Whenever I need to figure out how to do something, I tend first to look up a short instruction video on YouTube. For example, say I need to learn how to use a particular feature of a software or how to fix a vacuum.  In three or four minutes, I’m moved through a video instruction that shows the interface of the software as a voice moves me through the clicks or I watch a film of someone pulling apart a vacuum to reveal how the dang weird-o-belt gets reattached.  It’s a good way to learn stuff, especially when you don’t want to read the entire manual.

It’s no wonder that many teachers have been using various software programs to create short videos to teach students or help them review material on their own.  Of course, more folks could take up this approach—refine it and re-imagine it to solve further pedagogical problems.

In this post, I want to mention a new program I’ve just learned about called Camtasia, as well as an app I’ve used before called Explain Everything, which is now available for Windows, as well as Mac (about $5).  (There are many other products, but these two are the ones I’ve worked with.)  So far I’m a novice at creating these videos, but I am a fervent convert in their utility, and even elegance, in providing students with learning benefits.

I’ve created some very rudimentary Explain Everything videos using an iPad, and have recently taken two workshops in which I learned the basics of Camtasia.  Both of these programs allow a teacher to make effective instruction videos, and for me, one of the key points is that with both you can start with PowerPoint slides. (The features of Camtasia are many; here I’m only thinking about a way to get started.)

Basically, one approach is to mark up your PowerPoint slides as you talk—the viewer will only see the slides and the marks (not you)—though in Camtasia you could initially present yourself in a small box at a corner of the presentation (a nice introductory, personal touch, I think).  Why do you need to do this?  Isn’t it just duplicating the material you present in class via PowerPoint talks? Why not just do it in class?

  • Think about presenting material in different forms: some students are better auditory learners, while others prefer text.  Why not provide both?  The video lesson could be for review and posted on Brightspace or another class website.
  • Also, consider using the video as the initial introduction to the material—students watch it as an out-of-class activity.  Then class time becomes a discussion and expansion of this information.
  • Instructional videos are extremely useful (or maybe crucial) in hybrid classes; they can help make class time more productive and meaningful.
  • When teaching a class using iPads, Jennifer Hall (Critical Thinking through Writing director) had students use apps to create videos in which they explicated a poem—circling and marking the poem as they talked.  This sort of approach helps students learn the material at hand, but also helps them develop better oral communication skills and introduces them to new digital tools.  Many classes would benefit from oral presentation experience, but there isn’t enough time in class to accommodate it.  Students making short videos about particular course material fills an important gap.

What are my plans to implement what I’ve learned? Often I’ve used explanatory handouts or other text (even if it’s digital and posted on D2L) to teach students a particular skill or to explain a complicated assignment.  I often add screen shots to these text-based instructions.  And, I still get a lot of questions in class that reveal that some of the information just didn’t sink in.  When I teach again, I plan to supplement these handouts with short videos that I post on D2L or another site.  Is this wasting my time?  No.  I spend the time anyway, and I spend it in-class when I want to be discussing new material, re-explaining what I had hoped to convey through the handout.

Redundancy is a good thing in education.  We all need it, especially when we are learning completely new material.  It’s not that students aren’t paying attention (okay, sometimes it may be), but it’s that they are overloaded with new information and having trouble processing it.  I remembered this phenomenon when I was in the workshops I took on Camtasia—I was concentrating and paying attention and still got things wrong initially, even though the instructions had been clear.  I had to ask for the instructor to repeat things. Why?  Because it was unfamiliar material; because a lot of new information was coming fairly fast; and because I was trying to write down notes at the same time.  This is what’s happening with students in our classes.  Just like them, it would’ve benefited me to view a video about Camtasia after the workshop to review and reinforce what I learned “in-class.”

Here’s how GSU faculty or GTAs can learn to do these videos:
GSU Center for Instructional Innovation (CII) workshops on using Camtasia:
 Screen Captures with Camtasia for Mac:
Oct. 9 from 1-2:30 & Nov. 4 from 10-11:30;
 Recording Khan Academy-Style Presentations with Camtasia: Oct.16 from 1-2:30 & Nov.11 from 10-11:30

CII (the Exchange) has Camtasia (and lots of other software) loaded on its computers, including laptops you can check out.  You can also use the studio in CII (the Exchange) to record your video.  Staff there can consult with you about your project.

Links to the software I mentioned: Camtasia and Explain Everything

Happy Filming!  Amanda Gable