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Eight Priorities for Instructional Videos in the Online Classroom
Effective eLearning (Special Series)

By Sarah Robertson, John Steele, Jean Mandernach / November 2023

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Instructional videos can make your content more vivid, demonstrate concepts that cannot be seen in a classroom, showcase experts on a topic, and engage learners in learning. The value of instructional videos is clear, but for students to benefit from a video, they must be willing to watch it [1]. Students have to be able to access the videos within the online classroom’s click-and-go, independent, isolated nature to receive any benefit from them. If we want online learners to watch the videos we share, we must keep their needs, interests, preferences, and priorities in mind. Also, we must ensure we are creating videos that are accessible to all with closed captions, transcripts, or both. By implementing the following eight suggestions, instructors can maximize learners’ viewing rates of videos in the online classroom:

1. Make it learner-centered. Tell learners why they should watch the video. Ensure that all videos (whether created or curated) directly align with the content and learning objectives of the module. Clearly label the video, so learners know how it fits within the course content. Keep the learners’ needs in mind; they want assignment clarification, detailed instructor expectations, and examples that directly relate to their focus in the course.

2. Ensure it is worthwhile for students and yourself. Create a video that addresses a concern or question about an upcoming assignment before it comes up. Answering these questions proactively in a video can save your students and yourself time. Additionally, try to give students credit for viewing the video, if, as an incentive. At the same time, you are hedging off potential questions. You are also creating an opportunity for expanded learning and further connection with their instructor or peers.

3. Prioritize ease of access. Try to have your video placement where students are already accessing study or assignment direction information. Alternatively, you can try to embed it into the classroom discussion, reducing less back and forth in and out of the classroom. If this is not possible, try to utilize a platform that students are comfortable and familiar using. Some examples include YouTube, Loom, Kaltura, Echo360, VidGrid, or perhaps any other platform that is often used by other instructors within the university as well. Videos need to be accessible to all with a transcript or closed captioning. Some video platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo can provide closed captioning or transcripts.

4. Limit the time required. The lifestyle of the online adult learner is distinct from the lifestyle of a traditional face-to-face student. They may be on the run, have kids in the background, only be able to log into class during work breaks, etc. The most valuable instructional videos are determined to be between 5 and 20 minutes long or segmented into shorter sections [2]. Shorter videos are more likely to be watched [3]. Finally, do everything you can to get the point across in the shortest amount of time to maintain student viewing attention.

5. Be good with ‘good enough.’ For personal videos, you want clear audio and adequate lighting. However, you also want to ensure that it has a “natural” feel and is not choppy. There is no need to do several takes for an instructional video. Treat it like you were teaching in a traditional class. Be sure that the video is engaging! A dull or poor-quality video, no matter how valuable the information, can be challenging for anyone to watch and stay focused throughout.

6. Provide alternative avenues to get the information. Some worksites or military equipment may block external sites like YouTube. Additionally, some adult online students may not have “stop and watch” opportunities but would be inclined to listen in on their commute to work or while working out at the gym. Finally, some students may have needs that require a transcript of the video(s). Good options include an audio file and/or downloadable transcript when/where the video is shared.

7. Follow up with thoughts and/or questions. A video with a discussion outlet opportunity helps to meet learners’ desire for connection. It can also help them feel like they are less alone in their learning journey when they see other students in the class viewing and replying with their thoughts. Additionally, having the ability to follow up with their thoughts after an engaging, thought-provoking video may help them further make additional connections to the content. These connections may help them better remember what they watched later.

8. Personalize your videos. From a student’s perspective, the value of the video may be based on whether or not their instructor created it. An instructor-made video is more likely to be directly tailored to that class, their teaching style, and assignment expectations than one curated from the web and/or pulled from the general university site. Creating personalized videos can give students the feeling of an “actual class” when watching a video created by and showing their instructor. Additionally, the video can even produce a feeling of closeness for the student to the class and the instructor in addition to the value of watching the content.

It is a wasted time investment to create videos that students cannot access or will not watch. Thus, videos must be designed, selected, or created to learners’ needs and preferences. By keeping learner priorities in mind when integrating videos into your online courses, you can tap into the power of engaging videos to promote student learning, engagement, and satisfaction. 


[1] Jones-Roberts, C. Increasing social presence online: Five strategies for instructors. FDLA Journal Vol. 3, Article 8 (2018).

[2] Thompson, P., Ying Xiu, Tsotsoros, J. D., and Robertson, M. A. The effect of designing and segmenting instructional videoJournal of Information Technology Education: Research 20 (2021), 173–200.

[3] Clossen, A. S. Trope or trap? Roleplaying narrative and length in instructional videoInformation Technology and Libraries 37, 1 (2018), 27.

About the Authors

John Steele, Ph.D. is a professor for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Grand Canyon University (GCU). Steele has been teaching first-year series and psychology students at GCU for 12 years. In addition, he serves as a faculty mentor and on several university committees.  Steele’s research focuses on several aspects of online learning including plagiarism, technology innovation, student learning, and psychology. He also has interests in social psychology and artificial intelligence.

Sarah Robertson is an online instructor who teaches full time at Grand Canyon University for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Sarah has more than 15 years of experience in education. In addition to teaching at the higher education level, she maintains her K-12 teaching certificates. She has a passion for working with learners of all ages. Her professional research pursuits include inquiry into improving student engagement, instructor presence, motivation, and information retention/application within both online and traditional courses.

Jean Mandernach, Ph.D. is executive director of the Center for Innovation in Research on Teaching at Grand Canyon University. Her research focuses on enhancing student learning experiences in the online classroom through innovative instructional and assessment strategies. She explores strategies for integrating efficient online instruction in a manner that maximizes student learning, satisfaction, and engagement. In addition, she has interests in innovative faculty development and evaluation models, teaching and learning analytics, emergent instructional technology, and faculty workload considerations. Mandernach is an active researcher, author, presenter, and consultant in the field of online education.

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  • Thu, 11 Jan 2024
    Post by Bita Academy

    very nice