How to Enhance Any Curriculum With Short, Engaging, Accurate Videos

Digital Learning

How to Enhance Any Curriculum With Short, Engaging, Accurate Videos

from Course Hero

By Denise Brodey     Apr 8, 2019

How to Enhance Any Curriculum With Short, Engaging, Accurate Videos

Jadrian Wooten remembers professors instructing him to check out DVD clips from the library when he was an undergrad. Today, as an associate teaching professor of economics at Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania, Wooten is on the flip side of the camera; he creates his own short educational videos to enhance traditional reading materials and lectures. “Today’s students generally want deeper or more nuanced information from their professors,” he says. “And they like to use video to get foundational information super fast.”

University of Texas at Austin psychology instructor Brooke Miller adds that the internet and YouTube have changed instruction. “We can use short videos to help students who are falling behind—and to give more advanced students the chance to have deeper discussions in class.”

While both agree on the merits of instructional videos, they know how difficult it can be to find “perfect” content—short but not too short, engaging but not gimmicky, and offering the right information with the right level of detail. They also agree that producing original videos can be daunting: It requires competency in videography, sound, graphics, diction, and more. This is why Miller and Wooten recently teamed up with Course Hero, a platform where professionals in higher education share their teaching innovations, inspiration, and practical advice.

Making video creation easier for educators

“Course Hero aims to help educators find the tools we wish we had when we were educators,” says Michael Levy, a former political science professor who now leads the Proprietary Content Development team at Course Hero. For years, this team has been working with educators to create original study materials, such as infographics and study guides. Video study guides, he says, were a natural next step.

“We know how powerful educational videos can be, and we wanted to make it easier for educators to create them,” says Levy. “So we decided to help them with video production and distribution.”

To date, Levy’s group has worked with Wooten, Miller, and many other professors from an array of disciplines, colleges, and geographic locations to create more than a thousand video selections. These are now accessible to Course Hero members on the company’s YouTube channel. “We love seeing new videos uploaded by educators and shared with the community,” adds Levy. “Creating content alongside our community members is yet another way we are working to grow our teaching resource library.”

Seven ways to use videos as study guides

Educators have long known that short, well-constructed, accurate, engaging videos fill a huge need for teachings that go beyond text or lecture. Educational videos can be worked into any teaching style, pedagogy, area of study, and type of class—distance, classroom or hybrid. One professor might love the idea of “chunking up” the class with a video break, while another might prefer to assign videos as homework in a flipped classroom approach. One student may watch a clip on his smartphone at his kid’s soccer practice, and another may log in at 2 a.m. to clarify a key point while burning the midnight oil studying for a test.

Wooten and Miller offer these suggestions for working a variety of video resources into any curriculum:

1. Provide an overview of an upcoming topic.

Wooten estimates that his use of pre-lesson videos gives him up to an extra hour to work with students during weekly class time.

2. Review key terms and definitions.

“I value my lecture time,” says Wooten. “I don’t want to be held back because I had to review things that can easily be reviewed with a video.”

3. Clarify a difficult concept.

Videos can help “make the invisible visible.” When words (or lectures) are not enough to get the point across, extra graphics and a new point of view can convey concepts in a digestible way.

4. Present a step-by-step lesson.

Videos are terrific for demonstrations and equation-based work, either before or during class as preparation for a lab or other experiential learning.

5. Provide a refresher for an upper-level class.

Wooten uses videos like this one on unemployment to quickly review foundational concepts from introductory courses.

6. Make up for lost time.

If a storm, technical difficulty, family emergency or other issue necessitates canceling (or even one student missing) a scheduled class meeting, a collection of videos can serve as a replacement for the lecture.

7. Address a variety of learning needs.

The videos’ multimedia approach—visual, auditory, graphic—supports students with various learning preferences, including those for whom English is a second language. All students can benefit from being able to pause, slow, or re-watch videos, says Miller.

Guiding principles for instructional videos

Here are a few ways that the Course Hero team is maintaining the high standards that Wooten and other educators expect:

• Ensure accuracy and usefulness. Course Hero video topics are selected by educators, who also write the scripts and star in the videos.

• Keep the educator’s needs front-of-mind. Course Hero videos typically range in length from two to five minutes, making them easy to work into a lesson plan in a variety of ways. (More on that later.) They are detailed but digestible, providing the right information at the right time, and they are categorized to align with the main topics in a course.

• Make videos engaging and appealing. Course Hero videos are made with entertaining expert professors who know how to capture students’ attention, and they use exciting graphics and animation designed with visual learners in mind.

Behind the Scenes: The Making of a Course Hero Video Study Guide

Course Hero partners with PUREi, a video production company outside Chicago, where the professors go to work in a studio with a team of expert video professionals. In anywhere from a few days to two weeks, the professors work with PUREi and Course Hero staff to both shoot the narration—often requiring numerous takes to get it just right—and brainstorm the most effective way of animating the concept for students. Then a team of video editors takes the raw footage and adds graphics, music, and other details that make for a professional end product.

“I’ve seen people make videos on their smartphones or using a GoPro. That’s not what this is,” says Wooten. “It’s done in a studio, and the graphics that are put in afterward by the production team are very professional looking. They do a great editing job.”

Roundup: Course Hero Video Study Guides

Below are just a few of the thousand-plus video selections available on the Course Hero website and YouTube channel:

American Government
Purposes of Government Scot Schraufnagel, PhD Northern Illinois University
Matter and Elements Jessica Pamment, PhD DePaul University
Macroeconomics: Unemployment Rate Jadrian Wooten, PhD, MBA Penn State
Microeconomics: Production Possibilities Frontier Jadrian Wooten, PhD, MBA Penn State
Dracula video series Stanley Stepanic, PhD, University of Virginia
Hamlet video series Regina Buccola, PhD Roosevelt University
Introduction to Psychology series Brooke Miller, PhD, University of Texas at Austin
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