meet for the first time, make the first 20 minutes of that session an ice-breaker so they can get to know each other. Include some fun subjects and “what would you do if” scenarios. They will smile and laugh, and you will get to watch them do so.
  • After the first recording, grade it right away to set a precedent that the videos will indeed be graded and that you are indeed watching.
  • Keep the “grading” of these videos more like in-class participation. In on-campus classes, students attend class, listen to the lecture, and participate, but do not typically get graded for doing so. You want students to feel comfortable and at ease—not like they’re taking a quiz.
  • When you grade, make sure to differentiate between group comments and individual comments. This should be an option in your LMS, as you grade. Most of the time, it’s reasonable to make group comments, but occasionally you will want to address a student individually and should do so accordingly. 

In summary, students have really enjoyed the mini classes. They benefit from the comradery, the collaboration of ideas, and the interaction with the professor. When I posted an anonymous survey to gain some feedback, 91% of students across five courses agreed that weekly group video recordings were helpful or very helpful in the effectiveness of asynchronous learning. They commented that the recordings give them the opportunity to work with other students in real time, that they make learning easier and retention better, and that they make asynchronous feel like in-person. While I expected this addition to my syllabus to be a good one, I did not anticipate such exceptional results. I challenge professors everywhere to harness the power of weekly group video recordings in asynchronous courses.


[1] Baldwin, S. J., and Trespalacios, J. Evaluation instruments and good practices in online education. Online Learning, 21 2 (2017).

[2] Ekmekci, O. Being there: Establishing instructor pre sence in an online learning environment. Higher Education Studies 3, 1 (2013), 29–38.

[3] Kahn, P., Everington, L., Kelm, K., Reid, I., and Watkins, F. Understanding student engagement in online learning environments: The role of reflexivity. Education Technology Research and Development 65 (2017), 203–218.

About the Author

Dr. Danielle Geary is a lecturer and program coordinator of Spanish in the School of Modern Languages at Georgia Tech. She created the curriculum for the first online Spanish program at Georgia Tech, and her teaching style is featured in more than 30 original Spanish video lessons she created for She is often invited to review new digital learning materials and has presented at various universities on ways to use technology to teach foreign language. Her scholarly articles address the topics of study abroad, online learning and international students.

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