Photo of a person recording an instructional video

EdTech & Design, Engagement, Promising Practices

Making Effective Instructional Videos

How all educators can embrace this blended instruction model and support student learning

Over the past two years, teachers have had to shift and change their teaching practices due to the worldwide pandemic. This has caused us to re-evaluate the traditional teaching methods that we have been using in the classroom. Instead, we have shifted to instructional practices that are more differentiated, and that attempt to meet the needs of all of our students.

As we shift away from traditional classroom practices, one strategy that has shown a lot of promising results is the use of short, teacher-created instructional videos. When instructional videos are teacher-created and personal, they can also foster digital relationships with our students.

Why use instructional videos?

There are many reasons why this practice has shown so much promise. Here is a breakdown of some of the benefits to teachers, as well as students.

Teacher benefits:
  • More time to support students Videos take time to plan and record, but once you are done, you will have a lot more time to provide feedback and to support students who are struggling. This practice allows you to be responsive to the needs of your students – those who are ready can move forward, while you help those who may need more support either one-on-one or in small groups.
  • No need to catch students up when they are absent Students will have access to videos and tasks that they need to complete, so there is no need to review any lessons. They may need a bit of additional help, but they have everything they need to succeed.
  • Clear and effective focus for planning As an educator, you will have spent a lot of time dissecting the curriculum into smaller pieces, which become your instructional videos. This planning allows teachers to have a very clear understanding of what students need to learn and demonstrate in that course or subject area. It allows educators to feel more confident about their curriculum area, and to see the bigger picture and how to support students to be successful.
Student benefits:
  • Closed captioning Videos give students the opportunity to use closed captioning so that they can read the text as they are listening to the audio. This helps many of our learners make sense of what they are learning.
  • Speed controls Sometimes native English speakers speak very quickly without realizing it. Videos give students the chance to slow down the audio to a pace that is easier for them to understand, making the lesson more accessible to everyone.
  • Auto translation features in YouTube For newcomer and/or multilingual students, the option of auto translation can be really helpful in helping them to access the lesson and make connections between what they are hearing/learning, and their first language. This will help ensure more effective understanding, and that they don’t miss any important concepts due to language.
  • Control over time, place, and pace of learning Students can control their learning and play, pause, rewind, and re-watch as needed.

Planning instructional videos

The first step is to determine your learning goals. Go back to your curriculum, figure out which skills you want to target, and plan backwards from there. You want to make sure that your learning goals are very specific, and will allow you to chunk them out into short videos of approximately five to six minutes. This means that one curriculum expectation might turn out to be a series of several videos and that’s OK!

In terms of which tools to use, it is completely up to you! If your board or district has rules around the tools you are permitted to use, then be sure to consult that list. If not, then there are a variety of options available – choose one that you are comfortable with, and that fits your purpose. There’s no need to get fancy or to try out a new or complicated program.

Plan out the structure of your video. Start by deciding if you’ll be doing a presentation, using a whiteboard tool, or demonstrating something in a classroom. For subjects with practical components, such as labs or tech courses, it might make more sense to outline the steps of a procedure instead, so that you can physically demonstrate that skill in the video. Either way, you’ll want to make sure that you have a clear picture of the outline of your video structure before you hit record.

Once you have an outline in place, you will then want to create the visual component that you will use for that lesson. It can be a PowerPoint or Slides deck, a more complex Prezi presentation, your LMS, or even a physical lab set up with materials. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but whatever you choose, make sure you minimize the amount of text that you are using – too much text can be extremely difficult or cognitively overwhelming for many students. You should also try to find images that pair well with the text you are presenting; this will help students to make more meaningful connections to your lesson.

If using Slides or PowerPoint, you should also consider using transitions or animations to help chunk out the different steps or concepts that students need to know. This will allow students to focus on one thing at a time, instead of reading ahead and possibly missing out on an important concept.

Recording tips
  • Make it personal. Show your face, your sense of humour, and your personality! Consider these instructional videos an extension of your classroom – incorporate anything you would do in a traditional classroom to make it more personal for your students.
  • Go for done, not perfect. Try to do it in one take and embrace your mistakes! You make mistakes in the classroom and this just captures your human nature. Plus, as an added bonus, you can use the mistakes as indicators of understanding and learning. If students are not asking about those mistakes, that gives you a warning that there are misconceptions that might need to be addressed.
  • Make liberal use of your speaker’s notes and the pause button during recording. There’s nothing worse than getting partway through your video, making a mistake, and then feeling like you have to start all over again. By creating detailed speakers’ notes, you have a clear outline of all of the important concepts or ideas that you want to mention. Also, know how to quickly pause your video so you can take a breath, refocus your attention, and move forward when you are ready.
  • Do not make specific references to time or location. You want to be able to use this over and over again throughout your career. Keeping your videos neutral in this way allows you to reuse many videos from year to year, even when you vary the projects or themes.
  • Use a tool that you are comfortable with and that fits your purpose. There’s no need to use the latest and greatest tool; use what you are comfortable with, and what will help you to get the job done.
  • Keep it short! Students will struggle to focus if the video is too long. So think of these as small pieces of a traditional lesson, with a short activity in between. In terms of length, videos should be no longer than 6–9 minutes, and even shorter for students in Grades 1–5.
  • Add interactivity! Students can struggle with focus, so adding interactive elements, such as questions or reflection prompts, can help keep students engaged. Consider tools like EdPuzzle, PlayPosit, or Screencastify to add questions throughout your lesson. A good rule of thumb here is to have a question or prompt every minute or so for maximum engagement.


Photo: iStock

First published in Education Canada, March 2022


Tools of the Trade

Possible recording tools to use:
  • Video conferencing tools (Meet, Teams, Zoom, etc.)
  • Screencastify
  • Screencastomatic
  • Flipgrid Shorts
  • Explain Everything
  • Loom
  • OBS Studio
  • QuickTime Player
  • WeVideo
Possible tools to add interactive elements:
  • EdPuzzle
  • PlayPosit
  • Screencastify
  • NearPod
  • Google Forms
  • Canvas Studio


Useful Resources

Meet the Expert(s)

Photo of Katie Attwell

Katie Attwell

Teacher/Podcaster Organization, Halton District School Board/EduGals

Katie Attwell is an enthusiastic educator to English learners, and is currently a Department Head and teacher with the Halton District School Board. She is also the co-host of The EduGals podcast: a podcast dedicated to helping support educators as they navigate technology in the classroom.

Read More
Photo of Rachel Johnson

Dr. Rachel Johnson

Innovation Coach/Podcaster, Halton District School Board/EduGals

Rachel Johnson is a passionate chemistry educator with over ten years of classroom experience, currently working as an Innovation Coach with the Halton District School Board. Rachel is also the co-host of The EduGals podcast: a podcast dedicated to helping support educators as they navigate technology in the classroom.

Read More

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